Sunday, September 23, 2012

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup

The PTA room mothers brought dinner to the school last week to feed the hungry teachers after a long night of Parent Teacher Conferences.  Several types of soup were served, but this was my hands-down favorite.  I stalked the PTA room moms for the recipe and made it tonight for dinner.

2 quarts chicken stock (I used homemade*see below*)
6 cups water
3 pieces bacon
1 small white onion, finely chopped
3-4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 bunch kale (or Swiss chard) cut in bite sized pieces
2/3 c. half and half
1 tsp. salt
1 dash red pepper flakes
pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to grate on top

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth and water to a boil and add potatoes.  In a small skillet, cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan and crumble.  Add the onion to the bacon drippings and cook until soft and translucent.  Then add the olive oil, garlic, and sausage.  Cook until sausage is browned, breaking up as you would if browning hamburger.  Drain some, but not all of the grease and then add meat mixture to the boiling stock and potatoes.  Continue cooking until potatoes are soft.  Reduce heat and add the half and half, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Finally, add the kale.  Simmer 1-2 minutes more, then remove from heat.  When serving, grate Parmesan cheese on top.  Sprinkle bacon pieces on top as well or reserve cooked bacon for another use.

How I make homemade chicken stock:
  • Buy a rotisserie chicken at Sam's Club or Costco and use all the meat off it for your favorite recipes. 
  • Place what's left of your chicken in a large stock pot and fill 3/4 full of water. 
  • Add a celery stalk or two, a carrot or two, a large onion cut in halves or fourths and 1-2 bay leaves.  Don't peel the carrot, don't cut the leaves off the celery, and cut the bottom of the onion off, but leave the brown skin on - this will give your stock amazing flavor and that pretty yellow/golden color.  
  • Generously salt the mixture and add 2-3 whole peppercorns if desired. 
  • Bring mixture to a soft boil and boil for an hour to an hour and a half.  Taste the broth to see if it's too salty or not salty enough.  If too salty, add a few more cups of water. If too bland, add a bit more salt.  
  • Remove from heat and cool. 
  • Strain broth though a fine sieve leaving only pure broth.  Discard the solids. 
  • My favorite way to store it is to pour the broth in a freezer quality Ziploc gallon bag and freeze in the freezer.  When ready to use, simply thaw the broth and use in your favorite recipes. 

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