Winter’s Bones

Post image for Winter’s Bones

(Pardon the excessive typography on the pics in this post. As if I didn’t have enough distractions, I uploaded an iPhone app called Over, which allows you to play around with text and fonts. I couldn’t resist.)

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The stockpots and soup tureens in my house have been getting a workout this winter. It’s not that the weather has been brutal or anything ~ certainly nothing like when I lived in Detroit and considered it a good day when temps climbed “up into the 20s.” And we haven’t seen any real snow since Snowmageddon three years ago.

It’s more about how dreary the days seem right now, with overcast skies, a brittle landscape and damp chilly air. It’s hard to feel motivated, much less inspired. February, I know, is not a good time to read Sylvia Plath or listen to Nick Drake ~ for me, anyway.

But it is a good time of year to make broth.

I credit my daughter with having the initiative to pull out the big stock pot a couple of Saturdays ago and declare that she was going to make pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup. From scratch. As a pho fiend, this is a project I have often thought about tackling but have never followed through on. I’ve always assumed that pho, like sushi, is best eaten at a restaurant. Plus it always seemed like too much work.

My daughter, age 14, has no such culinary inhibitions. She wrote up her grocery list and called the meat department at the supermarket to confirm that they had the 5 pounds of beef marrow bones needed to make the broth. She assembled and simmered the ingredients for the broth on Saturday and finished the soup in time for dinner on Sunday. It featured everything you would expect to find in a “real” bowl of pho: chunks of brisket, thinly shaved eye of round, basil and cilantro and bean sprouts. Here’s a picture I took of it:

Adri's pho 2

Although the chef herself was slightly critical and made notes as to what she would do differently next time, the rest of us thought her pho was delicious and tasted genuine, especially the rich broth, flavored with star anise, ginger, fish sauce, fresh herbs and those beef bones.

Speaking of which, some years ago I started putting beef bones in my homemade chicken broth, something many Italian cooks do. This one step magically transforms it from brodo di pollo (chicken broth) into brodo di carne (meat broth). Brodo di carne is slightly more full-bodied than basic chicken broth, but noticeably lighter than beef broth. Italian cooks use it as a base for delicate broth-and-pasta soups and also for more robust vegetable and grain soups. I add it by the ladleful to risotto, pasta sauces, stews and braises. And it makes a fine chicken noodle soup for winter.

A lot of people use chicken parts ~ backs, necks, feet ~ along with beef bones to make brodo, which is practical and economical. I like to use a whole chicken because then I get to eat the (over)cooked meat, which I have loved since I was a child. Once you strip the meat from the bones (it literally does fall right off), you can shred some of it right into your soup and serve the rest as a second course, drizzled with good olive oil. It’s good comfort food, food that will get you through the doleful days of February.

What comfort foods have you been making this winter?

Makes 8 to 10 cups broth, enough for about 6 servings of soup

Brodo di Carne and Chicken Noodle Soup

(Adapted from The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy)

I recommend making the broth one day in advance so that you can refrigerate it and skim the layer of fat off the top before using it in soup or other recipes.


  • 1 chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds
  • 2 to 4 beef marrow bones, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered, each quarter stuck with 1 whole clove
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, including stems (1 cup, lightly packed)
  • 5 quarts water
  • Kosher or sea salt

  • Fine egg noodles or broken capellini (angel hair pasta)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving


Put all of the ingredients except the salt in a large stockpot. Bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming away any foam that forms on the surface with a skimmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour, while skimming the surface from time to time. Simmer for at least another 3 hours, or until the broth is reduced by almost half. Add salt to taste and simmer for another 30 minutes or so, until the broth is richly flavored.

Strain the broth through a colander lined with damp cheesecloth into a clean container. Discard the marrow bones. When the chicken meat is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bones and set aside. Set aside some of the pieces of carrots and celery as well. Refrigerate the strained broth and, in a separate container, the reserved meat and vegetables. Once the broth is thoroughly chilled, skim off and discard the congealed layer of fat on the surface.

To make chicken noodle soup, heat the broth in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add some of the reserved cooked chicken (shredded) and vegetables (sliced). When the soup is boiling, toss in a few handfuls of fine egg noodles or broken capellini (angel hair pasta) ~ about 1 1/2 cups. Cook at a gentle simmer until the noodles are tender. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with a sprinkle of Parmigiano cheese.

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21 Responses to Winter’s Bones

  1. Nancy Pollard February 6, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Do either you or The Pho Princess use the egg white raft to clear the stock?

    • Domenica February 6, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      I probably should, Nancy, but I don’t. I just strain it through damp cheesecloth into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Do you recommend using the egg white technique?

  2. Helen Free February 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    If the fonts fit, use ’em.
    Seems like everyone is in a soup mood right now, so this is a welcome post. I’m soaking beans once a week! Last night I made a mussel soup from Inn at Little Washington cookbook. I learned a valuable lesson. If a recipe calls for a sprig of this or that, don’t leave it out. I often skip what I imagine are insignificant flavors, but I’m getting better at following the cook’s advice especially when it comes to broths…
    And get this. I gave my parents GS&SofItaly for Christmas. My 84 year old dad drove from the country to Alexandria to buy porcini mushrooms from La Cuisine as suggested. They have a gazillion cookbooks and are getting a real thrill out of S&S. They trust you completely! And furthermore, they are driving outside of their comfort zone to track down ingredients. I fussed at them for that, but they’re having fun.

    • Domenica February 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

      Helen, I’m thrilled your folks are enjoying the book and I hope none of the ingredients send them on a wild goose chase. BTW I used to be the same way about herbs, but they definitely make a difference. I don’t have the Inn cookbook (and I’ve never been there). Is it worth having?

      • Domenica February 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

        Oh and by ‘worth having’ I mean, will I actually cook from it? I have a couple of beautiful chef cookbooks that aren’t practical but make lovely coffee table books!

  3. Barbara | Creative Culinary February 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I just this past weekend had pho for the first time. I was very under-impressed and the place I went to is supposed to be a good one. Your daughter’s looks beautiful and much more robust and might make me want to try it at home!

    • Domenica February 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      Barb, I’m sorry your first experience with pho was less than stellar. Coincidentally, neither was mine. But that was some 18(!) years ago when I first moved to the DC area. Now I’m hooked on it and have at almost once a week. I hope you get the opportunity to try it again. When it’s done right there’s nothing like it. It starts out mild-tasting, but becomes more and more flavorful as you eat it (but you have to add in all the accompaniment, such as basil, lime, chiles, bean sprouts etc.). Thanks for reading.

    • Helen February 7, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

      Re: restaurant/coffee table cookbooks. I have to say that some of the recipes from Inn @ LW are accessible. And in full disclosure, my two editions have been gifts which I might as well just color in. But when I needed a fancy first course soup recipe, I found a doable one in the 2004 Refined American Cuisine. O’Connell does not direct the reader/cook effectively though. For example, you have to assume that you don’t puree the bay leaf and sprig of thyme with the soup base. Or maybe you do!? This is what I mean by a trusted cookbook writer- one who anticipates a cook’s questions and potential misdirection.

      • Domenica February 8, 2013 at 9:40 am #

        Helen, you bring up an interesting point about the way cookbooks are written. Some, such as the Inn book, assume a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the cook. Alice Waters’s books are the same. The recipes in her books tend to be vague on details, both on measurements and instructions, which is fine for cooks like you and me who know our way around the kitchen. Many books these days tend the other way, which is to say they assume little or no knowledge on the part of the cook. I guess mine are more in that style (as per the publisher). As a cookbook reader/user I enjoy a certain amount of loosey-goosey, which, by the way, should not be confused with poorly written recipes–ever a plague in our industry.

  4. Laura (Tutti Dolci) February 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Her pho looks delicious – the wonderful flavors of the broth is precisely why I order it, but I’ve never made my own at home. She’s inspired me! 🙂

    • Domenica February 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      Laura, thank you (on behalf of Adri). I have to say, I was a little lukewarm on the idea (probably because I thought a chunk of the work was going to fall to me) but she came through. She used a recipe from a Vietnamese cookbook we have. I think it’s called Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, or something like that. But I’m sure there are recipes all over the internet these days!

  5. elisa February 7, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Congratulations to Adri to tackle such a job!

    • Domenica February 7, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Thank you Elisa. She’s becoming quite accomplished. Makes me happy of course.

  6. stacey snacks February 7, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I made your chicken stock yesterday using the fennel stalks and clove studded onions.

    This truly was the best stock for chicken soup we have ever had at home.
    From your Soups and Stews Book………….I posted it yesterday.
    Thank you!


    • Domenica February 7, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      I love it too Stacey. Adding fennel is probably not traditional but I think it adds a nice sweet note to the broth. I saw your post. Great pics documenting every step. Thanks for the shout-out.

  7. ciaochowlinda February 11, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    How great that your daughter is picking up the mantle and cooking — and making “pho” no less. A good broth is the basis for so many wonderful soups and dishes — and yours, with the chicken and the beef, sounds perfect. Just pass me the noodles.

  8. Frank @Memorie di Angelina February 11, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Yep, it’s the perfect time of year for broth! And I love soup of all kinds, but especially Asian noodle soups. Too bad about the snow—I was actually hoping for another Snowmaggeddon—any excuse not to go in to the office!

  9. Adri February 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    No apologies necessary for the Font & Foto Fest. It all looks great, and was a feast for the eyes, especially “Adri’s Pho.” . As you can imagine, I got a kick out of that.

    It looks like you apple Adriana did not fall far from the tree. That is nice to see.

    And I’m with you on the benefits of brodo di carne. It adds a body to soups that brodo di pollo can not. I’ve been making lots of vegetable grain and lentil soups this winter. Satisfying and really easy, they satisfy cold weather cravings.

    • Domenica February 11, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      Adri, re: vegetable grain and lentil soups: I made the farro, chestnut and chickpea soup that Joe Cicala made at Linda’s dinner (she kindly posted the recipe). It was wonderful. If you haven’t tried it yet I highly recommend it.


  1. Links: Citrus, Chiles, and Winter Soups - Food in Jars | Food in Jars - February 11, 2013

    […] Speaking of soups, next time I make chicken stock, I’m throwing a couple beefy marrow bones in for extra depth of flavor. […]

  2. Abruzzo: Food Lover’s Paradise - BrowsingItaly - July 22, 2014

    […] Homemade chicken broth or meat broth is essential for this soup. Use your favorite recipe, or try this one, a recipe from my book The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy (Chronicle Books, […]

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