Traveling to new places and trying new restaurants definitely inspires me back at home in the kitchen. I was in Montreal for business this past December and found a lovely cafe near my hotel and they made the best soups. I ended up eating lunch there, three times, and have not stopped thinking about it. One of the soups I enjoyed was this Herbed Chicken Soup as it was warm and comforting and the flavors were amazing. I immediately got to work in the kitchen upon returning.
Even though it was below zero outside when I walked into this cafe this bright and fresh, almost springtime inspired bowl of soup warmed me perfectly. It was loaded with simple carrots, celery, and leeks, along with a rich chicken broth that was seasoned perfectly with an array of fresh herbs. When I asked the waitress what was in it, she replied that whatever was left in the kitchen. What really grabbed me was the fresh green peas floating on top; not overcooked but bright green and crisp with each bite.
I used the same approach with I came home and began trying to mimic the same recipe. I used whatever herbs I had in the kitchen. I am a big fresh herb fan! I did poach a chicken and used some of the meat in the soup, and used the poaching liquid for making my homemade chicken stock. Homemade stock is so much better for so many reasons, the flavor being the top. I tried a few different kinds of pasta but felt that the bucatini, which they used, was too thick. The bucatini we have here is not as thin as the one they used. Instead, I used fregola which I felt was the perfect size pasta for this soup recipe.
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Herbed Chicken Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup leeks, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, peeled, small dice
1 cup celery, small dice
2 teaspoons thyme
1 bay leave
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
kosher salt to taste
6 1/2 cups homemade or store bought chicken stock
2 cups shredded chicken – used what was left from poached chicken – you can also use leftover roasted chicken
1/3 cup fregola
handful mixed fresh herbs – I use oregano, mint and parsley – finally minced
frozen green peas – rinse under warm water and then let sit in the colander until time to serve the soup
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the leek and cook until soft; about 3 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery to the leeks, stir and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add the thyme, bay
Stir in the fregola and cook for 6 minutes.
To serve – place some soup in a bowl and top with a handful of herbs along with a heavy hand of green peas.