Studded with chewy whole farro and slivers of fennel stalks in place of celery, this is far from your average bowl of chicken soup. (But it comforts just like any good one.)
I first made this soup by happenstance (a leftover roast chicken, a forgotten fennel bulb that was supposed to go into the salad), but since then I've cooked fennel many times in soups. I always love its wonderful aroma and mellow anise flavor. Don't forget to save the fronds for garnish, too!
Chicken Soup with Fennel and Farro
Serves 4 to 6
Bones from one whole roasted chicken (or 5 to 6 cups chicken stock)
large fennel stalks, chopped
large carrot, chopped
medium onion, chopped
Few sprigs of fresh thyme and/or sage, gathered with kitchen twine in a bouquet garni
cooked farro (or 1/2 cup uncooked)
Salt and pepper to taste
About 2 tablespoons reserved fennel fronds
Place the chicken bones in a large pot and fill with enough cold water to just cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Let cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming the scum that rises to the surface. Strain out the solids and discard. You should have 5 to 6 cups of chicken stock.
In a medium-large pot or Dutch oven, cook the fennel, carrots, onions, and garlic in the olive oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook on medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until softened. Add the bouquet garni of fresh herbs, the bay leaves, the cooked (or uncooked) farro, the cooked chicken, and all the reserved chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes (or until the farro is tender, if using uncooked farro). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bouquet garni and bay leaves before serving. Garnish each bowl with fennel fronds.