My mom is recovering from major surgery here at our home. She spent the first couple of weeks in a hospital and rehab facility, where the food was...truly awful. I brought her little farmer's market treats like sliced tomatoes and strawberries, to remind her that not all food comes from boxes and cans, but man, the overall effect of feeding healing people crap food is seriously depressing.
She is glad to be here now, noshing what appeals from my endless stream of cooking, and starting to cook for herself again too. She can't eat more than a few bites of anything at a time - and all she's truly hungry for is sweets, ha - but she made herself a killer BLT yesterday, thick with a perfect tomato and a pile of freshly picked lettuce, and managed to eat half of it.
Baby steps on the road to recovery.
She also managed a few bites of this soup, which really hit the spot on a cool, fall day. I love chicken soup for its endless versatility, and of course for its soothing, healing deliciousness. I studded this version with kale, sweet potatoes, garlic, and just a spot of bacon because my mom loves bacon.
I am of her, after all.
This is a nice transitional soup, warm on a cool day, but full of end-of-summer bounty like a garden-ripe tomato. A hint of nutmeg is lovely here, as is a shower of freshly grated Parmesan to finish.
Chicken Soup with Kale, Garlic & Sweet Potatoes
1 roasting chicken, about 3 lbs., patted dry
1 Tbsp. bacon fat or vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, 1 coarsely chopped, 1 diced
6 cloves garlic, 3 smashed, 3 minced
2 ribs celery, 1 halved, 1 diced
2 carrots, 1 halved, 1 diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
6 c. water
1 tsp. Kosher salt plus more to finish
2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale, ribs removed, sliced thin
1 large sweet potato, peeled & diced
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 large garden-ripe tomato, diced
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Make the broth:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat a Dutch oven or casserole with a tight fitting lid over medium high heat. Add the bacon fat or oil and when hot, add the chicken and brown it thoroughly all over. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
Turn heat to down to medium and add the coarsely chopped onion, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 1 halved rib of celery, 1 halved carrot, and thyme. Stir around for a few minutes, then slowly add the water and 1 tsp. of salt. Nestle the chicken back into the pot and bring stock to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven. (Or, turn heat to low and simmer on top of the stove.)
Bake (or simmer) chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken is very tender. Remove chicken from the pot to a cutting board (it might break apart into pieces, which is fine) and let cool for a bit.
Strain stock through a colander into a large bowl. Skim fat from stock. Discard strained vegetables.
Make the soup:
Set the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon to the pan. When the bacon is browned and crisp, add the diced onion, diced garlic, diced celery, diced carrot, kale, sweet potato, and nutmeg. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is softened. Pour in the stock and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the carrot and sweet potato are tender.
While the soup simmers, tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
To serve, stir about half of the chicken into the hot soup (reserving the rest for another use) and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Divide the diced tomato among soup bowls, ladle soup over the tomatoes, top with black pepper and Parmesan cheese, and serve.