Recently, Michelle had a birthday. Since Steve’s is only a week after Michelle’s, the usual practice is to have a joint celebration of some sort. (This year we’re going back to Alinea in Chicago—and, in keeping with chef Grant Achatz’s direction, the only self-indulgent table shots will be a couple discretely taken with an iPhone.) But on her actual birthday, Michelle decided to cook a variation of Thomas Keller’s Chicken Soup With Dumplings. After a full day of work, she just didn’t feel like going to the trouble of “making the dumplings with pâte à choux (cream puff dough).” In fact, she didn’t feel like making dumplings at all—but was adamant about not wasting our home-made chicken stock and a breast we purchased from Matt and Mandy Corry of Schacht Farms. She complained about Keller’s fussy process of cooking vegetables, then throwing them away, in a chicken stock that already was cooked with vegetables. She questioned the necessity of peeling and blanching the celery. She wondered why Keller thought it necessary to cook the carrots with honey and herbs before adding them to the mix. But, having enjoyed meals at The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon, she followed TK’s recipe—only omitting the dumplings, and adding some seasonal asparagus and green onions to the soup. The result? The best damn chicken soup we’ve ever had—exceptional flavors of veg and chicken, delicate and rich body, phenomenal taste. We declare it the best chicken soup ever—worth every bit of the trouble, and a testament to Keller’s obsessive, yet impressive, take on home cooking. And, next time, we’ll maybe even try the dumplings.
(adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home) (serves 3-4)
- 1/2 TB butter
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 quarts chicken stock
Melt butter in a stockpot over medium heat. Add vegetables and season with salt. Cook on very low heat until vegetables are very soft. Add stock, and simmer for 30 minutes. Then, strain and put stock in a clean pot.
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 tsp. honey
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus
- 2-3 green onions
Peel celery stalks with a peeler. Cut each crosswise on diagonal into thin slices. Cook celery in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Cut carrots lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into bite-sized pieces. Put carrots in small saucepan. Add honey, bay leaf, thyme, garlic and some salt and pepper. Cover with water. Simmer until carrots are tender. Drain and set aside.
Cut asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Slice green onions into small pieces. Cook in a little bit of butter until soft. Set aside.
- 4 TB unsalted butter
- 1/4 c. + 1 TB flour
Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. When almost melted, whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Make sure roux bubbles but does not brown.
Bring soup base to a simmer, then whisk roux into it a little at a time. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally.
- Minced chives
- Minced parsley
- 1/2 TB champagne vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
Add chives and parsley and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add various vegetables and shredded chicken.