Spring Soup

Spring Soup

After months and months of the same old, same old at the market—the same ruddy sweet potatoes, the same crinkled white onions—these days it’s flush with new gems all the time, and I am unapologetically thrilled about it. Last week I collected peach blossom branches (note: peach blossom branches do not fit into bicycle baskets; you will look clumsy all the way home), and this week I scooped up bundles of perfumed lilacs, to fill every available ledge of my apartment.

Broccolini arrived this week, which I plan to boil in salty water until it just yields, and then toss lovingly with olive oil and Pecorino. There are a multitude of baby lettuces to consider, not to mention the asparagus I will barely roast and toss with lemon juice or egg yolk. And what about radishes? They should be sliced thinly and strewn across buttery toast, sprinkled with sea salt…. It’s a good time to be a cook.

Spring onions also abound. There are so many different kinds, it’s hard for me to keep track. I buy spring garlic, scallions, garlic scapes, young shallots, ramps, and incorporate them into every meal. Luckily, the same cooking methods work for most of them, so experiment away. (Some suggestions: roasting with fish or meat; mixing with butter for toast; sautéing for salads or stir-fry; food processing for pesto or bean dips.)

This is also the best time of year for eggs. Happy chickens eat new spring grasses and herbs, and their eggs are more tasty and nutritious for it. If you’ve ever thought of switching from supermarket eggs to farmer’s market eggs, spring is the time to do it.

So now you see, I had both eggs and spring onions on the brain when this recipe started coming together. I wanted to do a play on a ramen noodle soup, with ribboned scallions acting as a kind of second noodle. The aromatic additions lend a faintly Asiatic flavor profile. The broth is quite delicate, so that each ingredient is easily detected. To me, this is a soup that tastes precisely of spring.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 5 stalks of celery
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 nub of ginger, plus more, grated, as garnish
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 clove
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • a small bunch of chives
  • 8 scallions
  • 1 package of Udon doodles
  • 4 eggs, as fresh as possible
  • ½ a lime
  • 8 slices Pane Siciliano

Make the chicken stock:

Start with three drumsticks. Pull off most of the skin, using kitchen shears if that’s easier, and then add them all to a big pot.

Peel and halve both carrots, and throw those in too. Wash and roughly chop the celery, halve the onion, clean and chop the leek, and toss those into the pot too.

Peel a nub of fresh ginger, cut it off, and add it to the pot. Add the: thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, star anise and the clove. Fill the pot with water, so everything is covered liberally. (Remember, some water will evaporate in the cooking.)

Drumsticks and vegetables

Bring the liquid to a boil, and then lower it to a simmer. Let the broth go for 2-2½ hours, skimming the top occasionally, until it is tasty. Run the broth through a sieve, to remove all the solids. (Save the chicken! I put the drumsticks on a plate until they were cool, and then removed the meat. Cold chicken sandwiches with a Greek yogurt/smashed garlic/feta cheese spread make for a good lunch.)

Cooked drumsticks and vegetables

Spring soup broth

Make the butter:

Let the butter soften slightly, and then put it in a bowl. Snip up most of the chives, and add them to the bowl. Mash the butter and chives together with a fork. If you will be eating soon, you can keep the bowl out. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate it.

Chive butter 1

Chive butter 2

Chive butter 3

Prepare the soup:

Wash and dry the scallions. Cut the whites twice lengthwise, in a cross, and then cut crosswise to separate them from the greens. (Basically, you want to cut each scallion into ribbons.) Set aside.

Spring onions

Spring onions cross sliced

Spring onions in bowl

Meanwhile, boil a separate pot of water. When the water reaches a boil, cook the Udon noodles based on the package instructions. Drain the noodles and set them aside.

Set a medium fire under the pot of broth. Add the scallion ribbons and simmer the soup for about 5 minutes, or until the scallions are soft and lose a little of their oniony edge. Add the Udon noodles to the pot of broth.

Just before you are ready to eat, add the four eggs to the soup, dropping one into each quadrant of the pot, so they don’t touch as they cook. This is easy poaching! The noodles and scallions should keep the eggs in place. Cover the pot with a lid, and let the eggs cook for about 4 minutes, or until the whites are set.

Spring soup in pot

Run the remaining ginger through a mircroplane grater. Cut the lime into four slices. Snip up the remaining chives.

Empty the soup into individual bowls, spooning one egg into each bowl. Garnish with the ginger, lime and chives.

Swipe the chive butter onto the Pane Siciliano (toasted or not, whatever you prefer) and serve it with the soup.

Spring soup

Spring soup cracked egg

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