A cause for celebration: our small town has, for the first time, a winter farmers’ market. We can get lovely cold-storage vegetables, home-canned goods, breads, and locally raised meats. We’ve been thrilled to have access to beautiful organic chickens.
I’ve made a lot of soup with these beautiful birds. The stock from them is glorious: so rich it gels when chilled. While Luke was home from college over winter break, we went through batches of wild rice soup, classic chicken soup, and corn chowder.
I’d found a precious source for San Marzano tomatoes (a feat in central Wisconsin) and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. San Marzano canned tomatoes are supposed to be the very best, and indeed they were much closer to fresh summer tomatoes, with much more sweetness than most canned tomatoes have. Organic chickens have more flavor than mass-produced chickens do, so they can hold up to the tomatoes just fine.
The secret ingredient, though, is the parmesan rind. Save those hard end bits (I have them in a bag in the freezer) and toss one in your stockpot next time you’re making a hearty soup. The parmesan won’t completely dissolve, but it adds a rich depth of flavor, just as bones simmered in stock do.
The result is just what I was hoping for — healthy as all get-out, but hearty, rich, and satisfying.
Tomato-White Bean Soup with Chicken
makes about 4 servings
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 fresno chile, minced, optional
1 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tbs. fresh*)
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper
salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock (about)
2 cups tomatoes (I used whole San Marzano canned tomatoes)
1 small rind of Parmesan, 2-3 oz.
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped parsley
parmesan shavings, for serving
Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil in a stockpot over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is tender. Add the bell pepper, chile (if using), dried basil, Aleppo, and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté for another 10 minutes or so, until the peppers are tender.
Add the stock. If you’re using whole tomatoes, squeeze them through your fingers over the pot to crush them, and stir in the tomato liquid. Drop in the parmesan rind. Give the soup a good stir and taste for seasoning; adjust as necessary, remembering that the parmesan will add some salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the beans and chicken. Simmer another 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Fish out and discard the parmesan rind before serving. Stir in the parsley and serve with shaved parmesan.