Friday, March 2, 2012

Chicken Soup with Spinach and Orzo

A number of years ago, I called my mom and boasted, "I just roasted a chicken!" 

She was nonplussed.  "Anyone can roast a chicken.  It's taking the meat off the bones that is the hard part."

There is something to that.  Deboning a chicken is greasy, mindless work.  When we were kids, my parents would scare us into doing homework by regaling us with stories of chicken factories.  Now I pull meat off the pokey bones off a chicken and mutter, "I went to college...I went to college." 

I try to cook a whole chicken at least twice a month.  Most often, I put it in a roasting pan with veggies and keep it in the refrigerator until I get home from work.  When I get home, I immediately turn on the oven and stick in the bird.  It is ready in an hour and a half - pretty reasonable for dinner; and there is something a little indulgent about serving a whole chicken, the crispy skin tight across its back, on a work night.  And with a only a little effort, I have enough shredded chicken to use for another meal a couple nights later.

A couple of Christmases ago, my sister Christina gave me a William-Sonoma Weeknight cookbook.  Its recipe for chicken soup is one of my favorite stand-bys for leftover chicken.  It manges to be wholesome comfort-food without harkening back to being sick in bed (no small feat for chicken noodle soup).  And not only is it great for cleaning out the produce crisper, soup is very forgiving if we are a little more greedy in our chicken consumption early in the week.

Wednesday nights, my sister Sarah comes over and cooks dinner with me.  She is six years younger than I am, so when I was a lost college freshman, she was an akward junior high student.  And when I was a self-assured, know-it-all graduate, she was a lost college freshman.  As we age, the six year gap is losing its tenacity

We made chicken soup recently. She chopped carrots, I chopped an onion, and we talked.  Then she helped me set the table - blue plates and a flame-colored pot on the white table cloth.  Happy looking - like me and Sarah together in the kitchen making soup.  Over the steam of chicken broth bright with spinach and parmesan cheese, we learn to know each other as adults.  No small feat.

Chicken & Orzo Soup

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/2 Tablespoon marjoram
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup orzo
6 oz fresh baby spinch
3 cups cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Saute onions until translucent (about 3-4 minutes).  Add carrots, celery an marjoram and saute until the vegeatables are tender (about 3 minutes).  Add broth and raise heat to medium high.  Simmer for five minutes.  Add the orzo to the sou an cook for 3-4 minutes until the pasta is dente.  Add the spinach and chicken.  Cook until the chicken has wilted and the chicken is warmed through (about 1 minute).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese before serving.


  1. I'm 9 years older than my sister, and we didn't really get to know each other as friends until we were engaged at the same time (she was 19, I was 29) and went to the gym together. Now we're close, and I'm so thankful we had that time to bond.

    1. Going to the gym together is probably a better option than cooking together. :)


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