*Or: “Things to do in New York City when the OSU-Michigan game is over”
So I got a bunch of rainbow Swiss chard this week, so-named because of the multi-colored stalks.
Swiss chard reminds me of kale in that it has huge leaves with lots of kinks and ruffles, so there is a lot of surface area and a little goes a long way. That’s really where the similarity ends though: Swiss chard is mild enough that you can eat it raw, and tender enough that you hardly need to cook it to include it in recipes, whereas kale, lovely green that it is, can be tough and bitter if not prepared properly. These are learnings gained from working chard into three different meals this week. A little really does go a long way.
So as I said, three meals. First up: Stracciatella! As you may know, stracciatella is a flavor of Italian gelato in which layers of shaved chocolate are folded into vanilla gelato.
That’s not what we’re making. We are making Stracciatella alla Romana, which is essentially an Italian egg drop soup. Now, at this point you may be asking, “Jackie, what does gelato have in common with soup? Are the pages of your cookbook stuck together again?” Valid questions. Stay with me. It turns out “straccia” just means “shred”. In the case of the gelato, we are talking about shreds of chocolate. In the case of the soup, we are talking about shreds of egg.
Another valid question might be where exactly the rainbow chard fits in with egg drop soup. This soup is simple, but it does include more than egg (thank goodness). The basic idea is chicken broth with spinach, parmesan cheese, and egg. I have wanted to try making it ever since Sarah and I met up in New York City to watch the 2007 Ohio State-Michigan game.
You may have noticed that this narrative seems to have taken a sharp right turn. Just a little more patience, please. Where were we. Ah yes. New York, late Autumn, 2007. Why NYC, you ask? A better question at that point in our lives was why not, and we had made a habit of meeting somewhere different every year to watch it. We did multiple fun, ridiculous things (as one does when one visits New York City), and we ate as much as possible (as one also does). We “caught a show” (de rigueur). We hit the world’s best dive bar, Port 41 (so-named because it is next to the Port Authority). We bought a friend a large houseplant while walking down the street late one night, named it Jorge, and took it to a bar with us. Jorge got it’s own bar stool.
At one point we stopped in an Italian place that was small and dark and cozy and not in Little Italy. We had a fantastic meal, and I tried Stracciatella. I’ve never had it since, but it stuck in my mind and for some reason (okay the reason is I needed something to do with all the greens I had) this week I was ready to give it a shot. I think it came out quite tasty, and it’s certainly worth trying, particularly if you are awash in spinach or swiss chard.
No recipe I saw called for onion or garlic, but I’m one of those people who thinks everything tastes better with onion and garlic, so my recipe has both. The soup actually calls for spinach, but as I said, chard is mild and doesn’t need precooked much, so it made a perfectly fine substitute. The proportions of egg and cheese are discretionary, but having tried two eggs, I myself would actually use one next time, but I’m pretty sure it is impossible to overdo either the cheese or the chard. Dump ‘em in! Anyway, I sautéed some onion and garlic, added a bunch of chicken broth, brought it to a simmer, threw in about half my bunch of rainbow chard, and let that cook for 10 minutes or so. I grated about a half cup of parmesan and mixed it with the eggs, then slowly added that while stirring the soup. I let it cook another couple minutes and then ate it with a neat Dogfish Head pilsner called My Antonia.
There are various ways of doing the egg-cheese portion of this dish. Some add the cheese first. I think I’ll try it that way next time, as the egg ended up almost fluffy from having been mixed with the cheese. I think I’d like it better separate, but that’s up to you. Stir is the egg right at the end, just before you eat it.
By the way, even after this soup and the Pommes de Terre a la Boulangere, I still hadn’t made it through the embarrassment of rainbow chard I was buried with this week. So I went with the nuclear option and used it for a salad green. See? Told ya you didn’t have to cook it!