I made soup again! It must be the fall chill already seeping into my bones. To be honest, I’ve been wanting to make this soup ever since I traveled to Portugal back in September. The Portuguese LOVE their soups, and one soup is especially iconic: the Caldo Verde. This humble soup is made with chicken broth, potatoes, and large green cabbage leaves—very similar to kale—shredded extremely finely. This is such a popular dish that many public market stands sell pre-shredded cabbage leaves, which disappear at an impressive speed, as customer buy them by the bagful.
Being the soup lover I am, I immediately fell in love with the recipe, but making it at home, I also wanted to incorporate elements of a wonderful soup I had had in the Douro Valley. It was a simple soup that combined a clear chicken broth with an amazingly deep, comforting flavor, shredded chicken, and orzo pasta. I rarely make my own chicken stock, but to achieve that mouth-watering savory chicken flavor, I “cheat” by reinforcing good-quality, store-bought stock with bone in chicken thighs and classic flavorings. That way, the stock gets a strong flavor boost in a short time, bringing it, taste wise, very close to homemade stock. Once the broth is done, the soup comes together quickly. You could skip the chouriço, but it’s my nod to Portugal, and, in my opinion, it’s what makes this soup truly special.
Chicken, Kale, and Orzo Soup
2 whole chicken legs, bone in
1 carton ready to use low sodium chicken broth (about 30 oz [900 ml], depending on the brand)
2 cups water
1 small onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 celery branch, chopped in pieces
1 tsp [5 ml] whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] dried thyme, or a few sprigs fresh thyme
½ tsp [2.5 ml] kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup [125 ml] dried orzo pasta
4 leaves kale, tough stem removed
1 chouriço sausage (if you can’t find Portuguese chouriço, substitute Spanish chorizo)
Using a clever or a sharp chef’s knife, chop the chicken leg in three pieces: separate the leg at the joint, and then cut the thigh in two. In a large pot, add the chicken pieces, chicken broth, water, onion, garlic, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a minimum. Keep the broth at a gentle simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the time you have (the longer, the better).
While the broth is simmering, cook the orzo pasta, subtracting two minutes from the “al dente” cooking time determined by the pasta manufacturer. Drain. Then, chop the kale leaves as finely as possible. To do this easily, stack the leaves, then roll them tightly. Use a very sharp knife to shred the “kale roll” as finely as possible. Finally, slice the chouriço sausage in thin slices. Set the three prepared ingredients aside.
When the broth is done, turn off the heat and fish the chicken pieces out of the broth, laying them in a separate plate to cool. Pass the broth through a very fine strainer to discard all solids. Pour the strained stock back into the pot, then put the pot back on a gentle heat. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add the cooked orzo and shredded kale, and keep on a low simmer for 5 minutes. The orzo may have stuck together while resting; it will separate again in the broth. If lumps remain, use a wooden spoon to gently press them against the side of the pot so the pasta separates again.
Meanwhile, pick the chicken meat from the bones and shred it to pieces. Once the kale is soft, dump the shredded chicken back into the pot and add the chorizo slices. Stir, and serve piping hot.
Recipe Credit: Marie Asselin
More comforting soup inspiration from my kitchen:
- Kale, Sausage, and White Beans Soup
- Ginger, Sesame and Coriander Meatball Soup
- Curried Squash Soup with Lamb Meatballs
- Classic French Onion Soup