Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

I am on an epic quest to consolidate my favorite recipes into one spot. They are all over the place: cookbooks, Pinterest, my bookmarks bar, saved to my computer, and in the oh-so-cute recipe box Elin made for me.   

Yet along with my efforts of organization, I am also in desperate need of actually writing down my recipes the way I like them. You see, I will cook a delicious meal to perfection, only to find out that I never documented what I tweaked, added, or left out that made the dish so magical. I'm also notoriously bad at actually measuring, which only makes the problem worse.

So I am determined to repent of my haphazard ways, starting with this Chicken and Gnocchi Soup recipe. I hesitate to call it an "Olive Garden Copycat Recipe." I mean, I love Olive Garden's chicken gnocchi soup, and I love this recipe, but they certainly don't taste identical to me. You be the judge. Anyways, there are several versions of this one out on the internet, but here's the way my husband and I like to eat it.

The primary differences from the other recipes out there? 

1) More chicken. My non-soup-loving husband really does like this recipe, partly because the extra chicken helps actually fill him up. 6'4" guys need a lot of protein, I'm starting to realize. Most recipes I see call for 1 cup cooked, cubed chicken. I made it with 4 small breasts, which is closer to 2 cups.
2) Whole milk. The recipes I found usually used half and half. They made very yummy soup, but it was just a touch too creamy. By a happy twist of fate, I was out of half and half and had to substitute whole milk in a pinch, and the results were perfect. Do not, do not use anything less than whole milk. It's worth buying the half gallon at the store rather than using skim or 1%, because it does not taste nearly as delicious. You have been warned...
3) Chopped carrots. A bag of baby carrots is a staple in our fridge, so I always slice them rather than using the shredded carrots called for in most recipes. This means they need to cook a little longer, so I add them earlier in the recipe than some of the other versions out there.

Without further ado...

Chicken Gnocchi Soup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery (I never remember to buy celery, so this ingredient is sadly often omitted)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk (may use half and half)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth or 1 3/4 cup water with 1 3/4 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken breast 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper (we like it peppery!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1 16-ounce package gnocchi
In a large stockpot, melt the butter into the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook until the onion becomes translucent (5-10 minutes.) Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Add the whole milk, chicken broth, chicken, salt, pepper, thyme, parsley flakes, and carrots. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender 15-20 minutes. In the last 3-5 minutes of cooking, add gnocchi and spinach. Simmer until gnocchi is soft and buoyant and the spinach is slightly wilted. Serve with delicious rolls or homemade bread! Mmm...

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