Friday, August 31, 2012

Copy Cat Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup Pin Test

Here is another Pinterest pin test, and sadly, another that I do not have any personal pictures for. I have long been a fan of The Olive Garden. It was a place that I would often ask to go to for birthday dinners, the restaurant my husband took me to on the night he proposed, and the place we went to to celebrate when we found out I was pregnant with our daughter. In one sentence I think I just revealed how very American I am! So when I saw this recipe for my favorite "cheap" dish there, I knew I had to try it! This recipe didn't disappoint either!

The ingredient list calls for:
1 tablespoons extra virgin oil
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 quart half and half
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 minced garlic cloves
2 14 ounce cans of chicken broth if you enjoy thick soup, use one can
1 cup carrots, finely shredded
1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 package gnocchi, cooked
1 cup of fresh spinach coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

I was also making an okra tomato soup for my husband and grandfather at the same time and both soups started out the same way:
1. Sauté the onions, celery and garlic in the butter and olive oil. I used garlic powder because the last time I used real garlic it made my eyes hurt so bad I had to leave the kitchen for an hour and now I am afraid of it. After I had enough for both soups I spooned out some of the cooked veggies into another pot and the recipes took their separate paths. Make sure you don't fudge on the butter for this one because you are going to need it for the next step.
2. Make a roux. You are going to want to have your burner somewhere around Medium for this. This part of a recipe always makes me feel like a mad scientist in an operating room. I literally treat it like it's life or death! To make the roux you are going to slowly add the flour while whisking vigorously. Sometimes this is hard to do with only two hands so I usually call on my husband to add the flour for me while I hold the pot and whisk. You have to keep whisking or you won't get that nice thickness that makes the soup rich and also so the flour and butter won't burn to the bottom of the pan. I had never done this with onions and celery already in the pot but they did not hinder the process at all. Once you have the flour dissolved you will want to slowly add the half and half. I think the next time I make this I will use 1/2 half and half and 1/2 milk, although I think technically that would just be "one and three quarters". Why don't they sell that? You may want to have a helper on hand for this as well as you will want to do this slowly and keep whisking.
3. Once you have all the half and half stirred in, add the carrots and chicken. I had some leftover chicken thighs that I had de-boned and chopped and I think next time I would add even more chicken. Use whatever you have around, just don't use the canned kind. Yuck!
4. Now would be a good time to make sure you have already cooked you gnocchi. I found some at Wal-mart for about $3 in the dry pasta section. When I make this again, I think I will only use half of the box. It was not bad, just a little over-powering. Also, the package told me to boil about 3 gallons of water but since I didn't have a pot that big I just used the biggest one I had on hand (not the stew pot, that one stays on the top of the cabinet and only comes down for special occasions) and they came out fine.
5. After a few minutes turn your burner to Med-Low and add the chicken stock. I only used one can because I could not fit much more in the pot I was using but I ended up adding more milk to the soup when I re-heated it, so two cans is probably right.
6. Let it cook for a few more minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients. I omitted the nutmeg because it just seemed weird and I didn't miss it. Let it cook for a little while longer and then it's done!

If you make this soup I would plan to freeze some of it. It made a LOT of soup and after three days, as good as it was, I just didn't want any more. My husband and I actually ended up going to Olive Garden a few days later and I got the Soup, Salad and Breadsticks lunch so I ordered a bowl to compare and I actually liked the one I made at home better. It was richer and just had a better over-all flavor. Maybe they added too much nutmeg.

The original link can be found here.

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