Scarpetta’s Wholesome Chicken Soup


This recipe comes from Patricia Cornwell’s mystery novella called Scarpetta’s Winter Table.  Since the recipe is incorporated into the story, there are no exact measurements for ingredients.  I will try to do my best to list what is needed.

Scarpetta’s Wholesome Chicken Soup

As long as you have these staples, your soup should be a success:
-several teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
-skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1-2 packages, depending on how large you want your soup be be)
-a few mild onions (such as Vidalia)
-fresh sliced mushrooms
-red bell peppers
-chopped fresh spinach
-four cans of chicken broth (regular or fat free)
-bay leaves (to taste)
-salt (to taste)
-pepper (to taste)
-a splash or two of sherry (if you are in the mood)
-rice or risotto or conchiglie (shell pasta) if desired

Drip several teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil into a pot that is big enough to accomodate the volume of soup you wish to make.  Scarpetta tends to use pots that hold at least sixteen quarts.  Place skinless, boneless chicken breasts on a ceramic or hard plastic cutting board.  Dice chicken with a very sharp knife.
Turn burner on medium.  Drop chicken into the pot to brown.  Next, dice the mildest onions you can find.  Add this to the chicken, along with the chopped celery, carrots, red bell peppers, spinach and sliced mushrooms.  Next, pour in at least four cans of chicken broth.
Season with a generous number of bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to simmer for several hours, tasting now and then to fine-tune the seasoning.  Scarpetta often adds a splash or two of sherry.
Homemade sourdough or multigrain bread is a nice companion to this meal.  If you wish to make the soup heartier, you can add rice or risotto, or conchiglie.  She recommends a light-bodied white wine to go with it (such as Chablis or Pinot Grigio).

If you make enough, you can save some to put in the freezer for a future cold night.  This soup can definitely be a main course if you add the rice or pasta and serve it with bread.  Just the thought of how this smells while cooking on the stove is getting me hungry!

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