|Sopa de Picadillo--Chicken broth with chopped garnishes.|
Ah, chicken soup. The worldwide panacea for everything that ails you. “Jewish penicillin.” Mama’s home remedy.
In Spain, the restorative soup is sopa de picadillo, a rich chicken broth that’s embellished with chopped egg, chopped ham, croutons and sometimes a shot of Sherry. Sopa de picadillo is considered a hangover cure and a wedding night pep-up. It’s what mamá feeds an ailing youngster.
Authentic sopa de picadillo is made with the leftover broth from puchero or cocido, a rich one-pot-meal of chicken, beef, salt pork and ham bone with vegetables and chickpeas.
Picadillo means “chopped mixture.” So the soup’s garnish is chopped hard-cooked egg, chopped ham, chopped chicken and diced bread. Some of the vegetables and chickpeas from the puchero can be added to the soup. Instead of crisp fried bread, rice or fideos (vermicelli noodles) can be cooked in the broth. Sometimes, instead of chopped egg, egg yolks are mixed with a little Sherry and stirred into the soup, or, any eggs from inside a hen, resembling egg yolks without the shells, are poached whole in the broth.
The sprig of mint, floated on top of each bowl of soup, is essential. It’s aroma sets off the flavors of chicken and ham so well.
My sickbed soup was a simpler version. I used homemade chicken broth that I stash in the freezer and some leftover cooked chicken. I didn’t even bother to fry the bread cubes, but used packaged picatostes, croutons.
Soothing, nourishing. I’m feeling better already.
Chicken Broth with Garnishes
Sopa de Picadillo
½ cup chopped cooked chicken
Cooked, diced carrots (optional)
Cooked chickpeas (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons dry Sherry (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices bread, crusts removed and diced
3 ounces serrano ham, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Sprigs of mint
Heat the chicken broth. Shortly before serving, add the chopped chicken, carrots and chickpeas, if using, to heat. Add salt and pepper, if necessary. Add the Sherry, if using.
Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the diced bread until crisp. Set aside.
Ladle the soup into individual bowls (usually shallow soup plates). Add chopped ham, egg and bread cubes to each serving. Garnish each with a sprig of mint.