Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chicken Gnocchi soup

There's a particular large-chain Italian restaurant that the Mr. and the minis love to eat at.  And, this particular large-chain Italian restaurant is my least favorite place to eat.  There are a few reasons why I dislike this particular restaurant.

1.  When I read the nutrition information, I hyperventilated.
2.  It's expensive.  Seriously, $14 for noodles and pureed canned tomatoes?
3.  One day, Mr. McGhee and I took the minis to this particular restaurant when they were 5 , 3, and a baby.  As we were being seated at our table, a couple next to us got all huffy and started making comments about how my children were going to ruin their lunch.  And, then the couple had a long discussion with the waiter about how hostesses need to pay attention when seating customers and keep families away from couples.  OK, this was on a Saturday at 11:30 am.  I think there's an unwritten rule that restaurants before noon on Saturdays are fair game for families.  So, the entire lunch, I sat there shooting this couple my stank eye.  My stank eye that says, "I am pretty sure there's a big ole' sign as you walk in this particular restaurant that says, 'when you're here, you're family'". 

Now, Mr. McGhee says it's utterly ridiculous that this one incident has ruined the particular restaurant for me, but I swear, it has left a bitter taste in my mouth.  And one can't enjoy one's lunch with a bitter taste in one's mouth, right? 

So, that sort of puts the McGhees in a bind.  The reason the minis love this particular restaurant is because of their chicken gnocchi soup, so being the dedicated mother that I am, I spent 10 seconds one day googling "particular restaurant chicken gnocchi soup knockoff recipe" and voila....soup recipe.

Now, before we dive into making the soup, we need to do some prep work.  Because, remember, we gave up processed foods.  So, the packaged chicken broth and gnocchi need to be made from scratch.  Luckily, I had some leftover chicken from previous nights, so I just diced that up and step #1 was complete.

To make the gnocchi, I followed this recipe from Food Jaunts. 

  • 12 oz potato, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup of flour (I used half white whole wheat and half all-purpose) + more for the cutting board
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

    1. Steam potatoes for 12 minutes or until soft. Use a potato ricer, and rice potato into a bowl, discarding skins. Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes to cool.
    2. Make a well in the center of the potatoes, and pour the beaten egg into the well. Cover with ¾ cup of flour. 
    3. Being careful not to overwork, cut it all together until combined (if the dough is still too sticky feel free to add up to ¼ cup more flour, if it’s not sticky enough add another egg yolk, not the whole egg like before).
    4. Flour your cutting board (you may have to re-flour as you go). Divide dough into 6 portions and roll into cigar shaped logs. Cut each log into 1 inch pieces. Now either run each gnocchi over the tines of a fork, pressing lightly as you go, or just press down lightly on each piece with the fork. (I did half of it by rolling over a fork then decided that was taking way too long and then just pressed down on the other half with the fork).
    5. In a pot of boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they rise to the top of the water. Wait 30 seconds – 1 minute after they start to float, then drain.
    *sidenotes*  I do not have a potato ricer.  Heck, I didn't even know what a potato ricer was until I googled it today.  A website called it an extra-large garlic press.  Well, I've got one of those, so good enough....just press the cooked potatoes through the garlic press if you don't have a ricer.  I also forgot to add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, which means when my gnocchi were done boiling in water, they tasted like bland potatoes and flour.  No worries though, because after they were cooked I tossed them in the soup and they were delish by dinner time!

    Here's the potatoes after I pressed them through garlic press.

    Here's the rolled out dough.

    Here's my pressing the fork into the dough.

    We also need to make chicken stock.  I HIGHLY suggest doing this regularly, it's very easy and you can freeze it for when needed.  Lucky for me, I had some in the freezer.  I use this recipe from 

    Chicken stock

  •  4 pound chicken
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • salt to taste

    1. Place the chicken in a large pot over high heat. Add water to cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 1 hour.               
    2. Remove chicken from pot. Leave water in pot. Cool chicken. Remove skin and bones from meat. Return bones and skin to pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, ginger, and salt. Continue simmering for 3 to 4 hours.
    3. Strain and cool the stock, uncovered.
    4. Use the meat for soups, salads, sandwiches, or other dishes where cooked chicken is needed. After stock has been defatted, use or freeze immediately. I freeze the stock in one-cup amounts and use instead of water for cooking rice or vegetables or making gravy.               
    Now, you're all set to make your chicken gnocchi soup.  I tweaked the recipe to make double batch with a few other changes.

  • 2 cups chicken , cooked and diced
  • cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups half and half 
  •  2 cups milk
  • stalk celery, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves,  chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 handfulls of fresh spinach
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 16 ounces potato gnocchi

  • 1.  Saute the onion, celery, garlic, carrot in oil over medium heat until onion is translucent.

    2.  Add chicken, chicken stock, half and half, salt and pepper, thyme. Heat to boiling, then add gnocchi. Gently boil for 4 minutes, then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.

    3.  Add spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted.

    *sidenote*  I did not put the gnocchi in at step 3.  I added spinach, and then when spinach was wilted, I turned down the heat and put gnocchi in (they were already cooked).

    Here's the pot of soup.

    I served this soup with a side salad of spinach, peppers, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and this dressing.  We also had these biscuits.  And, as always, I did a little tweaking.

    Whole wheat biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  •  1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup milk

  • 1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
    2.  In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt; mix well.
    3.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
    4.  Stir in milk just until moistened.
    5.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 8 to 10 times.
    6.  Roll to 3/4-in. thickness; cut with a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. 7.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

    *sidenote*  I have zero luck kneading and rolling, so I just dropped spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheet.  Not as pretty, but it got the job done.

    If you are looking for cheats, you can always save time by using boxed chicken broth and these gnocchi. 

    But, I really encourage you to make homemade gnocchi and chicken stock.  There is some serious satisfaction watching your minis gobble down a bowl of homemade soup and biscuits from scratch on a chilly winter night.