RAMPALICIOUS CHICKEN SOUP from THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2010.
Hearty, spicy, and soul-satisfying, this chicken soup could almost be called a chili. It’s delicious, even without the ramps.
Strong-smelling and wild, ramps are dug from mountain coves during the early spring. A “bait” of them are sold at farmers markets or shared with neighbors. If ramps are not available, substitute spring onions, or just yellow onions with an especially strong taste. Palette Butler serves this soup for the lunch crowd at Veranda Café & Gifts, co-owned with husband Jeff in Black Mountain, NC.
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
1 or 2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 15-ounce can red kidney beans
28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 15-ounce can beef broth
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 6 whole ramps (to taste), leaves and bulbs chopped
1 large sweet onion, chopped
½ to one 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, to taste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder (or more, to taste)
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Place chicken in a stockpot with the peppercorns, carrots and yellow onion. Barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any foam. Cook the chicken for at least 45 minutes to an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and fork tender.
2. Remove the chicken from the pot. Using a fork and sharp knife, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss the bones and cartilege. Strain the broth from the stockpot and reserve.
3. Add the shredded chicken back to the stockpot. Add kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, garlic, ramps, onion and green chilies. Add enough reserved chicken broth for desired consistency, about 4 to 6 cups. Stir in oregano, cumin. chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.
4. Simmer for at least one hour or more to allow flavors to meld and onions to soften.
NOTE: Freeze any leftover stock for use later.
YIELD: 8 to 10 large servings