There is no better moment than the season’s first cold snap to drive us into the kitchen seeking comfort food. For Mags and myself, comfort cooking is about filling our homes and bellies with rich, warming flavors, and taking a little time to reflect. We put on the kettle, light some candles and search our pantries, cookbooks and memories for a little inspiration.
Our comfort cooking tradition reaches back generations with our most notable teacher being our maternal grandmother. As little girls we would have described our nana as very proper, likely the result of spending her formative years educated in a convent. By nuns. Whom she described as, “an unforgiving lot of old bats.” Her words. Sorry nuns.
A typical morning at Nana’s would begin in the kitchen where our terrifying dictator would tug us into aprons and dole out pinches because of all our slouching. Once properly uniformed, we would dash around the kitchen fetching various ingredients and dodging her (very quick) wooden spoon. Nana would crank up Louis, Frank or Dean and bark orders while imagining some impromptu creation into reality.
Mags and I would dutifully grind peppercorns, mince garlic and zest lemons, all while Nana’s words washed over us. “A young lady should be proficient in both Latin and hemming her own skirt,” or, “If you remember nothing for the rest of your lives ladies, know this: ghee is always better than butter in a mirepoix.” Some declarations were more useful than others. After three years of Latin, I can’t talk my cart out of a ditch but come to think of it, I did hem a pair of pants just this week so cheers on Nana.
As years passed, we came to see that she wasn’t that proper or stuffy at all. She was just different than other grandmothers. She would become more human, and for me at least, serve as an amazing secret keeper and advice giver. With aromatic concoctions simmering on the stove, her kitchen was a welcome retreat from the everyday pressures of teenagerhood in a small town.
It was over braised short ribs Mags and I first learned learned to tell the difference between fake pearls and the genuine article, and over turkey curry she taught our first lesson on the stock market. Long weekends home from college would mean late morning cocktails on Nana’s porch where she’d regale us with hilarious (often off-color) tales starring herself, handsome men, and British East Africa.
So on this chilly grey today, Mags and I find ourselves rooting through the pantry for garlic, and the fruit bowl for lemons. I pull out the remainder of the roast chicken from last night and we know what we’re making before we start chopping. It is with this tribute to comfort foodie, eccentric grande dame and terrifying matriarch, Nana, that we round out our inaugural journal entry. Enjoy one of the few recipes she ever made twice: Nana’s signature Lemon Chicken Soup.
Recipe: Lemon Chicken Soup
Active Prep Time: 35 minutes | Cook time: 3 hours | Yield: about 7 quarts
- 4 qts chicken stock (broth is fine)
- 4 cups dry white wine
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups kale (cut into thin ribbons... we prefer the kales with ‘lacy’ edges rather than flat but either will do)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken (you can grill 2 chicken breasts or buy a roaster from the store to pull apart)
- 8 oz egg noodles
- 2/3 cup lemon juice (juice of 4 lemons)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or ghee
- 2 celery hearts (1 1/4 cup chopped) Regular celery stalks are fine too, we just love the baby ones in the middle.
- 2 med carrots (1 cup chopped)
- 1 small onion (1/2 cup chopped)
- 1 large shallot (4 tbsp chopped)
- 7 cloves garlic (3 tbsp chopped)
- 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
- Zest of 2 lemons (1 tbsp)
- Salt to taste (Our Joyful Hearth box’s Beautiful Briny Sea Rosemary salt is perfect here. It lights up all the other flavors beautifully.)
Begin with a 10+ quart pot or dutch oven. Mags and I love our enamel-coated cast iron dutch ovens because we can brown the veggies without them sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Chop the Celery Hearts, Carrots, Onion, Shallots and Garlic and add them to the cold pot along with the Olive Oil, Pepper and Lemon Zest. Turn burner on medium heat and brown your veggies, stirring often. This will take around 10 minutes depending on how dry the veggies were going in to the pot.
Once the vegetables are browned, pour the White Wine in to the pot to de-glaze as well as cook off the alcohol. After a few minutes, add the Lemon . Juice, the Chicken Stock and the Water. Allow to come to a boil and turn down to a simmer with the top off. You’re reducing the liquid and giving the brightness of the lemon a chance to mingle with the smokiness of the veggies.
Allow the soup to simmer and reduce for an hour or more. An hour is fine and 2 hours will concentrate the flavors more. Once the soup is reduced, add the Shredded Cooked Chicken and the Egg Noodles. Simmer for a few more minutes while you’re removing and discarding the tough center of the Kale leaves and cutting the remainder into ribbons. Add the Kale, allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes and then turn off and enjoy!
- We love to serve with a warm loaf of crunchy farm bread and Pecan Ridge Truffle Oil (featured in our Joyful Hearth box)
- Time permitting, we’ll turn the pot off and let it sit on the stove for a couple of hours to let the flavors intensify.
- After enjoying the fruits of our labor, we’ll freeze the remaining soup in 3 Qt wide mouth glass mason jars for later.
- They make great hostess gifts
- and are really thoughtful ‘get better soon’ dropoff gifts for anyone who is under the weather
- And lastly, we usually chop up the remaining veggies (left over carrots, the remainder of the celery) and freeze in 1 cup quantities in for next time. It’s a big time-saver when we’re improvising in the kitchen and reduces food waste.