Bread soup with chicory and egg

By Meredith Erickson
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The first time I walked into El Brite de Larieto outside of Cortina d’Ampezzo, I immediately felt as if I were in someone’s loving home and not a restaurant. Chef Riccardo Gaspari and his wife, Ludovica, welcomed me and sat me at my own table, next to a group of twelve Romans (who, incidentally, took me to El Camineto the following night to introduce me to its famous spaghetti alla cipolla). At El Brite, I had a six-course meal that included a stuffed pasta (Casunziei all’Ampezzana) that made an impact, and this right here: bread soup made with puccia bread and served with wild chicory and an egg.

Since that first visit, Riccardo and Ludo have had two girls and opened a boutique dairy where they make their own yogurt, ricotta, and Tyrolean grey cheese—all using milk from their cows. These two understand comfort and simplicity, yet they cook creatively and freely. Choosing a recipe to share from El Brite was difficult, because they are all so good, but I decided to go with the first dish I had on that snowy night.

SERVES
4

Ingredients

  • Food processor or high-speed blender
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 200 grams pancetta, diced
  • 1.4 liters low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bun Puccia Bread (recipe follows), cut into 5 centimeter pieces, plus 1 cup (50 grams) Puccia Bread croutons (see variation)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch wild chicory, chopped into ribbons
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm three tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté until starting to brown lightly, five to seven minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the bread, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Ladle the soup into a food processor or blender and process on high speed until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Return to the Dutch oven and keep warm over very low heat.
  3. While the soup simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Add the chicory to the boiling water and blanch until wilted, one to two minutes. 
  4. Lift out of the boiling water, plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking, and drain.
  5. Place a wide saucepan filled with water over high heat. While the water is heating, line a plate with a layer of paper towels.
  6. In a medium frying pan over medium heat, warm the remaining two tablespoons olive oil. Add the chicory and sauté until starting to brown, four to five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. When the water has started boiling, turn the heat to a simmer. Crack one egg into a small bowl, then gently pour it into the hot water, swirling the water around it with a spatula or wooden spoon to encourage the egg to take a nice shape. Repeat with the remaining three eggs. When the water returns to a simmer, set a timer and poach the eggs for two minutes, until the whites have just set. Carefully transfer to the prepared plate. 
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls. Gently place one egg in the center of each bowl, then lay some wilted chicory next to it, add some croutons, then sprinkle each bowl with the minced chives and fennel seeds. Add a splash of olive oil to each soup and serve. 

Note:

Allow three to four hours to make the puccia, a sandwich bread made from a simple pizza dough, that forms the base of this soup. The puccia recipe makes four buns, which allows you to stale two of them for the garnish you need, plus more for future use. Alternatively, substitute store-bought ciabatta bread or panini and make the croutons from a country-style loaf.

It may seem like overkill, seeing as this is a bread soup, but at El Brite this is served with a side of fresh baked brown bread and fresh butter, and I suggest you do the same.

If wild chicory proves hard to find, substitute dandelion leaves, escarole, or radicchio for that welcome hint of bitterness.

 

Reprinted with permission from Alpine Cooking, by Meredith Erickson, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Photographs copyright © 2019 by Christina Holmes.

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