Chicken Soup with Fresh Dill – Comfort in Russia

August 29, 2014

in Cook What You Like, Travel Where You Want To Go

Russian Chicken SoupIt was a day was full of contrasts.  Drizzly and humid.  Crowded yet stark.  Gold-gilded opulence, then simple homey comfort.

Traffic was heavy at confusing intersections in Saint Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia.  Late model autos crowded the streets, mainly European (Benz and BMWs) or Japanese (Nissan and Toyotas).  Sharing the road were very few Russian-manufactured cars, which we later learned that the Russians have learned that maintaining and repairing a Russian made car was more costly than investing into a European model.

We drove through large urban areas in need of landlord attention, whizzed past partly completed modern suburbia, and blocks before our destination, followed the bright golden glint of Grand Peterhof Palace domes.

PeterhofPeterhof Palace, also known as the “Russian Versailles,” was conceived by Russian Emperor Peter the Great (1672-1725) as a summer home.  Just about every inch of the palace is filled with royalty-collected art and antiquities; the palace’s design and details are meticulous.  Constructed started in the 1720s and has undergone several reconstructions.

IMG_0375Today’s Peterhof Palace is much more expansive than what the palace started out to be.  The original plan didn’t include fountains and they, along with the multiple gardens, have been added over the centuries.  The State owns and maintains this recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Purportedly, the gold finish throughout the palace, on garden statues and on the domes is 24-k gold leaf, a common finish on many church and palace domes throughout St. Petersburg.

IMG_0370Peterhof Palace’s location on the Baltic Sea is strategic as it provided nearby harbor to his navy and he used the palace en route to and from Europe. The naval theme is reflected both in the palace and throughout the grounds.  Portraits of Peter the Great (standing at an imposing 6′ 8″) and his admirals hang in several palace rooms and there are numerous nautical-based fountains.

Returning from the palace’s tour,  lunch was at a modest restaurant in the outskirts of the city.  Service started with a brothy vegetable soup seasoned with chopped fresh dill – the herb was so aromatic that our noses were happy before the bowls landed in front of us.  Ours eyes feasted on extreme extravagance for most of the morning, and now it was our empty tummies that were satisfied with a simple and tasty soup.

The soup below is a close rendition to what we enjoyed at that lunch.  A vegetarian version can be made by omitting the chicken and using vegetable broth.  The soup is good without the fresh dill but don’t skip it – it’s a nice surprise!

Recipe: Chicken Soup with Dill

The white wine or lemon juice brightens the soup partnering well with fresh dill.  Adjust the acid to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3-2 carrots
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium potato, optional
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, more if desired
  • 1/2 cup dry pasta, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cooked chicken meat, cut or shredded
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Start with the vegetables:  rough chop yellow onion, celery and carrots. If using potato, cut into 1 inch cubes. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat until water drops dance when sprinkled on to the hot oil. Add the onion, celery and carrots and sweat vegetables for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Smash the cloves of garlic, peel and add to the pot. Continue to sweat and stir for another 3-4 minutes, then add cut potatoes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and finish:   add chicken stock to cover plus 1 inch more. Pour in wine or lemon juice. Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat and then lower to a gentle boil (high simmer) until vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Stir in pasta and cook until pasta is al dente; length of time depends on pasta. Add chicken. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper, and additional wine or lemon juice; bring soup back to a high simmer.  Add chopped dill a minute before serving.

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts of soup.

 

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