Chicken soup for the low-sodium soul
As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables, which I saute in chicken fat,” says Torres.
- Along with the typical onions, celery and carrots, Torres pumps up the soup’s flavor by adding root vegetables and other fresh produce to the mix. Parsnips and celery root are year-round staples, and seasonal veggies such as scallions and zucchini are added when available. Ditalini stands in for egg noodles.
- Torres makes his own salt-free stock with plump stewing hens that yield a lot of fat as they simmer. “I used to sweat the vegetables in oil, but now I save the chicken fat and use that to add more flavor,” he says. He also tosses in fresh marjoram, thyme and Italian parsley, which grow all summer in The Garlands’ on-site herb garden. When winter rolls around, he specs the same fresh herbs from his distributor.
- To make up for the lack of salt, Torres stirs in a low-sodium chicken broth base and ground white pepper at the end of cooking time. For service, the kitchen pulls cooked chicken meat from the stewing hens; some is added to the soup and the remainder is cross-utilized in salads and other items. “To keep the soup light, both the chicken and ditalini pasta are more like garnishes,” says Torres.