Romanian Meatball Soup...Ciorba de Perisoare. During the winter months, I tend to make soups much more often than during the summer months. I guess it's only natural as the colder months tend to bring below zero weather... and plenty of snow. Granted we don't always have the minus zero temps, but we do have snow and cold weather in general. We can't always stay inside, as there's snow to be shoveled, logs that need to be split, firewood that needs to be brought in... and yes, there's the regular walks that need to be taken:). In order to keep us warm, I often make a pot full of "ciorba" or Romanian soup. A bowl of good ol' Romanian soup usually does the trick of warming us up... especially if you add some hot peppers:).
Most Romanian soups are generally "soured"...meaning acidity is added to the soup in the form of lemon juice, citric acid, bors de tarate ( fermented wheat bran liquid), sauerkraut juice, etc. The sour element adds a slight tang to the soup and changes the taste of a regular chicken soup to that of a "soured" version.
Since I tend to want to make things "lighter", I usually adapt certain Romanian dishes according to my own preference. The traditional Ciorba de Perisoare or Meatball Soup, is usually made with beef.... but I most often make it with chicken. I find it's quite delicious and I don't necessarily miss the beef version. I will use a whole chicken to make the soup stock(from the bones) and then use the rest of the meat to make the meatballs. I like to grind my own meat and use the dark meat as well as the white. Using a regular size chicken will usually yield about 2 lbs of meat(+/-)... which is just the right amount for making the meatballs.
I am posting how I make my soup...from scratch. It might seem like a great deal of work, but since I make it often, I hardly think about the work involved:). Lately, I started making the soup stock in a pressure cooker.* The pressure cooker speeds up the process a bit and makes the stock taste incredibly delicious. While the stock cooks, I usually get all the other ingredients ready...so the soup comes together rather quickly. It really isn't that bad:). You can probably use a good store-bought chicken stock and store-bought ground meat. I have to admit that I've never made it that way, so I am not really sure how it would taste. My version is a bit different than most people make theirs... I don't saute the vegetables and most often will skip the beaten eggs/sour cream, but that is how I make mine....and is actually the version I grew up with (though my mom would add the beaten egg from time to time...just to vary it up a bit). Anyway, I thought I should add yet another Romanian recipe to my collection. Hope you enjoy...
* I didn't use the pressure cooker for this post... just because I know most people don't have a pressure cooker. If you have a pressure cooker and would like to use it, you can check out step#4(soup stock) below).
Tip: If you want to make this soup as a beef version, just exchange the chicken bones with beef bones( beef marrow bones that also have some meat) and ground beef for the meatballs. You can also see my veal "ciorba" version here...Romanian Veal Soup
You will need:
6 QT soup pot
1 whole chicken
2 celery ribs
1/2 parsnip (optional...it is good to use, though I don't always have on hand)
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 TBS Kosher salt
water( about 13 cups or so)
EXTRA VEGETABLES FOR SOUP...if you like you can saute the vegetables in a bit of oil and then add it to the soup
3 tomatoes, grated (or processed in the food processor)
1/2 cup onion, small dice
1/2 cup carrot, small dice
1/2 cup bell pepper, small dice ( different colors make it look pretty)
1 TBS tomato paste( or more if you want a more tomato-ey flavor)
2 lbs ground chicken
3 TBS short grain rice, halfway cooked
1 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ex-large potato, optional (you can add a bit of broken spaghetti or even a bit of rice/orzo instead)
salt, if needed
chopped parsley/lovage, to taste
3-5 TBS lemon juice( or to taste)
beaten egg/s or beaten eggs mixed with a bit of sour cream, optional
1. Wash whole chicken and cut into 8 pieces....I also remove the skin.
2. Cut meat from off most of the bones...except wings, back, and ribs. Basically, you will have the chicken breasts, with tenderloins, and the thigh meat as well as the leg meat.
3. Place bones in a large ( 6 QT) soup pot. Set aside.
4. Grind meat and make meatball mixture.
Make meatball mixture:
1. In a sauce pan, add rice along with a bit of salt and about 1 cup of water. Cook rice until it still has a "bite" to it about 5-8 minutes. Strain.
2. In a bowl add the ground meat, grated onion, strained rice, egg, chopped parsley, dill and season with salt and pepper. Mix to fully combine. Cover meat mixture and refrigerate. Refrigerating helps with "stiffening" the mixture a bit so that it is easier to form into meatballs.
Make Soup Stock:
1. To the pot with soup bones, add 1 TBS kosher salt, celery, carrots, parsnip(if using), onion, and sliced garlic.
2. Fill pot with water... almost to the rim((not quite...about 1 1/2 inches below) .
3. Turn heat on high. Bring to boil and skim scum that accumulates. Lower heat and cover.
4. Cook on low for 1 1/2 hours...While the soup is cooking, you can cut up your soup vegetables.
You can also do the stock in the pressure cooker... just place the chicken bones, water, vegetables and salt. Cover. Bring up to pressure. Lower heat to low and cook for about 40 minutes. Release pressure naturally and proceed to next step.
5. Strain soup. Place soup back on the stove and heat to medium-low heat.
6. Add extra soup vegetables to clear stock. Also add the grated tomatoes along with tomato paste. Let it cook while you make meatballs.
7. Take out meatball mixture from refrigerator. Working with wet hands( have a bowl of water nearby) form meatballs( about 1 TBS ) and place them in the hot soup. (if you have a small cookie scoop, you might make it easier on yourself, by using that...I tend to do it the old fashioned way:)).
8. Continue making meatballs and placing them in the soup until all meat is used up.
9. Add diced potatoes. Cover the pot and cook until meatballs and potatoes are cooked( about another 20 minutes or so....sometimes I let it go a bit longer ...especially if I feel the soup needs more flavor. Just letting all the vegetables and meatballs simmer away helps it all come together eventually).
10. Uncover and add lemon juice to taste.( Add beaten egg, if using...most times I don't bother with the egg). Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or lovage (leustean)....even chives will work.
Serve ciorba with crusty bread and hot peppers.