Lamb’s Lettuce Chicken Soup Recipe

Soupe de Mâche au Poulet

[Lamb's Lettuce Chicken Soup]

Foreword : you might notice that the picture above has the focus on the bread and not the soup. The soup will have to forgive me, I love it dearly and all, it is really the star of this post, but I’m sorry, soup, you are just not photogenic. At all.

La mâche, which I’m told translates to lamb’s lettuce, is a kind of salad which comes in small bouquets of soft green leaves in the shape of drops, and has a mild taste. I like its flavor and texture very much, I like that it looks very pretty and I like that “ça change de la salade!“, as a recurrent ad campaign says : “It’s a nice change from salad”.

We happened to have a bunch of mâche that was wilting so fast the naked eye could witness the process, and we also had leftovers from an astounding roasted chicken we had bought at our favorite rôtisserie a couple of days before. I considered making a chicken salad, but for all the daffodills and blooming buds, it is still winter here, so a soup felt much more appropriate.

This is the first soup I make that involves some kind of meat, and I am just now fully grasping the concept of chicken soup and what the fuss was all about : boy, talk about a comforting and fragrant soup! It is infused with flavor from the meat, bones and skin of the chicken which simmer in it for a while. Mâche turns out to be as delicious cooked as it is raw, with so mild a taste there’s almost a hint of sweetness.

It is also a very easy soup to put together, the only slightly annoying step being to remove the bones and skin. It would work with boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I still highly recommend using bone-in and skin-on pieces of chicken, I’m sure it really makes a difference in the depth of taste.

Soupe de Mâche au Poulet

- 2 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 300g lamb’s lettuce (substitute another type of young, mild-flavored lettuce, like butter lettuce or baby spinach)
- 4 pieces of chicken meat, preferably bone-in and skin-on, cooked (for example two half-breasts and two thighs, or two thighs and two wings)
- 1 bay leaf
- salt, pepper
- olive oil

(Serves 4.)

Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Heat up a little olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about ten minutes, covered, until slightly translucent.

In the meantime, rinse the lettuce under cold water : the little bouquets have a tendency have a surprising amount of dirt trapped in, so being thorough is worth the effort. Trim the ends if you see little root filaments sprouting, otherwise leave them whole.

Add the lettuce, the chicken meat and the bay leaf into the saucepan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add four cups of boiling water. Bring to a simmer and let cook, covered, over medium heat for about twsnty minutes, until the lettuce is thoroughly wilted and the meat starts to fall off the bones.

Discard the bay leaf. Remove the pieces of chicken from the saucepan and transfer to a cutting board : using a fork and a knife, separate the edible (the meat) from the non-edible (bones, skin and cartilage). Shred the meat roughly and put it back into the soup.

At this point, you can choose to purée none, some or all of the solids, depending on how you like your soup. Ladle into bowls, and serve with thick slices of crusty bread, toasted.

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  • http://loveandcooking.blogspot.com Charlotte

    I had no idea mache was tasty cooked too. Will keep this in mind if our cold weather returns.

    Chicken soup is the food of the gods. Even good chicken broth will liven up another soup. I usually use purchased but I still remember the black bean soup I made with homemade broth. Divine!

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg in Paris

    Clotilde, my dictionary also says it’s lamb’s lettuce but I have yet to find anyone in the US who has heard of it under that name. Barrett tells me that you can find it in Chicago and it’s called mache there too. So maybe it’s a Britishism?? Who knows – it’s lovely under any name. I love those ads for mâche too!

  • Cecilia

    Here in Houston I have been able to find it loose-weight (not pre-packed) in the fabulous supermarket chain Central Market. I think they called it Lamb’s Lettuce, but I might be wrong. It’s one of my favorite types of lettuce.

  • boreal

    Actually last summer, since the popularity of arugula has hit the US, someone was reporting then, that a major manufacturer had figured out a way to profitably grow and sell whole lamb’s lettuce “bouquets” (much like they do now with butter leaf lettuce or bibb lettuce, they sell it with roots attached in a special plastic container,) and push them, but I’ve never seen one in a grocery store here and I’ve been hitting the produce sections heavily lately. I occasionally see it in farmer’s markets, but not often.

    And no one here knows what lamb lettuce is, I only know because I like to garden and grow veggies and I got some seed certain gourmet oriented catalogs import from europe, just out of curiousity. If I ever need to know the definition of some weird green, I go back to catalogs. Like Johnny’s Seed, Renee’s Garden, Cook’s Garden and Nichol’s Garden Nursery, and …Territorial Seed, and others. Renee Shepherd who originally created Shepherd’s Seeds catalog, was one of the original ones in the US to begin importing european greens and is an amazingly knowledgably and well connected lady. She now does an over the counter seed collection which is more limited than her catalog, but also reaches a greater number of people with the same high quality seed. She is up around the bay area, around Santa Cruz I believe.

    But the problem the seller’s have with lamb’s lettuce is it just falls apart if not sold in its entirity. I think that is what is holding them back now. Arugula is hugely popular now, and because of that, unusual or bitter greens are hitting mainstream USA hard. Yay! Before, even just… definitely 10 years ago, the ONLY way to find arugula was grow it yourself. I first grew it in college (thanks to renee, back in the late 80s,) and no one had a clue as to what arugula was! Or green when ripe tomatoes! (Which were a god-send in a public garden when all red tomatoes were swiped. Aunt Ruby’s German Green is my favorite variety, its spectacular. A huge sweet/spicy beefsteak.)

  • http://www.appetites.us Robert

    That’s a fantastic photograph, and a great recipe to boot.

  • Niki

    As far as I was aware Milky Way bars around the world have a whipped, fluffy centre coated in chocolate. They are a fairly light chocolate bar. Weight Watchers even endorse them (put on in the freezer and eat it, so it lasts longer!).
    Whereas Mars Bars (around the world in my experience) have a centre of nougat and caramel coated in chocolate. Sometimes almonds etc are added, but they are special types of Mars Bar, and not the classic type. It’s a much heavier (in weight and calories) than a Milky Way.

    In Australia there was an ad for Milky Way claiming it was “the snack you can eat between meals, without ruining your appetite!”. Mothers really loved hearing that just before dinner, I assure you! ;-)

    Isnt’ it funny that in all the list of things you received from Helsinki, the one creating the most comment was the afterthought!

  • Niki

    Whoops – that post was obviously meant to be included with the Finnish foods! oops!

  • boreal

    Ah ha Nicki!

    See, in the US, as recent as this halloween :) here’s the lineup of candy bars.

    1. Candy bar has a LIGHT nouget fluffy whipped center covered in chocolate.

    In the US: “Three Muskateers”
    As you say: “Milky Way”. (No caramel, right?)

    The current commercial in the US for 3 Muskateers (which hasn’t been pushed in ages,) is women are pulling them out of their purses for a light snack and it floats up to the ceiling and they laugh. :)

    2. A candy bar with a heavier nouget center, and a layer of caramel on top, covered in chocolate.

    In the US: Milky Way
    As you describe: Mars bars

    I’m finding lots of UK websites supporting this…that UK Mars bars have nouget and caramel…covered in chocolate.

    3. A candy bar like #2 but with almonds. I *think* the almonds sit on top of the nouget so they sorta protrude into the caramel.

    In the US: Mars bars. We only have one kind of Mars bars.

    As you describe: A variation of a Mars bar.

    I hope you read this so it can be discussed further! Personally I think its worth a whole post here due to its important nature! ;) CHOCOLATE!

    Here’s a link so you believe me! ;)
    http://www.m-ms.com/cai/mway/faq.html

    Here are 3Muskateers:
    http://www.3musketeers.com/index.shtml

    AH HA! I just found a recipe which suggests either using a “milky way bar US” or a “Mars bar, UK.” ….

    Mars bars don’t have an official website. And all the other M+M/Mars owned candies do… (at least in the US…I had to specify country….)

    AIIIIIIE! I JUST FOUND A WEBSITE where they are selling the “snickers with almonds” saying they have OFFICIALLY REPLACED MARS BARS in the US!!!!!!!!
    New Snickers with Almonds!! “Offered by M & M Mars these new Snickers have replaced the old Mars Bars with the same great taste and a new name. The one and only candy bar … in chewy caramel and sinful chocolate. Case contians 12 boxes of 24 candy bars, for a total of 288 delectable Mars bars.”

    [And I explained what Snickers were in the previous post. Its nouget with caramel and peanuts. So the Snickers "Almond" means almonds instead of peanuts....just like a US Mars bar would be. THEY DID IT! :( ]

    http://www.storefinder.mmmars.com/snickers/bar_temp.htm

    I’m gonna go cry now. :(

    [Still we have these huge discrepencies... it will take them a while to work em out...]

  • http://www.makunas.com/aliveone Jenny

    Well, here in SF we can get Mache/Lamb’s Lettuce (I’ve heard and seen it called both) pretty regularly in bags at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. It’s definitely one of my favorites…so delicate and a nice change from the standard mesclun or arugula.

  • http://www.thefoodsection.com Josh

    When I bought mache recently here in New York, it came in the form of little seedlings, planted in some kind of foamy growing medium. I just snipped them right off of the stems.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Charlotte – I had no idea either, so that was a pleasant surprise!

    Meg – I’ve also seen it called “lamb’s ear lettuce” (probably because of the shape of the leaves), which explains the whole lamb thing a little better!

    Cecilia – Here, you can find it either loose or pre-packed. It’s usually keeps longer if you’ve bought it loose (sometimes mold develops in the humidity at the bottom the plastic trays)… It’s one of my faves too!

    Boreal – I would so love to have a vegetable patch to grow all kinds of rare produce myself. Loved the bit about the green tomatoes which don’t get stolen!

    Robert – Thanks, I’m delighted you like it!

    Jenny – Aaaah glad to hear it, count on TJ’s to bring good stuff to the people! :)

    Josh – That’s an interesting packaging, never seen it here. Do you think it keeps them fresh longer?

  • http://www.epicroots.com isaac cronin

    I work with Epic Roots, the only produce company that grows and distributes mache rosettes year round in north america. On our web site you can find additional recipes as well as stores that
    carry our products. Our farms are in the Salinas Valley in Central California. We use heirloom French seed and hand cut the rosettes. The chicken soup recipe sounds fabulous.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Isaac – Thanks for pointing us to that website, the recipes sound great : I’ll definitely have to try that Mâche Pesto!

  • boreal

    Oh the green tomatoes are my favorites and are becoming more popular with home gardeners and you’ll see them in farmer’s markets. Green Zebra is smaller than Aunt Ruby’s German green, but is a tad more tart. I love “heirloom” (or unusual) tomatoes, if you ever want a great book on it, Carolyn Male has written a good one called 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Gardener (published by Smith and Hawkins) and she hangs out on the tomato forum on Gardenweb (which is extremely active with posts from around the world.)

    Cherokee Purple is another great one and also gaining popularity. I could go on, the tomato list is endless!

    Does anyone there sell “Romanesco Broccolli/Cauliflower” (it can fall into either category.) Thompson and Morgan sells seed for it, so I know it must be commonly grown on that side of the pond. Its the kind with a light green flower, tastes/texture like cauliflower, but the florets spiral upward in a pyramid shaped spiral, just DELICIOUS and fun to grow.

    Oh, you know how I found your website? The “french gardening” website recommended me and she has the best articles on growing veggies in France… http://www.frenchgardening.com

  • http://www.collectivus.com Holly

    For some strange reason that I have yet to figure out, Lamb’s Lettuce/Mache is also referred to as “Corn Salad.” How did it get that name? While I have never actually seen it, I can’t imagine that it looks like a corn salad (not that I have ever seen a corn salad, but . . .).

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Boreal – Yes, I have occasionnally seen Romanesco cabbage (“Chou Romanesco” as it is called here) at produce stores. I bought it once, loved the look but wasn’t too impressed by the taste – I may not have prepared it in the most flattering way though. What’s your favorite cooking method for it?

    Holly – Never seen corn salad either! But maybe it’s sometimes called that because of the slightly sweet taste?

  • Hande

    try romanesco (some pictures: http://www.pixum.de/viewalbum/?id=1160833) (or broccoletti) like this:
    seperate into little bouquets, cook (not too soft) in salt water, drain. mix with a dressing of salt, mustard, time, red hot chili, balsamico and olive oil. Eat while tepid as a salad or side dish.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Hande – Thanks for the advice, that dressing sounds great!

  • Monique

    I’m making it right now. Adding a heap of fresh herbs and freshly sliced shallots to season.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Lovely — do report back when you taste it!

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