A soup for comfort in uncertain times

Christy Olsen Field shares her family’s pantry-friendly, nourishing recipe for chicken soup and dumplings

Soup - Taste of Norway

Photo: Christy Olsen Field
A homemade chicken soup with egg drop dumplings, made from a recipe passed down through at least five generations of family, is nourishment in a bowl.

Taste of Norway Editor

We are living in an unprecedented time, my friends.

I live just north of Seattle, not far from where the first case of COVID-19 was found in the United States. Though it’s been on our radar for weeks, a deep sense of fear and uncertainty grows by the day, as schools, stores, and businesses close, and people are asked to please just stay home.

I decided to focus my energy on what I can do right now (other than staying home):

I can check in with my neighbors and local friends and family and let them know that I am here for them, even if we can’t get together in person.

I can reframe this as a gift of time to cozy up with my two darling sons (ages 5 and 2) to play and make art and read books and watch movies, with regular drop-ins by my husband, who is working in our home office.

I can make nutritious, delicious food to feed my family (who, surprisingly, need to eat a lot!).

The kitchen is the space I’m drawn to when I have some free time on the schedule, whether it’s to tackle a new recipe or make an old favorite.

In this era of social distancing, I shouldn’t bring over a plate of cookies to our wonderful neighbors.

So I’m focusing my kitchen efforts to stock the fridge and freezer in case we can’t get to the store or we get sick.

The first thing on my list: Homemade chicken soup with dumplings.

This soup is one of the pillars of my childhood memory bank. My mom made a pot of chicken soup with these homemade egg drop dumplings of flour, milk, and eggs when one of us was feeling sick, or on a cold day when a warming bowl of soup could soothe us in a way that no other dish could.

The dumpling recipe is an old one, passed down through at least five generations of my Gjerde family foremothers, and likely even longer than that. I don’t know the Norwegian name of these dumplings, but they are made with love and care and economical thrift.

My great-great-grandmother Christine Gjerde made these dumplings in her broth-based soups, which often featured vegetables or beans, onions, or noodles.

My great-grandmother Alice Gjerde learned the recipe from her mother-in-law. According to family lore, the Gjerde brothers insisted that their wives learn to make the dumplings just like their mother did. Alice made them dumplings in her beef bone soup with beans and vegetables, with the dumplings were the enticement to eat the otherwise mundane soup. (My grandma’s words, not mine!)

My grandmother Audrey Bowers continued the dumpling tradition, but adapted it to a chicken noodle soup recipe. It was a regular rotation on dinner menu, loved by her busy family of four kids. She still makes it to this day.

My mom Diane Olsen makes this in the winter months. When my sisters and I were growing up, she added frozen peas to cool the soup off and add some nutrition. It’s my favorite recipe card in my recipe box.

My version features a homemade chicken stock. I use a rotisserie chicken, and roast the bones for 20-30 minutes to deepen the flavor. The chicken bones are simmered with root vegetables, cloves of garlic, and ginger. I like to add a handful of parsley from the garden.

Every time I make this soup, it nourishes my young family and honors the legacy of women who nourished their families with the same recipe.

I would hand-deliver a pot of this soup to each of you if I could. It won’t provide immunity from this pandemic virus, but for me, this soup is love and healing and warmth in a bowl.

Take care of yourself and your people. The articles and recipes coming up for the next few issues will be easily adapted for social distancing.

What are your go-to recipes for comfort food? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at food@na-weekly.com.

Chicken Soup with Norwegian Egg Drop Dumplings

By Christy Olsen Field

For the chicken stock:

Bones of 1 rotisserie chicken, with the meat shredded and set aside

Olive oil

1 large onion, quartered

3 ribs of celery, roughly chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole

1 3-in. thumb of ginger, sliced into coins

1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 bay leaf

For the soup:

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 ribs of celery, chopped

3 carrots, sliced into coins

1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped (optional)

Handful of chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tbsp. dried parsley

For the dumplings:

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

First, make the chicken stock. I use a rotisserie chicken, but you can certainly use a homemade roast chicken. You can also use boxed chicken stock or a bouillon cube—no judgment here!

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and roast the bones and skin of the chicken for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and crackling. It’s not a necessary step, but it adds deep, rich flavor to the stock.

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until it shimmers. Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, and salt until golden brown. Add chicken bones and skin, and cover with 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, for at least an hour but preferably longer. I usually do 2-3 hours on the stovetop, adding more water as needed. (Note: If you are an Instant Pot user like me, I also do this at high pressure for 60 minutes, with instant release. It becomes bone broth, with that lovely gelatinous mouthfeel.)

Next, strain the stock. Pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl to remove all bits of bone and vegetables. Press on the solids to extract any remaining flavor, and discard them.

Make the soup: Wipe out the pot, and add the chicken stock, shredded chicken (I usually use about half of the rotisserie chicken meat and freeze the rest), sliced onion, carrots, and celery. Rutabaga is so delicious in this soup, but don’t worry about it if you don’t already have it on hand. Simmer the soup for 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

About 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, make the dumplings. Bring the soup back to a brisk simmer, not quite boiling. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and milk until thoroughly combined. Add in the flour and a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and stir gently together. It will be a thick batter, but add a little more flour or milk if needed.

Drop half-tablespoon amounts into the simmering soup. I just use a regular spoon for this: I take a small scoop of the dumpling batter and gently dip it into the boiling soup. It will slide off the spoon easily. Boil until the dumplings rise to the surface, which takes 5 minutes or so.

Serve the soup with frozen peas, which cools it off just enough and adds a welcome pop of green. From my family to yours: I hope you enjoy this warm and nourishing comfort food.

This article originally appeared in the April 3, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.