Something I have learned from moving and traveling a lot is that you never quite catch on to things until you’re there, experiencing it. I have never been to France, and I realize that this is not entirely a Provencal soup. But I can tell you it tastes great, and is filled with vegetables, homemade Herbes de Provence, and white wine. Unfortunately, I will not be able to observe the true French guidelines until I am 26, because that is the year I will be going to France.
Why go to France at age 26, you ask? Because according to my Minnesotan boyfriend, that will be my Golden Birthday present. This is a concept I had never been acquainted with before moving to the Midwest. So I now know that a Golden Birthday is the one when you turn the age of the day you were born (i.e., I was born on the 26th, so my Golden Birthday will be when I turn 26). Apparently you are supposed to do something extra special on that particular birthday. My boyfriend insists that I am wrong in assuming this is a Midwest thing, but I had only ever heard about it when I moved here.
In case you were wondering, the additional anthropological research I have completed on Minnesotans (performed by mostly listening, staring, and blinking) has taught me the valuable lessons that “hot dish” is pretty much anything horrible for you mixed all together, heated up, and probably topped with cheese, that “kitty corner” is synonymous with “diagonal,” and that “root” is surprisingly pronounced “rut” by some people…
And though I have not yet been to France, I have still done my research on this soup. You see, when something is called “Provencal” (or “Bavarian” or “Sicilian” or what have you), I genuinely like to know whether or not it adheres to traditional flavorings or not, particularly when many of the recipes available come from people who are very obviously not from Provence. In the process, I learned that Provencal soup is often full of fresh vegetables, white wine, pasta, and pistou (a mixture of tomato, garlic, and basil). However, given that I very rarely adhere to guidelines, I quickly encountered three problems:
1) I like potatoes better than noodles in my soup.
2) Saffron pairs wonderfully with white wine and Herbes de Provence.
3) Pistou tastes really, really awesome with little, purple flecks of olives.
I suppose I tried to be traditional. Oh well, c’est la vie!
Saffron-Infused Chicken Provencal Soup and Olive Pistou
HERBES DE PROVENCE:
½ tsp ground sage
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp ground thyme
¼ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp dried tarragon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 celery stalks, sliced ¼ inch thick
3 carrots, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
1 bell pepper (red or green), diced
1 ½ lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 ½ cups dry white wine
¼ tsp saffron threads
4 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups cooked chicken breast, diced
2-3 cups water (optional)
½ cup raw tomato, diced and seeded
4 cloves garlic
½ cup kalamata olives
1 cup fresh basil
¼ cup olive oil
HERBES DE PROVENCE: Combine sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and tarragon. Set aside and begin working on soup.
SOUP: Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and desired amount of salt and pepper. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add celery and carrots and continue to sauté for 3 minutes, until carrots have softened. Add bell pepper and sauté another 2 minutes, until pepper softens. Add potatoes and all of the reserved Herbes de Provence. Stir to ensure vegetables are covered in the herbs. Add white wine and saffron and increase heat to medium high. When white wine begins to bubble, add stock and chicken, then cover the pot with lid. Let the mixture bubble until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. If broth has evaporated too much (and vegetables are not covered), add 2-3 cups of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside to cool on counter. Soup tastes best on second day, when flavors have had the chance to meld. Store in refrigerator, up to 5 days.
PISTOU: Combine tomato, garlic, olives, basil, and oil in food processor and pulse until combined. To store, keep in separate, airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.
ASSEMBLY: Top each serving of hot soup with a dollop of pistou. Serve.