Food and Drink: Crispy Roast Chicken Soup with Gnocchi and Bok Choy

A deep freeze has blanketed Toronto and I've been thinking about comfort food that’s warm without being heavy. I’m a huge soup fan – see the evidence here, here, here and here. Sometimes I want something quick and easy, other times I want a labour of love soup… you know, one of those soups with lots of different textures and layers of flavour providing complete satisfaction in a single bowl.

Rewind to last October. J and I had an early dinner, on an especially cold night, at The Ace on Roncesvalles. We sat at the table by the window, just as the sun was starting to set, and tucked into warm apple cider spiked with bourbon, followed by a delicious dinner of Fried Chicken with Collard Greens, Cornbread and Ham Gravy for J and Crispy Roast Chicken with Bok Choy, Potato Gnocchi and Reduced Chicken Stock for me.  

So why am I telling you about this? Because I’m still thinking about that Crispy Roast Chicken with Bok Choy, Potato Gnocchi and Reduced Chicken Stock! There was something so satisfying about the soft, pillowy gnocchi combined with the crispy, salty chicken and warm broth. And okay, it wasn't really a soup per say, but it was 100% delicious. I decided to try my hand at recreating this dish at home. Be warned, this dish took a lot of work, thanks to multiple elements that come together at the end, but was well worth the time. It’s a great dish to make with a partner or when you’re in the mood to spend a couple hours in the kitchen.

You'll need (serves 4):

For the Chicken Broth
  • 3 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt, to taste

For the Roast Chicken
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Gnocchi
  • 3 large Russet potatoes
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To finish
  • 2 heads of baby Bok Choy, steamed and set aside

Start by making the chicken broth. Place all the broth ingredients in a stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 4 hours. Make sure to check for seasoning throughout the cooking process. Once the stock has cooked, remove the chicken, strain and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Poke a few holes in each potato and place on a baking sheet. Cook the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 1 hour. Allow the potatoes to cool until you can handle them.

Scoop out the flesh and pass it through a potato ricer or a food mill. Spread the potatoes onto a clean, lightly floured surface.

Whisk the eggs and salt together and drizzle over the riced potatoes. Sprinkle 3/4 to 1 cup of the flour over the potatoes. With a bench scraper, work the ingredients together, gathering them into a mass. Add flour to reduce stickiness. When the mixture holds together knead briefly, continuing to add flour if the dough is sticky. 

As soon as the dough is smooth, soft and holds together, stop kneading and shape it into a thick log. Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, roll the dough into long 1/2 inch ropes. With the bench scraper or a knife, cut them into 1-inch-long pieces. Transfer the gnocchi to a lightly floured baking sheet while rolling out the remaining dough. At this point, you may refrigerate the uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 hours.

When you are ready to serve: bring a large pot of water to boil, preheat your over to 450 degrees and begin to reheat the chicken broth.

Season the chicken thighs and breasts with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Heat the oil in an oven proof cast-iron skillet over high heat. Place the chicken in skillet, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue cooking skin side down, occasionally rearranging the chicken and rotating the pan to evenly distribute the heat, until the the skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking until the skin crisps and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

While the chicken in resting cook the gnocchi, in batches, briefly in a large pot of salted boiling water until they float. This takes just a minute or so, depending on the size of your gnocchi.

To plate: add gnocchi and the steamed boy choy to a soup bowl. Ladle in the desired amount of broth and serve with crispy chicken on the side. 

**In all fairness, this dish was too delicious to take pictures of. I was more concerned with eating it.

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