Eat Like a Farmer: Chicken Soup with Potato Dumplings & Sage Pesto

Eat like a farmer: Chicken soup with potato dumplings and sage & kale stem pesto

Nothing better on a wintery afternoon than a pot of comforting, ultra-nutritious chicken soup, is there? Almost every ingredient in this recipe is available locally at the Saturday farmers market in Boyne City, where even in deepest January, you can find 100% local, fresh and even organic vegetables, pasture-raised meats, and much more. 

Here’s our organic farm’s favorite slow soup for a wintery afternoon.


1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems reserved for the pesto
Chopped, cooked meat from one stewing hen (a regular chicken will work, too) * 
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or ½ teaspoon dried
3 quarts chicken broth


1 pound cubed potatoes, not peeled if they’re organic
¾ cup flour, plus more
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


1 bunch fresh sage leaves
Stems from 1 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil

Simmer the minced onions and carrots in salt and olive oil until they begin to relax. To save myself some dishes, I like to use the same pot I’ll eventually use for the soup. The goal is to make the carrots and onions almost melt together, and this takes patience. Chop the onions and carrots smaller than small, and turn the flame down as low as it will go. If the pot begins to stick before about 20 minutes have passed, add a couple tablespoons of water and keep on going. 

While your onions are simmering, cube some potatoes, dump them into a saucepan of water along with a tablespoon of salt, and cook them until they’re tender. Drain them off, mash them well, and then stir in the salt, egg, nutmeg, and flour. Your mashed potatoes should now resemble a very soft dough. Using plenty of extra flour, mold the dough into long ropes about an inch thick. Chop these ropes into ¾-inch thick nubs. Later, you’ll throw these odd buttons of dough into the soup—when they rise back up through the broth, they’re dumplings. 

By now, your onions are probably done. Pour the strained chicken broth into the big soup pot that you’ve used to sauté the onions and carrots, and add the cooked, chopped chicken back, too. Remove the stems from the kale and set them aside. Chop up the leaves, too. About 20 minutes before you plan to serve the soup, you’ll want to add the kale leaves along with the uncooked bits of dumpling. 

From here, you could choose to serve the soup just as it is, but when I’ve got time, I like to finish it off with a flourish of winter pesto. While pesto was invented by people who didn’t have to consider northern winters that last half the year, we come from a different set of facts. Carrot tops, scallions, thyme, blanched kale leaves—I give you permission to put absolutely anything you want in the food processor and call it pesto.

Today, we’ll use kale stems and sage.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the garlic and toasted walnuts first. Then add roughly chopped kale stems. Pick the woody stems from some sage leaves, and toss them in as well. Pulse until a fine paste forms, then transfer it to a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan and olive oil. You might want to add a little salt.  

Twenty minutes before dinnertime, add the chopped kale leaves and dumplings to the simmering stock, and when they’ve risen to the surface, serve the soup. Pass the bowl of pesto around so everyone can add a dollop to their own bowl. 

* This recipe jumps in at the point where you’ve got a cutting board of chopped, pasture-raised chicken meat, and a stock pot of strained broth.  For step by step instructions on how to get to this point, click here.