Recipe

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
Salt
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