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Right now

Hello from a train en route to Portland, Oregon! I’ll be at Jim Dixon’s Real Good Food olive oil warehouse tomorrow, Monday, from 3 to 4, if you’d like to stop by for some olive oil and a book, and then I’ll be reading at Powell’s on Burnside tomorrow night at 7:30. And then, on the way home, because I am an unstoppable book-signing machine, I’ll be swinging by the Bayview School of Cooking, in Olympia, for an event at 6:00 pm. If you’re in the area(s), come on out.

Now, in the meantime, I promised you the recipe for June’s new favorite thing, which, now that I think about it, may also be my new favorite thing. The thing in question is minestra di piselli e polpettine di pollo, or English pea and chicken meatball soup. Does it sound more enticing if we call it herbed chicken meatballs in broth with peas and Parmesan? It does have herbs and Parmesan. It seems wrong to not mention that.

First of all: poached meatballs. I know. Not attractive. In general, poached meat is rarely attractive, except maybe poached chicken breasts, maybe. That aside, look at the peas! Attractive! The golden(ish), clear(ish) broth! The grated Parmesan, which I forgot to put on for this photo! And more to the point: the flavor!

A couple of years ago, a small, handsome book called Zuppe, by Mona Talbott, showed up on my stoop. (I often receive free, unsolicited copies of newly published books, and this was one of them. Full disclosure, etc.) Talbott, I learned, was the founding executive chef of the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome, where she cooked for the Academy’s community of scholars, artists, and thinkers. I immediately got the sense that she had spent a lot of time thinking about soup – my kind of person – and her recipes felt like the stuff of Italian grandmothers, humble but satisfying, the way I want everyday cooking to feel. I thumbed through the book, and then I put it on top of the fridge with the other dozen or so cookbooks that I use most, even though I hadn’t used it yet. I just had a feeling.

The recipes in Zuppe are not elaborate, and they’re also not very detailed: they assume that you already know something about cooking and have your own opinions and instincts to bring to the task. That’s not necessarily a problem: these recipes have some very good ideas, very doable good ideas that I wouldn’t come up with alone, and if you jump in and follow your nose, they’re great. (I find that many of Nigel Slater’s recipes work the same way.) For instance, this soup. It could be plain. But if you make sure that your broth is flavorful, your fresh herbs are fresh, your meatballs are seasoned well, and your Parmesan is good, it’s quietly perfect, just what I want to eat as late spring turns into summer. It feels comforting, filling, but also light. We’ve mostly eaten it for dinner, because it’s so easy to do ahead (see below) and because many days, by dinnertime, I can barely manage to pour a Campari Shandy and let’s not even talk about actual cooking no no no. It would also be an ideal lunch.

I should also say, for those of you in the business of feeding babies or toddlers, that this sort of meal is spot-on for June. (Right now. Tune in for the next episode!) I quarter her meatballs, and she eats them and the peas mostly with her fingers, and then she drinks the broth that’s left. It makes us both happy.

Herbed Chicken Meatballs in Broth with Peas and Parmesan
Adapted from Zuppe, by Mona Talbott

I made this one evening after June was in bed, and it fed both of us for the next couple of days. When you pack it up for the fridge, keep the meatballs separate from the broth, so that they don’t fall apart and the broth doesn’t get cloudy. When you want to eat a portion, just ladle out some broth, plunk in a few meatballs and some peas, and warm it. Grate on some cheese, and it’s ready.

If you have a choice about your ground poultry, use dark meat. As for the chicken broth, I try make some whenever I roast a whole chicken: I toss the carcass in a deep pot with a quartered onion, a roughly chopped carrot, a roughly chopped stalk of celery, a handful of cilantro or parsley stems (if I have them), and some salt; cover it all generously with cold water; bring it to a simmer; put it in a 200- or 225-degree oven overnight, and then I strain it, let it cool, and stash it in the freezer. But when I’m not so spectacularly on top of things, Better Than Bouillon is quite tasty.

Oh, and I think this soup would be wonderful served with a slice of garlic-rubbed, olive-oiled toast at the bottom of the bowl, to soak up broth and get silky.

3 ounces (85 grams) rustic, country-style bread
¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk
18 ounces (540 grams) ground chicken or turkey
6 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves finely chopped and stems discarded
4 sprigs marjoram, leaves finely chopped and stems discarded
Black pepper
2 ½ quarts (scant 2 ½ liters) chicken stock
12 ounces (340 grams) fresh or frozen peas
Grana Padano or Parmesan, for grating

Cut the crusts off the bread. Cut the bread into roughly ½-inch cubes, and put it into a large bowl. Add the milk, toss to coat, and leave to soak for about 20 minutes. Then squish the bread into a mush, and add the ground chicken. Add 1 tablespoon each of the chopped parsley and marjoram, a few grinds of black pepper, and a couple of very generous pinches of salt. (If you’re using table salt or fine sea salt, about 1 teaspoon should be right.) Mix with a fork, or with your hand, until evenly combined. (If you’re unsure of the seasoning, at this point you can fry off a little bit of the meat mixture and taste for salt.) With damp hands, form the meat into 1-inch balls. You should get approximately 25. Chill the meatballs for 30 minutes before cooking.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a wide pot, such as a Dutch oven. (This is a good time to taste the stock for seasoning.) Gently drop the meatballs into the simmering stock, and cook for 5 minutes. You’re looking for their internal temperature to reach 165 degrees. Remove the meatballs from the stock, and set aside. If the broth is cloudy, you can strain it, or just continue on. You can now go one of two ways:

1. If you plan to serve the soup immediately, add the peas to the simmering stock, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pot, and stir in the remaining chopped herbs. Serve with freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmesan.

2. If you plan to eat the soup later, chill the meatballs and the stock separately. When you’re ready to eat, bring the broth back to a simmer, add the meatballs and peas, and cook until everything is warm and the peas are tender, maybe 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining chopped herbs. Serve with freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmesan.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Blogger indigo said...

Wait! You make chicken broth in the oven???!!! Why? And why have I never heard of this before? Please explain... my head just exploded!

11:28 PM, June 08, 2014  
Anonymous Jessie Voigts said...

First, that photo? That is pure joy of a well-fed child. LOVE it! Secondly, thank you! I've got ground chicken in the fridge and this is perfect.

10:21 AM, June 09, 2014  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

Can we get you up to Bellingham with your new book? (You can also bring June).

10:45 AM, June 09, 2014  
Blogger jbeach said...

Yes!! Need more good toddler meals in my life- those that are adult meals too. I know to feed them what I feed myself, but it's trickier than that! My 1-yr old has but 4 front teeth and my almost 3-yr old is... well, it depends on the night. Thank you'!

12:44 PM, June 09, 2014  
Anonymous Jessica @ www.caretakerskitchen.com said...

I will say my poached-food repertoire is lacking, but this recipe should help. My little one is at the awkward stage of sort of being able to eat table food, yet demanding certain things be pureed or spoon fed. We'll give this one a go!

12:59 PM, June 09, 2014  
Blogger Surly Steve said...

June appears to love that soup as much as I love your blog and podcast.

4:11 PM, June 09, 2014  
Blogger Ariel said...

If you ever feel like sharing, a list of the other cookbooks that are piling up on top of your fridge would be fun to hear about. Or, the ones that are on your bedside table/reader. Always looking for good recommendations from those bloggers on my "short list!" (And yes, Delancey and A Homemade Life have already made the reading list!)

4:16 PM, June 09, 2014  
Anonymous Judith Elkins said...

oh yeah, that sounds like my kind of zuppe! Thank you.

5:27 PM, June 09, 2014  
Anonymous Erin said...

I find it quite serendipitous that I (1) have every ingredient in this recipe, (2) have had nothing more than carrot sticks, cream cheese, and nuts for lunch lately, and (3) love meatballs. I will be making this tomorrow. My daughter and I thank you.

6:19 PM, June 09, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should try Martha Stewarts Escarole and meatball soup when escarole is in season -- it's a soup that I dream about. For some reason it's not as good after it sits in the fridge -- maybe I should store the meatballs separately like you suggested. The meatballs are beef and pork with currants and oregano. The chicken broth
has a crushed red pepper and kidney beans in it along with the escarole and she browns the meatballs before putting in the broth. I guess it's my favorite soup, but must try yours -- it sounds wonderful too and much simpler to make.

7:21 PM, June 09, 2014  
Blogger Annie Fenn said...

I have the Rome Sustainable Food Project book devoted to Biscotti and the Verdura and both have a special place on my shelf. I think my teenage boys would love this soup as much as June does!

9:47 PM, June 09, 2014  
Anonymous Christine said...

Your reading at Powell's was really wonderful. You helped make my day. Cheers!

10:45 PM, June 09, 2014  
Blogger Marian Feuerhammer said...

Hi Molly, I made this recipe for dinner last night and my family loved it. The flavors blended beautifully and it was a very satisfying meal.

4:26 AM, June 10, 2014  
Anonymous emily said...

i'm so happy you posted this - i met and spent time with mona in rome a few years ago and ate her delicious food at the american academy. she was working on this book at the time and i put a note in my brain to go get it when it came out. i never did! off to the bookstore...
xx / emily
ps. hope you the rest of your book tour is going well. it was such a pleasure to hang out when you were in minneapolis.

6:30 AM, June 10, 2014  
Anonymous Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks said...

This is my kind of soup! Simple and delicious :)

7:21 AM, June 10, 2014  
Blogger Odette Cressler said...

Hi Molly!

I just finished reading Delancey and I just wanted to tell you how much it moved me.

I am not a blogger but I have been working in the restaurant industry for about 5 years and it's something that I am passionate about.

I, as well, have been looking for that balance in the industry as I am a soon to be mom and don't believe that all of us in the industry are viceful and crazy... as much as I loved Bourdain's book :D. So I could relate to so much happening in the book.

As a soon to be mom I am worried of my personal future as much as my baby girl excites me... I know I will miss the restaurant industry and my ultimate dream is to one day open a restaurant of my own. Visiting Delancey is now on my list. I couldn't stop talking about the book with my husband, telling him about how some people just don't care that much about pizza (like that chapter where you talk about Brandon's date not being very into the pizza and this totally turned him off haha)...

It's just so nice and comforting to read that I am not alone and that other people get vulnerable sometimes too so I really appreciate all your honesty and throughout in the book.

Didn't know where else I could reach out to you so I am sorry about the long comment!!

Greetings from San Diego!


12:22 PM, June 10, 2014  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Super! I've been waiting for this since the June 1 post. Thanks!

2:18 PM, June 10, 2014  
Anonymous katrina said...

This looks delicious! Actually, I have one "poached meatball" recipe I've been using for years with ground turkey, herbs, and sweet green briefly cooked cabbage - children love it! This one looks even better.

2:34 PM, June 10, 2014  
Anonymous Karen H. said...

I bought Delancy from you at Real Good Food at 3:30 and finished it by 9 pm! I kept exclaiming to my husband "We have to go to Apizza Scholls! We have to go to Ken's Artisan Pizza!" And of course, "We have to go to Delancy!" I so enjoy your transparency as you share Brandon and your story. It was a pleasure to meet you (and June as the wind blew through her hair and she tried to nibble on your leg!) and see that you are just as real and lovely in person as I thought you would be. May God continue to bless you and your family on this journey of life together!

8:15 PM, June 10, 2014  
Blogger Deanna said...

I just "devoured" your book. I read it in a matter of hours. I have followed your blog, read your first book and anxiously awaited Delancey. I was not disappointed! I am an avid home cook & found myself thrust in the restaurant world & assumed since I was loved to cook, I would love being the GM of a restaurant with very similar sensibilities to that of Delancey. I couldn't have been more wrong. I can't tell you how many tears I shed for the year I plodded along in such a foreign land. Thanks for sharing your story. It was a wonderful book and I will be sharing it with many of my friends.

7:52 PM, June 11, 2014  
Anonymous Sara said...

You really have a way with meatballs! This looks great.

8:59 AM, June 12, 2014  
Blogger Rocky Mountain Woman said...

that looks wonderful! my grandkids would like this - i'll give it a try...

11:53 AM, June 13, 2014  
Anonymous gwyn said...

perfect recipe for today here in seattle. spring clouds, maybe a shower, and pillowy meatballs in yummy light broth. you just made my weekend. one question--do you cover the pot when you put the broth in the oven overnight??? thanks!

9:27 AM, June 14, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your book and ordered We Are Called to Rise after your blog post this Spring. It's a wonderful novel - thank you so much for recommending it.

8:24 PM, June 14, 2014  
Blogger Denise Parsons said...


6:15 PM, June 15, 2014  
Anonymous Karen said...

Based on the picture included with this post, I have to ask... does June insist on holding the utensil in one hand while eating everything with her fingers?

My toddler does it, and not only does it save us from having to wash that utensil but it is also just about the cutest thing. :)

1:25 PM, June 19, 2014  
Blogger Molly said...

Gwyn, nope, I don't cover the pot!

And Karen, she sort of goes back and forth. She starts with the utensil, then uses her fingers, then drops the utensil completely, then wants to hold it again, and on and on and on! You know how it goes.

7:08 PM, June 19, 2014  
Blogger Paulette said...

Congratulations, Molly, on your book! I just finished reading it an loved how you shared your story. Beautifully written! I also really enjoy following your blog - please keep sharing!
- Paulette

5:05 AM, June 22, 2014  
OpenID Beth said...

Always do our stock in a crock pot - the big oval holds sometimes 2 chicken carcasses depending on their size. Overnight on low for 12 or so hours makes one realize crock pot rhymes with stock pot!

2:50 PM, July 22, 2014  
Anonymous Sara said...

I keep returning again and again to this recipe and wondering how this would do with some cooked orzo. Brothy soups make me happy, but I need something more filling for a whole meal. Thanks for the idea!

9:45 AM, May 06, 2015  

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