I was delighted to see that Simona Carini was hosting another Novel Food edition on her lovely blog briciole. I have such fun thinking about the various books I read and what food gets cooked and consumed in those books, as well as how food can play an important role on a character’s development.
This year, I decided to make an attempt to read my way through Popsugar’s Reading Challenge, which is a list of 40 or so categories of books like satire, or a book that will be made into a movie this year. I thought it might force me out of my book comfort zone, which tends heavily toward the mystery aisle in the bookstore. One of the categories was a romance set in the future. I did some searching and came up with…a mystery that’s set in the future and is also a love story. Ok, so maybe this didn’t push me out of my reading comfort zone, but it did turn me onto a new mystery series: JD Robb’s series featuring Detective Eve Dallas and her handsome hubby, Roarke. To say that I’m hooked would be something of an understatement – I’ve been going to our used bookstore every month to add to my stash (there are over 50 books in the series so far and I’ve read 14 of them). I’ll read three or four of these at a time and then take a little break, read something else, and then start again.
One of the things that has struck me is how much food plays into each story. Eve Dallas is a tough but lovable character and her criminal turned civilian consultant husband Roarke spends much of his time taking care of her, including making sure she eats well. Dallas’s tastes lean toward red meat, pizza, and coffee, but Roarke often makes her eat her vegetables and tries to get her to appreciate the finer things in life in between her saving people and finding murderers.
There is also a wonderful surrounding cast of characters that includes Dallas’s partner, Detective Peabody. Peabody also likes to make sure that Eve eats while she is on the go and tracking down the bad guys. In one of my favorite parts of Calculated in Death (book 45 in the series), Peabody and Dallas stop for soup in between interviews of murder suspects and Dallas calls the soup “magic” – it’s just how good it is. I don’t recall that she actually ever reveals what’s in the soup, but magic soup becomes a touchstone throughout the book – later on, when Dallas and Peabody are back at their headquarters, Dallas eats some minestrone soup and sniffs at it, saying that it isn’t bad, but it isn’t “magic”.
Since soup is one of my favorite foods, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my “magic” soup is and decided it would be chicken noodle soup of some sort. This weekend, we’ve been inundated by rain and wind here in the PNW, so I thought it was probably time to make chicken soup. Sadly, we just don’t have enough storage space in our kitchen in our Vancouver rental, so I don’t have any chicken stock stored. I decided I was going to poach some chicken breasts, with both skin and bone still on and in, and magic up some stock. Combined with a lot of garlic, a little bit of green chili, and orzo, I think this soup could make even Eve Dallas come back for seconds.
“Magic” Chicken Orzo Soup
For the poached chicken and stock
2 bone-in with skin chicken breasts
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
2 celery stalks
1/2 red onion
2 teaspoons salt
Cut the carrot in half. Do the same with the celery stalks. Cut the onion into four chunks. Cut the leek in half and make sure it is thoroughly clean. Toss the bay leaves, peppercorns, carrot, celery, onion, leek and salt in a large saucepan. Lay the chicken on top and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn to a low simmer. Poach for 15 – 20 minutes or until the chicken reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Strain out the chicken and other soilds and reserve the poaching liquid.
For the soup
Poached chicken breasts
8 cups chicken stock from the poached chicken
2 celery stalks
1/2 red onion
8 garlic cloves
1 roasted Anaheim chili (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
Salt to taste
Chop the vegetables into bite size pieces. Shred the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrots, onions and celery and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, leek and Anaheim chili. Saute for another two minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for eight minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken and cook for ten more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Enjoy!
This blog post is linked to two really awesome blog link parties, so please take a look at the other great recipes that are out there: