A recipe for a creamy and comforting chicken soup with fresh tarragon and soft gnocchi pillows.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. – Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
The snow outside keeps falling in intervals, the sun peeking out in between the fits and starts. Like the weather can’t quite decide what it wants to be just yet.
Inside I clutch my tea and curl deeper into my chair. I seem to have forgotten how to sit on it properly. I pull my pajama-clad knees to my chin and stare at the social media feeds scrolling by, highlights of everyone’s life on display, tap twice to like. My hair pulled into a messy bun, a pilling sweater wrapped around me, I glance at the clock, get up, and start to make soup.
I shower just before they get home, pulling on jeans and a t-shirt, a cleaner sweater. I brush my hair, apply eyeliner around my eyes to hide the red rings. I look at the person in the mirror. I ask them how their day was, get their backpacks sorted, lunches emptied, and we settle into the evening.
French tarragon has a sweet anise-like flavor, adding a bit of a different spin on a traditional chicken soup. I find it pairs well with the traditional mirepoix of onions, carrots, celery, and since it grows in abundance in my herb garden tucked alongside the house, I tend to have more than I need and am often left trying to come up with ways to use it, like soup.
There’s nothing particularly flashy about this soup. It’s made from stock I simmered on my stove, leftover scraps from a roast chicken dinner being stretched a bit further. The leftover chicken is added here, too. Herbs from the garden, a bit of cream. I opted for potato gnocchi instead of pasta, the soft pillows acting as dumplings in the creamy base.
It’s humble at best, as I place it in front of my family for dinner, crusty bread rolls served alongside steaming bowls, yet it shines in its own way. The tarragon blends well with the vegetables and chicken, and the chewy gnocchi and cream cause it to feel a bit indulgent. It’s chicken noodle soup pretending to be something more and, in effect, becoming something more.
Creamy Tarragon Chicken Gnocchi Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup sliced carrots
- ½ cup sliced celery
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 cups chicken stock
- For the bouquet garni:
- 2 bay leaves
- tarragon stems (from minced below)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 cup chopped cooked chicken
- 1 cup potato gnocchi
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- In a large stockpot, heat the oil and add in the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in the garlic.
- Stir in the chicken stock. Make a bouquet garni of bay leaves, tarragon stems, and peppercorns with a piece of cheesecloth tied into a package. Add to the stock.
- Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are just tender.
- Add in the chicken, gnocchi, and tarragon, allowing the gnocchi to poach in the soup.
- Remove the bouquet garni. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper and serve.
I pull my black coat on and start for the door, checking my reflection once more in the mirror. I wonder if anyone can see the cracks beneath the surface, spidering across the face I’ve put on, the one I’m pretending to be.