Fond memories of my mother’s ex-husband are hard to come by, but as a byproduct of his Italian heritage he was passionate about food. He reveled in the pure pleasure of it and was always eager to share….to enlighten. These journeys culminated in uncomplicated dishes. Comprised of a few seasonal ingredients that allowed the uniqueness of each component to be truly noticed and savored. This inclination to cooking was no doubt influenced by his mother who bestowed upon us “Chicken Stuff”. A creamy, stew-like soup laden with celery and wonderfully shredded roast chicken. Quickly, it became part of our weekly dinner rotation and then….forgotten. College, marriage, mom’s sayonara to #3 and a simply crazed pace that characterizes so many of our lives had all but banished it from my memory (that and probably a subconscious desire to keep #3 at the proverbial curb we so happily kicked him to!).
This blog will all be worth it if for only rediscovering this family favorite. My husband loves chicken AND celery, so accolades were only a pot of soup away….until it seemed the recipe slipped away with the divorce papers. Beyond chicken, celery, stew-like and the well-used name “Chicken Stuff” I had no other details and after a frenzied search, my mother couldn’t come up with the recipe. This left me no choice but to create my personalized version. A few iterations later we got a winner! I’ve also renamed it Tarragon Celery Soup with Chicken and Rice. However, as appealing as the updated name is, in my jewel box of private memories, it will forever remain “Chicken Stuff”.
P.S. The husband thinks it would benefit from a few mushrooms. Reluctantly, I must agree….if you like mushrooms.
This soup is gets it’s pizzazz from the interplay of the herbs and dry vermouth- a fortified white wine with sublime botanical, herbal characteristics. As sophisticated as the flavors are it remains a deeply satisfying comfort food.
- 1 stick and 1 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 4 cups shredded chicken from 2-3 large bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
- 1 cup half & half
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth
- 10 cups homemade chicken broth
- 5 cups celery, diced (about 13 stalks)
- 2 cups yellow onion, medium chop (about 1 large)
- 1 TBSP garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
- 3 TBSP ground dried porcini mushrooms
- 8 TBSP flour
- 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
- 2 TBSP each of freshly chopped thyme, parsley
- 3 TBSP freshly chopped tarragon
- Pecorino Romano for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up).
- Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45-60 minutes until the juices run clear (length of time will depend on the thickness of the breasts.) When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan, heat the chicken stock until hot and keep it so. Do not boil.
- While the chicken roasts, over medium heat melt 1 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP olive oil in a Dutch oven (I use a 9 quart). Add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add the celery, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and mushroom powder and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute.
- Add 1 stick of butter and stir until melted.
- Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until no raw flour smell remains.
- Turn off the heat and stir in ¼ cup of hot stock. Repeat 3 more times being sure to scrape any flour mixture that collects on the bottom and sides of the pot.
- Return heat to medium and stir in the remaining stock.
- Bring to a simmer.
- Add the rice and cook for 15 minutes; stir frequently.
- Reduce to low and add the chicken, vermouth, salt, pepper, herbs and half and half.
- Reheat for 10 minutes.
- Taste for seasonings.
- Serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
Grind the dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder. Simply clean out the coffee grounds first by grinding some dried white rice and wiping it out with a paper towel. Recleanse after preparing the mushrooms.