This soup is sort of fun to make, and I haven’t made it in a while. It’s sort of a cross between Italian Wedding Soup and Matzo ball soup with it’s own parmesan dumplings that are not akin to anything else I’ve had. This soup is the soup that taught me how to make my now favorite Chicken Noodle Soup. I love the rich broth with the fennel bulb and fronds and all my people like this soup, so that’s a win too. I of course found this gem in a Cooks Illustrated Magazine.
ITALIAN CHICKEN AND PARMESAN DUMPLING SOUP
- 4 (5-7 oz) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 fennel bulb, 1 Tbsp fronds minced, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 1/2 C dry white wine
- 8 C chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon base and water)
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus 3 oz (1 C) shredded Parmesan shredded on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I usually use wheat sandwich bread because that is what we have but white bread may hold together slightly better)
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 1/2 small head excarole (6 oz), trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (this time I couldn’t find escarole so I opted for baby arugula chopped up a bit)
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-hight heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until well browned, 6-8 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Discard skin.
- Drain off all but 1 tsp fat from pot and reserve 1 Tbsp fat for dumplings. Return pot to medium heat. Add fennel bulb, onion, carrots, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until almost dry, about 2 minutes. Return chicken to pot; add broth and Parmesan rind and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Discard Parmesan rind. Cover broth and remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, use 2 forks to shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Discard bones.
- While broth is simmering, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground. Transfer to parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toast until light brown, about 5 minutes. Measure out 1 C bread crumbs (set aside remainder for another use). Transfer to medium bowl, reserving sheet and parchment, and let bread crumbs cool completely.
- Pulse shredded parmesan in now-empty food processor until finely ground. Transfer parmesan to bowl with cooled bread crumbs and add reserved 1 Tbsp fat, egg whites, lemon zest, 1/8 tsp pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
- Working with 1 tsp dough at a time, roll into smooth balls and place on parchment-lines sheet.
- Return broth to simmer over medium-high heat. Add escarole (or arugula) and chicken and return to simmer. Add dumplings and cook, adjusting heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until dumplings float to the surface and are cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Stir in fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.