Monday, October 1, 2012

Nanny Walt's Chicken Corn Soup with Rivels

Having it's roots in Amish Country (Lancaster, PA), where my husband spent many summers during his boyhood, he has such fond memories of this soup his great-grandmother, "Nanny Walt," used to make. Considered by many to be very "frugal," it uses the abundance of fresh sweet corn farmed in the summer, a roasting chicken, some hard boiled eggs, and "rivels," proving to be a simple, satisfying meal feeding many. Rivels are a soft flour and egg mixture blended together then run between your hands quickly over the boiling soup, dropping into the soup to form little dough balls (not dumplings).

After her passing, many tried to make "her" soup and just couldn't quite replicate it.  It's always "close" or "that smells right" but never exactly right.  Over the years I've tried a few times to make it, and have had some successes and failures!  There are many variations out there, including some adding diced carrots, but the closest I can come to what he remembers, which is a plain chicken soup with corn and rivels, is a recipe by Jeff Smith in "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American" cookbook.  Although, it's still not quite right, the smells he remembers are there and the taste is awesome ... one of the best comfort foods I know.

4 - 5 lb. roaster chicken (or you can use chicken pieces, i.e. legs, breasts, thighs)
1 medium onion, minced
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped small
4 quarts (16 cups) water (if you use chicken pieces, you might want to strengthen the broth by using chicken stock) (I always add some chicken stock)
6 or 8 ears of fresh corn, cut from the cobs (you may substitute canned or frozen corn, about 6+ cups worth)
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped into medium size pieces (I serve the chopped, hard-boiled eggs on the side and let people add their own)
a handful of chopped parsley (I use parsley leaves in the spice jar)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf

In a large soup pot, combine the onion, celery, parsley, bay leaf, chicken, and cold water (or stock). Bring to simmer over medium high heat, then reduce the heat to low and continue simmering until the chicken is done and ready to fall off the bones ... this will take an hour or more. 

Remove chicken and let cool. Cut the meat into pieces and reserve, discarding the bones. You may skim the fat off the stock if you wish. (You could do this step ahead, keeping the broth and chicken in the refrigerator until ready to finish the soup).When ready to finalize the soup, add the corn kernels, reserved chicken pieces, hard boiled eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let cook for 10 minutes.

FOR THE RIVELS: Wait until the soup is done to prepare this dough. Then, in a bowl, mix 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 beaten eggs, blending until the mixture is crumbly (NOT SMOOTH).
Make up the rivel dough at this point and add to the soup by rubbing the mixture between your hands over the pot of soup, dropping in small amounts bit  by bit. They should not be big. Some people make them about the size of a pea. I like mine slightly larger. You can substitute a small amount of cooked pasta for the rivels, if desired.  Simply cook pasta according to package directions and add to soup at the end of the cooking time, just before serving.