It was 1989 and the man who would become my husband had taken me out for dinner. It was one of our first dates- the relationship wasn’t so new that we were at that uncomfortable best behaviour stage still, but new enough that everything seemed special and burned in my brain with a clarity that anything new and special does.
The restaurant wasn’t anything great- just a local Italian in the Narrabundah shops…Piccolo Mondo, I think it was called. I don’t recall the meal- it was probably like most things that came out of neighbourhood Italian kitchens back then- lots of heavy cream based sauces.
It was the soup, though, that I remembered. I hadn’t tasted anything quite like it. Stracciatella*- a rich, golden, yet completely clear, chicken broth with ribbons of egg and parmesan floating through it, and a hint of nutmeg on the palate. Every culture has its version of chicken soup- this is the Romans.
I’ve had other stracciatellas over the years, but none have had the impact of that first- except perhaps one that I had in New York, just a few years ago.
It was an Italian restaurant a few blocks back from Broadway, Bond 45, with walls yellow with old smoke and booths that Frank Sinatra could have sat in. Outside the snow was falling, but inside I was warm and toasty- such is the power of the chicken soup.
The key to a good stracciatella is the stock. I make my own- combining free range chook, celery, leek, onion, carrot and herbs in a pot and allowing it all to bubble away. The recipe for the stock, if you can call it such, is here.
The addition of the egg and cheese adds the comfort factor- plus it acts as a clarifying agent for the stock. Anyways, here’s how it’s done… I haven’t added a photo because a) I’m not a food stylist and b) the photo was a tad yellow and boring.
What you need
1 litre chicken stock
3 eggs- free range, of course, from chooks that cluck and scratch around outside
100g freshly grated parmagiano regiano or parmesan
3 pinches freshly chopped continental parsley
sea salt and black pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to serve
What you do with it
Whisk the cheese, egg and parsley together in a small bowl
Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large pot.
With a whisk get the liquid whirling about a bit and then gradually, in a slow stream, pour the eggy mix in. It will set almost immediately.
Lightly stir with a fork so that it separates into uneven ribbony strands- a little like pieces of torn cloth floating through the broth. Make sure the egg is set before you do this- otherwise you’ll end up with tiny grainy bits that aren’t nearly as soft and satisfying.
*Stracciatella also refers to vanilla ice cream with chocolate shavings in it, and a particular type of torn mozzarella cheese…