For Cold Winter Nights & Family Gatherings of All Kinds

Posted on Dec 20, 2011 | 0 comments

For Cold Winter Nights & Family Gatherings of All Kinds

I like to think of food as a unifying element in life. The act of preparing, serving, and savoring a meal with others is a source of great joy to me and a large part of my life. The Italian in me revels in food…its smell, its visual presentation, its taste, and its ability to unite disparate spirits.

As such, every season has its centerpiece dishes. Winter is a perfect time for hot, robust meals in varied combinations…and a favorite for years, has been escarole and pepperoni soup, an odd combination that has an ability to ward off advancing chills and calm feverish thoughts. Simple preparation is key and ingredients are substitutable with others only at the peril of sacrificing the rich and abundant taste that the original recipe will deliver. I do not know how or when pepperoni got into this basic Italian chicken soup. Speculation points towards “…it was there, so i threw it in…”. Whatever the circumstances, the results are terrific. This is fast food at its best.

A word about chicken broth…For this, I use College Inn, full strength, sodium loaded. Yes, I know about the dire consequences of salt intake and I understand the benefits of healthy eating and mostly I follow those tenants. However, when I need what this particular brand of canned liquid delivers, that’s what I need. Feel free to substitute your home-made broth or reduced sodium brand or any other choice that feels right to you.

A word about pasta…it’s spelled de Cecco…period. Yes, I will use others when a particular shape is needed and not available. But I know exactly what I am sacrificing when I do that. de Cecco cooks right, can be dialed into exactly the al dente I so prize, and, to my taste is the best boxed pasta available. The choice of pastas is yours as well, but always use a small type, the larger pastas will totally dominate this soup and the resultant loss of presentation isn’t acceptable in polite company.

A word about pepperoni…use Margarita Brand. There are a gazillion brands out there. In many cases there might be better eating pepperoni sticks than this. However, in this soup, use this brand the first time, understand what flavors it adds to the mix, then experiment in subsequent outings.

A word about garlic…it’s a matter of taste. But don’t be afraid to use copious amounts here as it mellows in the process.

So the ingredients…feel free to double it, triple it, so on and so forth…

  • 64 ounces of stock. Consult above.
  • A full head of escarole. Cut off the root end, then slice the head, crosswise, into 1 inch strips. Wash well before cooking.
  • A stick of pepperoni. Consult above. Slice the stick length-wise twice into quarters, then cut the spears into ¼ inch slices.
  • A half of head of garlic. Consult above. Rough chop.
  • Grated cheese for serving.

So, to cook…

  • Begin heating the chicken broth over medium low heat.
  • Sauté the garlic in a heavy pan with a generous splash of olive oil for about two minutes. Do not brown the garlic.
  • Add the pepperoni to the pan and cook until it gives a reddish colour to the oil.
  • Add the results to the heating chicken broth.
  • Add the escarole to the pot and cook over medium low heat until the rawness has dissipated. I like the greens to remain green, al dente. You should cook to your level of taste.

Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente. Add it to the soup as you serve…do not throw the pasta into the soup as that will over-cook the pasta and make it all fat and pasty…not good style.

Complete the serving with some grated Pecorino or Romano cheese.

That’s it. Could it be simpler? Let me know how it works for you.

 

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