Roasted Garlic White Bean Soup with Chicken and Kale

Okay fine. I’ll write about food again. Until I don’t.

I don’t actually know when I stopped following recipes and started making things up. It may have been the summer of 1996 when I was living in Chapel Hill, NC with a really stunning paucity of cooking equipment and no cookbooks. Once I made it back to a world with those items, I quickly got clear on two truths about savory cooking that totally liberated me for good.

  1. Recipes aren’t written for your palate. They are mostly written for the palate of the person who wrote the recipe.
  2. You’re not going to screw it up.

The second is a little wobblier as a truth, but a whole lot sturdier as a leap of faith. Still, it is true enough that it is the right thing to tell yourself. And if you are going to be afraid be afraid these two things: raw chicken, over-salting. For the former, get a meat thermometer, calibrate it, use it correctly and believe it. For the latter, never add more salt to a recipe than it calls for or at a different time than it calls for.

And while I want you freestylin’ like a champ, please remember truth #2 only applies to cooking. You will screw up baking. Everyone does.

I am sharing this recipe from the weekly cook-a-thon because I had some for lunch today and it was such a mellow, fulfilling, delicious counterpart to everything else I made with jalapeño this week.

Adapted from Judith Barrett‘s recipe of similar title in a 2001 issue of Food and Wine

Stuff

  • Fat, EVOO
  • Medium onion
  • One head garlic
  • Chicken Broth 4 cups (make it veg/vegan with veg or mushroom broth)
  • A pound or so of kale. If the stems are thicker than a charger cord, remove them.
  • 19 ounces of cooked white beans
  • 1/2 pound chicken (Omit or use a vegan sausage or tofu to veg/veganfy it)
  • salt and pepper

Do

  1. Roast the garlic. Oven at 375. Remove as much of the outside papery stuff as you can with out breaking the head apart. Trim off the top so you can see a bit of each clove. Put in some foil, drizzle with EVOO. Close up the foil and ignore in the oven for 35 to 50 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, thinly slice the onion, drain & rinse the beans (if canned), cut the chicken into soup spoon-ish size pieces, open and/or measure the chicken broth, stem (optional) wash and dry the kale and tear it into dollar bill (or smaller) size pieces.
  3. When the garlic is ready, take it out of the oven and set it aside for a minute. Over medium-low heat, melt the onions in olive oil or butter. Any time after they turn clear, add a pinch of salt, and a couple of grinds on the pepper mill turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken, give that a couple of spins round the pot with your spoon, then add the beans and finally the chicken broth. Remove the cloves from the roasted head of garlic and plop ’em into the broth. mash’ em up with your spoon a little. Reduce to a simmer.
  4. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through (10 to 15 minutes). Add the Kale. When the pot returns to a simmer. Remove it from the heat.

You can eat it then, but I think it’s better the day after.

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