When the infamous Soup Nazi appeared on TV’s Seinfeld more than a decade ago, the world came to understand New Yorkers’ obsession with soup. And it’s not Manhattan Clam Chowder, but chicken soup that seems to be the root of this obsession. While classic chicken-based Matzo Ball Soup appears regularly at delis across town, trendy versions of the soup dubbed “penicillin in a bowl” can be found readily as well. Near Union Square, Pepi Di Giacomo, co-owner of Tarallucci e Vino, prepares the dish according to an old family recipe, mingling rich hen broth with the light Parmesan cheese-laced crepes known as scrippelle ’mbusse, or “wet crepes.”
The restaurant received New York Magazine’s 2006 “Best Chicken Soup” award for Di Giacomo’s creation. In Chinatown, black-skin chickens known as “silkies” are the base of a deeply flavored, aromatic, amber-colored soup. Because the chicken’s color can be jolting at first, this Chinese immigrant favorite may take a while to enter the mainstream. And at Cubana Café in Soho, diners applaud the chicken soup with avocado, tomato, cilantro and yucca. If you shy away from trendy, try the recipes below. Our classic version starts with a whole chicken in the pot and finishes with plump matzo balls. If you’re pressed for time, try our Chicken Vegetable Soup instead. It uses a rotisserie chicken and good packaged stock, two staples of the contemporary American kitchen.
By Margo Rudman Gold, a food writer in Chappaqua, N.Y.