3lbsassorted root vegetables such as turnipscelery root, rutabaga, parsnips and carrots
1small yellow sweet oniondiced ½ inch
Fresh watercress picked into 1-2inch piecesa couple handfuls
1/2cupflavorless oilfor browning the chicken and sautéing the vegetables
½lbsavoy cabbagediced ½ inch
3quartschicken or other meat stockpreferably homemade
1.5lbschicken thighstrimmed of fat if needed
Kosher saltas needed
A bouquet of 5 thyme sprigsone dried bay leaf, 5 black peppercorns and 2 lightly crushed garlic cloves (tie these ingredients inside a bundle of cheesecloth)
½cupFrench red rice or another grain of your choicecooked in lightly salted water until tender (optional)
Wash the watercress in a basin or cleaned sink of cool water, then roll up gently in paper towels to dry
Peel the roots, making sure to remove not only the skin, but the white layer of tough flesh underneath the skin as well, dice the roots ½ inch and reserve.
Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper
Heat ½ of the oil in a stock pot large enough to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides, then remove and reserve. Discard the oil in the pan, then add the remaining half of the oil and sweat the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the root vegetables and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. The root vegetables should not take on any color. Add the chicken broth, chicken, herb bouquet and the cabbage and bring the mixture to a simmer, double check the seasoning for salt, and adjust as needed, then turn off the heat, transfer the soup to a container with a tight fitting lid left ajar for steam to escape and chill. After the soup has chilled, remove the chicken and dice the thighs roughly into ½ inch pieces and add them to the soup. Discard the herb bouquet.
To serve the soup, heat it and double check the seasoning for salt one last time. Just before serving, stir in the watercress, cooked rice or grain of your choice if using, then ladle into individual preheated soup bowls, top with any of the additional garnishes and serve immediately.
When I made this I had some French red rice I brought back from the Camargue this year-a marshy delta in Provence where wild horses roam, and a number of different types of rice are harvested. You can add any grain you prefer though, but I like to cook them separately, adding them just before serving to prevent overcooking.I like to add additional garnishes to hearty soups like this too, pesto, grated parmesan olive oil, croutons, or a poached egg are all good choices. As with most soups, this is much better made ahead of time and allowed to age for a day or two before eating.