1¼ cups day-old Italian-style bread, diced
½ cup milk
1 pound ground chicken, preferably dark meat
4 garlic cloves, chopped
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium egg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Fragrant Chicken Soup:
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup carrots, peeled and finely diced using a brunoise cut (⅛ inch x ⅛ inch x ⅛ inch)
½ cup chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried sage
⅛ teaspoon dried marjoram.
⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup yellow bell pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
12 cups chicken stock
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Serves 6 to 8
To Prepare the Chicken Meatballs:
Place the diced bread in a bowl and soak it in ½ cup of milk for at least 10 minutes. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and set the bread aside.
In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients for the meatballs, including the bread that was soaked in milk. Mix the ingredients using your hands, stirring well to incorporate, until they form a large, homogeneous meatball.
Make about 21 meatballs, each approximately 2 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Place them in a bowl, cover, and put aside.
To Prepare the Fragrant Chicken Soup:
In a large saucepan, add the olive oil, diced carrots, chopped onions, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano, salt, pepper and diced bell peppers. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring well every 5 minutes. Add the chopped parsley, mix well, and cook 5 more minutes.
Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring well every 5 minutes.
Bring the stock back to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken meatballs one at a time, stirring well to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and cook with the lid on, slightly ajar, for 20 minutes, stirring well every 10 minutes.
Take off the lid and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring well every 10 minutes.
Serve the meatballs and the chicken soup in deep bowls, topping each serving, if desired, with 1 to 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.
I’d like to share a few words about the importance of stirring. "Stirring well" might appear to be nothing more than a tedious chore. While repetitive, however, it is important in ensuring the even cooking of all the ingredients. By stirring properly, we prevent the food from sticking to the bottom of the pan, especially when we cook with high heat. For me, it also fulfills a childlike fascination, a need to be connected, to be more involved with the food that I am preparing. Sometimes, I dream that I am a maestro, conducting a symphony of culinary delights. To add drama to the whole process, often I bang on the side of the pan while I stir, as if keeping tempo with a melodramatic aria. While this does absolutely nothing to improve the flavor, it works well as a means of impressing casual onlookers.