Monday, December 17, 2007

Wedding Soup

My Grandma would make Wedding Soup for every holiday on which she wasn't serving pasta. Okay, that wasn't too many, but we still all looked forward to Wedding Soup. I was an adult before I realized that it wasn't called Meatball Soup!

Grandma would buy a good stewing chicken. As I've said before, I don't know how she could tell a good stewing chicken from a bad stewing chicken, but apparently she could. She would put water in a big pot, along with the chicken, some spices and carrots, celery, and onions. She would cook this until it was done. I have no clue how to determine doneness, but when I can wiggle the bone of part of the chicken and it just falls off, then I know it's done. This is the time to strain the whole pot, and SAVE THE BROTH. I didn't do that once. Hey, it was late at night and I was tired, and when I was finished I just stood there and cried. I had stayed up late to make chick broth and then dumped it all down the drain. Anyway, after all that, you can do what you want with the vegetables and the chicken. I usually toss the vegetables and pick apart the chicken to use later.

(Again, don't ask me how long it would take, because I can't be sure. I also don't know how much of the spices and vegetables to put in. She never gave me "amounts" just told "you'll know when it's enough." I let it go for about an hour and a half on simmer.)

In the meantime, she would take the meat from the butcher shop (3 parts ground chuck and 1 part ground pork), mix it with 1 egg per total pound of meat, then add some seasoning salt, parsley, along with some salt and and pepper. I have NO CLUE as to how much of the seasonings to add...I just add them until it looks good.

After that's all mixed up, it's time to roll the meatballs. Oh man, this is a challenge. One time my Aunt D (my mom's sister) flew in from California for the holidays. She was helping Grandma make the soup. For an HOUR she continually asked Grandma if the meatballs were small enough and Grandma always told her they were. Aunt D left the kitchen for a minute, and when she came back, Grandma was putting ALL THOSE MEATBALLS TOGETHER into the bowl. When Aunt D asked her WHY, Grandma said that they were too big!!

So the key to the right size meatball is this: they should be NO bigger than the pink part of the fingernail of your pinkie finger. And sometimes even THAT is too big!

When I make the meatballs for the soup, I enlist the assistance of those who will also be eating it. All four of us sit down at the kitchen table with a little bowl of oil. You need just a dab of oil on your hands so that the meatballs don't stick and get icky when you're rolling them. Of course you need to dab your fingers in the oil about every minute or so. Once we get a nice size bowl of meatballs rolled, I take them over to the the stove, heat up water and parboil them for about 3-4 minutes. After draining them, I put them out on paper towels so all the water and any little bits of oil can drain. By this time, there are more meatballs ready to be boiled, and it becomes a repetitive process. I occasionally need to go back over to the meatball forming process and toss some back into the mix because they''ve got it...TOO BIG.

Once all the meatballs are finished and have been parboiled, you can refrigerate them for later or continue on. I usually refrigerate them until I'm going to actually make and serve the soup.

To make the soup, I start with a couple of cans of College Inn chicken broth (okay, so it's cheating...but just a little...give me a break). Then I add the chicken broth that I made from the turkey and if I think it needs a little more chicken flavor, I'll toss in a few cubes of chicken bouillon. Then I add chopped carrots and celery. All I do is put them in the food processor and do a quick pulse a few times. That's it. Grandma used to chop them all up by hand. Wow...I would cut off a finger or two.

After the vegetables have been in the broth for 2o minutes or so, I put in the meatballs. When the meatballs are heated through, then it's done. Except for the toast pieces. We make toast and cut it into cubes to add to the soup after it's been dished out.

Meatball soup is all in how you were raised. Some people put an egg in it at the end. I don't. Every once in a while, we'll add some pastina to it at the end, but not very often. Pastina is tiny little pasta, about the size of rice. Some people like escarole or endive or spinach in their wedding soup. We don't. And then some people like to put chicken in their soup, along with the meatballs. We don't. I usually like to add some parmesan cheese to mine, and the heat makes the cheese all stringy. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

My Grandma fixed the soup just how my Grandpa liked it and that's what I'm used to.

I've had some good Wedding Soup at restaurants. I've also had some LOUSY Wedding Soup at restaurants. I'm usually willing to give it a try, but if the meatballs are big, forget it. The best restaurant Wedding Soup I've had is from Bravo.

So that's it for Wedding Soup...I think I might have to make some this weekend.