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The way that people love wedding soup is hilarious and endearing to me. It’s always one of the most requested, best loved, and fastest selling soups that I make. I grew up on it and I love it as much as the next guy, but I have strong opinions about it and I am going to share all of those opinions with you now. Also, this issue is going to serve as something of a bonus because I am also going to reveal a long-held secret.
NO CHICKEN NO ONIONS NO CELERY
A lot of people are out there putting chicken in their wedding soup and I hate it. The chicken doesn’t belong there and it knows it. When chicken is added to wedding soup, it gets embarrassed. It hides in the corner like it’s the first day at a new school and it’s already the middle of the semester. It dries out and clams up and stands out like a sore thumb. The meatballs, carrots and pasta point and laugh from the cool kid’s table. This chicken will never fit in. We do not stan.
I, personally, feel that onions do not belong in most chicken broth-based soups. Make a really nice chicken broth and put a lot of onions it in. This way, you’re onion flavor is completely provided from the broth and your soup doesn’t end up over-alliumed (a term I just made up). I don’t feel strongly about the omission of celery. I don’t put celery in my wedding soup. If you want to, I am one hundred percent behind you.
The Italian name for wedding soup, minestra meritata, translates to “married soup.” This name is in reference to the union between the meat and the vegetables which gives the soup it’s flavor. It has nothing to do with a wedding. It’s all about the meatballs marrying the greens. Spinach is wonderful and it works well in a lot of soups but it’s not offering up much in terms of flavor. For wedding soup, it’s necessary to use a green that is slightly on the bitter side. I prefer escarole or curly endive and you should too.
Now that we have gone over what should not be in this soup, we can talk about what should be included - which is only a few, choice ingredients.
A well developed chicken broth.
Carrots - peeled and cut into the shape you like (I like coins)
Meatballs - rolled into quarter sized balls
Escarole or curly endive - washed and chopped
Egg & Parmesan - 1 tbsp. parm to one egg
Pasta - acini de pepe or ditalini. I’m not here for orzo
Yields around 8 quarts
5 - 8 pieces of chicken wings and/or spines 2 carrots cut into thirds 1 whole head of celery cut into thirds, including leaves and root end 2 or 3 yellow onions halved 2 heads of garlic halved crosswise 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorn 2 tablespoons kosher salt A handful of herbs - bay leaf / thyme / dill / parsley
Place all ingredients into a 12-quart stock pot and fill the pot with cold water. Bring the water to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with the lid off for 4–12 hours. It should not be violently boiling at any point. If scum starts to form on the top, skim it off. The broth will reduce by a third or more. If possible, place a lid on the broth and allow it to steep off the heat for 1–4 hours. Steeping the broth creates deeper flavor and let’s everything cool down so it’s easier to strain. Pass it through a wire strainer and discard the solids. Now you have really great broth that will make amazing soup and enhance any dish in which you choose to apply it. Refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months.
A MEATBALL RECIPE
Before there was soup, there was meatballs. The first cooking talent I attempted to gain fame on. There’s still a small contingent of Pittsburghers to whom I am “Meatball” and few things make me happier than when I see them and they greet me that way. This meatball recipe is extremely near and extremely dear to me and my heart and my family. It’s one of those passed down things. My entire life, it’s been a thing. My mom’s meatballs are the best. My meatballs are the best. This was my grandmother’s recipe. I’ve never shared it and I am going to share it with you now. Also, I didn’t get permission from my mom to share this recipe in this newsletter and she reads this so. Hello Mom, I hope you’re okay with this. I love you.
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tbsp. basil
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 cup hot water
Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients. Roll out meatballs to the size you want, if it’s for spaghetti, make them about the size of a golf ball. If it’s for this soup, make them the size of a quarter. If you’re making full sized meatballs, bake them at 375° on the middle rack in your oven until they are browned on the bottom. Usually about 25 – 30 minutes. Then flip them and brown the other side. You can also shallow fry them in a pan with oil. Add them to red sauce. Fuhgettaboutit. This meatball recipe is very easy to scale up, usually when I make meatballs I use between 5 and 10 pounds of ground beef.
This is not a recipe, but a guideline. There are no amounts, just ingredients and instructions.
Roll meatball mixture into quarter sized balls. Boil salted water and cook the pasta. In a separate Dutch oven or stock pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add carrots. Salt the carrots and sauté until they start to soften. Add broth and bring it to a simmer. Add the meatballs directly into the soup. Once they start to float, add the escarole. Beat the egg and parmesan together and slowly stream the mixture into the soup while continuously stirring. Allow the soup to simmer until the meatballs and carrots are fully cooked through and the greens are wilted. Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta. Voila! A joyous union. A beautiful marriage. Two become one. This is the beginning of the rest of your life.
Alternatively - feel free to bake the meatballs before adding them to the soup instead of poaching them.
In other news - I do apologize for the tardiness of this issue. The world is a buzz and it will probably be like this until January. Red (Taylor’s Version) is the best thing that has happened to me this year. Friday is my birthday. I am turning 31 and I asked for this thermapen and this vacuum sealer and this vinyl. I’ve also been eyeing this Great Jones Dutch oven for two years but I have yet to pull the trigger. All of these things would make great gifts for any kitchen heathen in your life. Next week, I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my family in Las Vegas. I am very much looking forward to the holidays. My favorite time of the year is the ending.