Paired with Baldacci Carneros Chardonnay or Pinot Noir
This recipe is one of my top five “happy childhood memory foods” and it remains one of my favorites to this day. It is simple, healthy, and the perfect comfort food. In my family, we called this the escarole soup and I never knew there were other uses for escarole until I was well into my forties. It can be reheated and left at low heat until it is time for service. – John Lombardo
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 head Escarole
- Also known as broad-leaved endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, and escarole (Pronounced Shcarole if you’re from Philly) escarole has broad, curly green leaves, and a slightly bitter flavor.
- Chicken Stock
- Bay Leaf
For the meatballs:
- 1 lb ground beef and ½ lb ground pork or 1 ½ lb meatloaf mixture (Ground beef, pork, and veal)
- Breadcrumbs (Italian preferred)
- Parmesan Cheese (or Pecorino Romano if you prefer)
- 1 egg
You will notice I did not put exact measurements for the ingredients in the list. Go by feel. Trust me.
- It is better with homemade chicken stock. Keep the carcass from a few chickens (and the backs and wings and innards if you like) in the freezer. If you want to rock your stock, roast your carcasses until they are nice and brown. Let them cool down and add them to a large stockpot with onion, carrot, and celery. When I make my stock, I also include the drippings. Cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer for at least eight hours at the gentlest boil possible. You may have to add water to keep it at the proper level, but the water level should go down a bit. Remove from the heat, let it cool, and strain. A well-made stock will run clear and have a light brown color.
- Always remember, there is no sin in using store-bought stock or chicken base. Just remember to check the salt content in either of those options.
- Roast your chicken. I cook mine at 400 for an hour.
- Let the chicken cool enough so you can pull the skin from the meat and the meat from the bones. If you cut into the chicken and remove the skin almost right away, it will cool to a manageable temperature faster. You can store the skin and bones for your next stock.
- Set your chicken meat aside
- While your chicken is cooking, heat your stock (About two-thirds to three-quarters of a 12-quart pot should do.)
- Add 1 or 2 bay leaves, oregano, basil, and garlic. I have never measured my seasonings because I go by feel.
- Keep stock at a low boil throughout the process.
- Make your meatballs
- Mix everything. Use a half cup of breadcrumbs and about one cup of shredded parmesan.
- If you are using previously shredded store-bought parm, use ½ cup.
- If using grated parmesan from a jar, then use ¼ cup.
- Heat a sauté pan to medium and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- After everything is well mixed and homogenous, roll your meatballs. About an inch and a half in diameter should work.
- Add the meatballs to the sauté pan and brown. Be patient. If you try to turn them too soon, they’ll stick and break apart. You can deglaze with a bit of stock or white wine to help loosen the meatballs. Brown on all sides and add to the stockpot.
- Continue to simmer for an hour or so.
- About ½ hour before service, add chicken.
- Also, about ½ hour before service, chop the head of the escarole into large pieces. They will cook down. Add to stock.
- Serve and enjoy
Notes and adjustments
- This soup tastes GREAT with Italian bread!
- I would not argue with you if you want to add shaved parmesan.
- You can add other vegetables to this. Onion, carrot, or mushrooms work well. Add them at the same time as the meatballs.
- If you’re pairing this with Pinot Noir, mushrooms are an excellent addition.
A couple of notes about the chicken:
- I prefer to pull the meat from the chicken because it gives it a shredded texture rather than chunks.
- There are a few reasons I like to bake the chicken separately:
- First, the flavor of a baked chicken is just plain better than a boiled bird.
- It’s easier to remove the skin from a cooked chicken than a raw chicken.
- Baking the chicken ensures your chicken is cooked.
Drink a toast to my Grandmom Anna Caruso when you enjoy this.