Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cinnamon Scented Chicken Soup with Spelt and Chanterelle Mushrooms Recipe

It was frigid in New York this past weekend, and minus the snow, reminded me of weekends in Chicago, where, after hearing whatever hideous number below freezing the temperature would reach, and whatever unbelievable number of inches above twelve the snow would hit, I’d hibernate in my apartment with guilty pleasure DVDs and food to cook up into comforting meals. I wasn’t prepared enough for this past weekend’s freeze, and was caught with nothing fresh in the fridge, and only a few pantry items, but still managed to make a filling and savory, warming soup with what I had lying around.

Leftover from the chicken pie I made a couple weeks ago, I had two chicken breasts and some chicken broth in the freezer, and, in the pantry, after a little rummaging, I found dried chanterelle mushrooms, and a half-empty bag of spelt. I love spelt for its soft inside and crunchy outside texture; it has a squeaky clean kind of feeling to the tooth, probably because of its low gluten content. It feels substantial and filling, but without the gooeyness present in rice. When I opened the bag of earthy mushrooms I detected a faint cinnamon fragrance, which gave me an idea. I’d make chicken soup with cinnamon, spelt, and chanterelle mushrooms, and spicy chiles added to ramp up the temperature on this day, a day where even indoors, and wearing my wooliest woolen socks and my cashmereiest cashmere sweater, I was still shivering.

I am frequently surprised when I throw odd things together and my creation tastes good, and this is one of those cases. I’ve never really heard of cinnamon chicken soup before, but it works well, and my apartment smelled like a seductive North African or Persian kitchen while the soup was cooking. Cinnamon has all kinds of nutritional properties, too; it’s a known anti-microbial, helps control blood sugar, and in Chinese medicine is used as a warming herb. Come here, cinnamon, and cozy up with me, please; I think we've got some long, cold nights ahead.

Cinnamon Scented Chicken Soup with Spelt and Chanterelle Mushrooms Recipe

2 tablespoons butter, plus 1/2 to 1 tablespoon for sautéing the chicken breasts
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 oz chanterelle mushrooms, dried
1/2 cup spelt
7 cups chicken broth, plus one cup of broth or water for soaking the mushrooms
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
2 chicken breasts

Soak the chanterelles in one cup of heated broth, or one cup of warm water, until soft. Remove the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid for adding to the soup later. Roughly chop the mushrooms, and set them aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat the butter. Add the onion, and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, and stir a few times. Add the cinnamon and stir until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for a minute or so. Stir in the red pepper and the chanterelle mushrooms. Combine well.

Add the spelt to the pot, and combine the ingredients, until all the grains of spelt are coated. Pour the broth and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid into the pot; add the bay leaf; bring the liquid to a boil; and reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a low simmer. Cover, and cook gently until the spelt is cooked, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, and season with salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the butter, and sear the chicken breast pieces on one side, until golden brown. Turn to the other side, cook briefly (be sure not to over cook), and set the chicken pieces aside. I added a little of the simmering soup at this point to the empty pan and stirred it around, in order to get all of the nice browned bits of chicken, and then added this goodness back to the soup.

When the spelt has cooked, add the chicken pieces to the soup, test for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve immediately.


mrlunch said...

Making this soup this weekend. Looks delicious!

Dylan said...


Cinnamon is EXCELLENT with poultry. One of the best turkeys I have ever had used a cinnamon based brine as well as cinnamon-butter basting liquid. I made a roast chicken a few years back using cinnamon, sage, and peppercorns. Absolutely fantastic. Love the fact that you took a risk, and I hope you use cinnamon more often!

... said...

Banu, I just found out that for medical purposes I need to stick to a strict low glycemic diet, and considering your descriptions of spelt and cinnamon, it sounds like this soup will be a great addition to my recipe collection! I can't wait to try it. xo

Blogging To A Better Bonnie said...

Umm, soup! That's just what my family and I need today. I'm warmed by just reading your recipes.
Thanks, Banu.

Stephanie said...

That sounds intriguing. I searched through the cupboard grain selection and didn't find any spelt - and now am not sure if I've ever tried it. Your description makes it sound yummy. So adding to the list for the bulk food store.

Mama's Girl Alexis said...

This recipe sounds great. I am a lover of soup! Soup for the Soul! I will try this recipe. Thank you

natural selection said...

MMM trying to spoon some of that from my computer screen..not much luck.

and the DVD pairing is perfect I have can imagine the fragrant spice now!

Richard said...

I must have this!

Tau-Mu said...

What an interesting combination!

Banu said...

Dylan: Wow, cinnamon-brined Turkey. That sounds amazing!

Thanks, everyone. I'd love to hear how you like it if you try this recipe.

StuddedLilly said...

awesome blog! and your blog title is just eye catching! ;) i'm following now


sanjeet said...

Love the fact that you took a risk, and I hope you use cinnamon more often!

Work from home India

Justin said...

this looks amazing, but spelt is definitely not something i keep around the house

Chef E said...

I love how you describe squeaky clean feeling to the teeth- spelt!

This dish is a good for a rummage which I also have been doing lately... saw some other dishes I am going to check out!

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