We had our good friend Fiona over for dinner tonight. I made a soup that I had found in the recent issue of Rachael Ray’s magazine. It was called Chicken and Escarole Soup. Unfortunately, escarole was not to be found in any of our grocery stores so I substituted Swiss chard for the escarole. It still tasted quite good! The weather got a little bit cooler today. As a result, the soup really hit the spot.

If you want to make this at home, here is what you will need…

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups coarsely pulsed stale crusty bread (Note: Pulse the bread a few times in the food processor before using.)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 lb. diced pancetta or guanciale
  • 1 pound of boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • 1 quart (32 oz.) of chicken stock
  • 1 can (14 to 15.5 oz.) drained cannellini beans
  • 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 lemon, zested (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 of lemon juiced (about 2 tablespoons)

Once you have gathered the above ingredients, here is what you need to do…

1. Optional: Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small dish, microwave the butter on high until melted, 20 to 30 seconds. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet. Douse with the butter, drizzle with a little olive oil and toss with some Parmigiano-Romano. Bake until golden and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes.

3. In a large soup pot with a lid, heat the olive oil, two turns of the pan, over medium-high. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown around the edges, 5-6 minutes.

4. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, until browned, another 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens a bit, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the Swiss chard and nutmeg. Cover and cook until the escarole wilts, about 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, beans and cheese rind. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the flavor from the rind is released, which should happen as the soup gets close to boiling.

6. Season with salt. Add the lemon zest and juice. Discard cheese rind. Ladle soup into bowls; top with the croutons (if you have made them…)

We served this soup with some fresh Italian bread so I didn’t make the croutons. It was good with the bread on the side. Everyone enjoyed the soup and it was good to share the meal with a good friend!

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