I Opened the Window and in Flew Enza
Or how to feed a fever
Flu season is upon us. No doubt about it. Just look at the CDC Weekly Influenza Report, your workplace or your kid’s classroom and you’ll be convinced. While nowhere near as severe as the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, which killed an estimated 20 to 40 million people worldwide, this year’s flu is nothing to sneeze at, so to speak.
This is a bit like the “Invalid Cookery” chapter out of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, but where in the mid-nineteenth century the esteemed Isabella Beeton recommended beef tea, today’s common wisdom dictates soups based on brodo di pollo – chicken broth. I grew up hearing that chicken soup was good for what ailed you, and science has proven it true. So get a head start on the flu season and stock your freezer with several quarts of brodo di pollo.
A word about chicken broth: I’ll say unequivocally that homemade is best. You can control the flavor, and you know exactly what it contains. If you don’t have a personal favorite of your own, click here for mine. Of the many commercial brands available Stock Options* is now my favorite. It comes in 8 and 16 ounce tubs and is in the frozen section at the market. Its flavor is light and clean, and not at all salty. For boxed and canned versions, I can recommend Swanson Certified Organic Chicken broth. It is supplied in a 32 ounce container.
This trio of light broth based soups is perfect for someone in need, and with brodo in your freezer you are halfway there. The decorated pasta squares in the Quadrucci in brodo, will lift the spirits of any flu sufferer. The second, Zuppa Pavese is a meal in itself – toasted bread topped with an egg and Parmigiano and set floating in a pool of hot broth, complete nutrition at its simple, yet satisfying best. For a cooked egg soup, try Stracciatella, light broth brimming with egg. Keep these in your recipe file. Like the Girl Scout motto says: Be prepared.
Quadrucci in brodo
This Pugliese dish, with leaves of parsley sandwiched between layers of egg pasta, is as beautiful to look at as it is good to eat. Although I’d love to take credit for inventing this, the inspiration came from a recipe in the 1984 classic Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy. Although Sig. Bugialli set his quadrucci sailing in turkey broth and used different proportions for his pasta, the inspiration came from him. Credit where credit is due.
2 quarts brodo di pollo
1 1/2 cups 00 flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
warm water as needed
parsley leaves, about 20, depending on size
Place flour, Parmigiano and salt in workbowl of food processor fitted with metal knife. Pulse to combine. Combine eggs and oil in a measuring cup. With processor running, add in steady stream. Process until mixture comes together, adding a bit of warm water if mixture is too dry. Form dough into disk. Wrap in plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
Divide dough in 2 pieces. Roll each piece through settings 1 through 4 on pasta machine, dusting occasionally with semolina.
Lay each piece flat on semolina lined counter and place parsley leaves along half of each sheet, pressing parsley flat as you work. If your pasta is dry, you may need to dampen the surface slightly to allow the parsley leaves to adhere. You may place the parsley leaves close together. The dough will stretch as you roll it, and the parsley leaves will move farther apart.
Fold half of sheet without leaves over the other. Press or roll briefly with rolling pin so sheets hold together.
Roll pasta again, up to setting #5, and using a fluted cutter, cut pasta into 2 inch squares. Place on semolina lined towels and cover.
Heat brodo to simmering. In a separate large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a rapid boil and add 3 tablespoons salt. Add quadrucci to salted water and cook 2 minutes or until done. Meanwhile divide brodo among bowls. Add cooked quadrucci to brodo and serve.
Tradition says this dish was born of a battle lost. On February 24, 1525 the army of France’s King Francis I de Valois was defeated by Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Word is that King Francis, defeated though he was, traveled the countryside in search of a meal.
He came upon Cascina Repenita, a farm, where a peasant woman gave him a bowl with bread, broth and cheese. She added two eggs, and the dish was eagerly consumed by the King. The rest as they say, is history. Charles was eventually caught, taken prisoner and surrendered the war. French hegemony in Lombardy was over, but this dish lives on, a meal fit for a king.
1 1/2-2 quarts brodo di pollo
4-8 slices rustic bread or baguette, cut ½ inch thick and buttered on both sides
4-8 large pasteurized eggs
Toast bread in skillet, turning once. Heat brodo to boiling. Divide bread among bowls. Crack 1 or 2 eggs atop bread. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano.
Carefully ladle hot broth over eggs. Repeat with remaining bowls. Top each with black pepper, more Parmigiano, and serve immediately.
Food Safety: The CDC recommends against the consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, especially by young children, elderly persons, and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness. Pasteurized eggs should be used when raw eggs are to be consumed. Safest Choice Eggs from Davidson’s (www.safeeggs.com) are in shell pasteurized and available in many supermarkets.
This soup is packed with protein and easily digestible. Great by itself when enjoyed in the best of health, it is perfect for the sickroom, too. And it is super fast to prepare.
1 quart brodo di pollo
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano, plus more if desired
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, finely ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat broth to simmering in a medium saucepan. Beat eggs, cheese, pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl. Slowly pour egg mixture into brodo, whisking all the while. Continue whisking, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Check for seasoning. Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with chopped parsley and serve with Parmigiano on the side.
*Cook’s Note: When I first published this article I recommended Perfect Addition frozen stock. Sadly, the product is no longer available. However, I can recommend Stock Options, another line of frozen stock. Contact the company to see if it is sold in markets near you.
Note: You can click on any picture to see a slide show!
I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.