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Straccietella Soup
(Parmesan cheese, bread
crumbs and egg in chicken stock)
By Charlie Burke

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During our recent trip to Italy, we found, once again, that many of the more
memorable dishes are also the simplest.

We were in Rome and found that the cuisine of the “Eternal City” remains
solidly based upon the peasant tradition of the farmers in the surrounding
countryside of Lazio. Grilled meat and fish are served with simply prepared
perfectly fresh vegetables in local trattorias and in the finest restaurants, and
the pastas and soups remain uncomplicated renditions of traditional recipes.

This is honest and unpretentious food, distinguished by the quality of the
ingredients and careful attention to detail in its preparation, such as in
Pasta
Amatriciana, where pancetta, onion and tomatoes come together in a perfect
sauce.

Stracciatella is so simple to make that no recipe is really needed once a cook is
familiar with its preparation. Its success depends upon a well made rich
chicken stock (some make it with meat stock), fresh eggs and well aged
Parmesan cheese mixed with fresh bread crumbs.

I like to serve it to guests as a first course because it is light and full of flavor
and can be prepared in minutes. We never roast a chicken without making a
stock for the freezer, so this soup requires only heating the stock and mixing in
the other ingredients at serving time. When I make it, I think of a kitchen in
Italy, where a fowl had been poached in water, which then became a broth. The
broth is then intensified by returning the bones to the pot after the fowl had
been eaten.  This is somewhat unorthodox, but I find it produces a combination
of broth and stock with rich flavor, and I’m quite certain that frugal Italian
cooks do the same. The broth/stock is boiled, uncovered, with a carrot, onion
and celery stalk so that it reduces and concentrates flavor.

This is best made with a free range organic chicken, which fortunately are
becoming more available locally.

Four Servings:
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 extra large fresh eggs
6 cups chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper corns, preferably white
Chopped parsley

Bring the stock to a boil, and then reduce the heat so that it is just simmering.
Mix Parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs, and mix the eggs with a fork until
just beaten.  Mix the beaten eggs with the cheese and bread crumbs.

Add ½ cup of stock to the egg mixture and stir until well blended and add it to
the simmering stock.  Taste the soup, adding salt and pepper as needed. Whisk
the stock gently to break up the mixture and ladle it into soup bowls,
garnishing with a pinch of chopped parsley.

This elemental soup is a classic example of how a few harmonious ingredients
can combine to produce a flavorful dish where the whole is truly greater than
the sum of its parts. In spite of its humble origin, this soup is a great first
course for even special occasion dinners.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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