Spring Chicken Soup with Sorrel

Sorrel is truly a fleeting spring treat.  It’s at its peak in early spring, but then goes to seed (and becomes tough and overly assertive).  I never see it in my market, but I’m fortunate enough to have friends who are extraordinary gardeners, who have invited me to raid their sorrel patch. 

This is an occasion for a sweet-tart soup that I love to make in spring.  It’s actually a combination of spring and fall flavors, because the sweet component is butternut squash–from our local crop last fall–from my freezer.   The butternut squash gets a bit waterlogged once it’s frozen and defrosted, but it’s perfect for a soup because it all but dissolves, leaving its sweet nutty flavor, as well as some body and thickness in the soup.

The tart lemony flavor of the sorrel punctuates the sweetness of the squash and the richness of the chicken–it’s comforting, but bright and sharp.  To make this a one-dish meal, I’m adding rice–the perfect light, neutral counterpoint for the sorrel and the sweet butternut squash. 

If you’re lucky enough to find sorrel in your market, (or a friend’s garden) you can  simply add it to your chicken soup (with or without squash), for a wonderful and complex flavor.

Spring Chicken Soup with Sorrel

serves 6

12 chicken drumsticks (or thighs)

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

3 stalks celery with leaves

1 medium onion

6 parsley stems, tied with string (for easy removal)

4 c butternut squash cubes

1 c arborio rice

salt and/or bouillon cubes

1/8 tsp nutmeg

5 – 6 cups sorrel, cut into 1″ ribbons, washed and drained.

Place chicken in stockpot and add water to cover by about 4 inches or so.  Bring to boil and lower heat to bare simmer, skimming any froth that accumulates.  Allow the chicken to simmer for an hour before adding vegetables.   Add vegetables and simmer for another hour.

Taste and add salt, pepper, nutmeg and/or boullion.  Simmer another 15 minutes. 

Remove skin and bones from chicken and set aside.

In blender or food processor, puree about 2 cups of the soup and return the puree to the larger pot.  

In a separate pot, bring 2 c water to a boil and add 1/2 tsp salt.  Add rice, lower heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes.  

Drain rice and add to broth, along with chicken meat.  At the very last moment, stir in sorrel leaves and serve immediately.  NOTE:  the leaves will turn brown as soon as they hit the simmering soup, but it’s to be expected and has no impact on the flavor of the sorrel. 

This is great with warm bread and butter–it’s a very light soup and the butter is nice on the palette alongside the soup.

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