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Cooking with Hannibal: Relevés

Black Silkie Chicken Soup with Red Dates and Bok Choy

Black Silkie Chicken Soup with Red Dates and Bok Choy

If you really care about someone, you make them chicken soup…while you’re convincing everyone around you that they’re mad. And a serial killer. At least, that’s what you do if you’re Hannibal. In this episode, Will Graham is laid up and Hannibal, in between periods of plotting Will’s incarceration in a loonie bin, makes him a restorative chicken broth. Ya know…’cause he cares. From food stylist Janice Poon’s blog, it looks like it’s a soup of black silkie chicken, with red dates (also known as jujubes), goji berries, bok choy, ginseng and  white fungus. All of these ingredients are considered to have health benefits in Chinese medicine.

The reason the chicken looks so dark is because black silkie chickens look like this:

Black Silkie Chicken, Image by

Black Silkie Chicken, Image by

If a chicken can be adorable, the black silkie is it. This is what it looks like plucked (less adorable):

Plucked Silkie Chicken, Image by Clove Garden

Plucked Silkie Chicken, Image by Clove Garden

Silkie chickens come with white feathers or black feathers, but both varieties have black skin, as above. Don’t they look cool in soup? What a great idea for clear broths.

My favorite easy chicken soup is a recipe from Canal House Cooks Every Day. The authors, Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton, are two ex-Saveur Magazine staffers who run Canal House Cooking, and do all the photography, design, production, recipes, the works. They’ve written a whole bunch of cookbooks and continue to produce 3 a year. You can subscribe, and get them as they come out for $50.

If you have extra meatballs, you can always freeze them in a little tomato sauce. For a good quick dinner in a pinch, you can just add some pasta to the tomato sauce and meatballs, top with some parm and fresh basil and you’re good to go.

I find meatballs work better with some breadcrumbs to bind, so I’ve adapted the recipe a little. I tweaked some measurements since I find it easier to measure grated nutmeg than the amount of a whole nutmeg grated, for example. Hope you enjoy, even if you’re not being plagued by a serial killer.

Chicken Broth with Spinach and Little Meatballs, Image from Canal House Cooking

Chicken Broth with Spinach and Little Meatballs, Image from Canal House Cooking

Chicken Broth with Spinach and Little Meatballs

Adapted from Canal House Cooks Every Day

Yield: 8 to 10 servings



1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground veal

2 ounces ground prosciutto

1/2 cup fresh whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

1 egg, beaten

1 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Breadcrumbs, as needed


10 to 12 cups chicken broth

1 pound baby spinach

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil (finishing quality)


For the Meatballs:

Gently mix  the pork veal, prosciutto, ricotta, pecorino, egg, parsley, mint, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add just enough breadcrumbs to bind. DO NOT compress or overmix, or you will get meatballs the consistency of hockey pucks. You can test the seasoning by taking a teaspoon and cooking it in a frying pan with a knob of butter. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. Using a small scoop, put a small ball, about the size of a teaspoon, in your hand and roll a meatball. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the mixture. You should get about 80 small meatballs. They can be made ahead of time. 

For the Soup:

Bring the chicken broth to a  simmer in a large pot. Cook the meatballs in the broth until they float and then cook 1 more minute so they are cooked all the way through. Transfer about 10 mini meatballs to a shallow bowl, add a little broth and cover with plastic wrap to keep warm as you cook off the rest of the meatballs. Strain the broth when done into a medium bowl. Return to a rinsed out pot and return to a medium heat. Add the spinach and allow to wilt, then remove from the heat. Season the soup. 

To Serve:

Divide the meatballs between the serving bowl. Ladle some soup and spinach into each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, then serve.


About francoiseeats

I'm currently working as a freelance travel and food writer, and photographer. I spent two years at, the culinary on-line magazine for the industry insider. My articles have been published in New York, NY and Richmond, VA. After graduating from Columbia University and recovering from the tragedy of not being able to read Camus books for a living, I attended The Culinary Institute of America, where my scone consumption rose drastically. Fluent in French and Italian, I've worked in some of New York's top restaurants and covered food-related stories in a number of publications, from The Richmond Times-Dispatch to Time Out New York.

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