Got to Be NC
Recipe by: Vivian Howard

Don’t let the name deter you. Ben coined it because I make pot after pot of this during the winter, and I intentionally leave out carbs and bacon and cream and other stuff he thinks should appear in it because I am, in fact, trying to achieve a leaner state. The idea of this started with the cabbage-soup-diet fad from the 1990s. I actually made that sad soup, and even back then, before I was a chef, I couldn’t understand why it had to taste so bland.

The approach for making soup is a little unorthodox. It builds on my mom’s technique for chicken and rice and produces a much more flavorful broth than adding pieces of chicken to chicken stock. I save my Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds in the freezer for moments like this. You should do the same, whether or not you make this soup; they add a lot of background flavor to broths. The idea is to use whatever you have, but collards are my favorite green for this because they retain more texture than anything else. Sub in any greens or herbs you like.

Note: Because we eat this at home a lot, I always have cooked lentils, potatoes, barley, or brown rice on hand so that Ben can add heft to his bowl.

Recipe from “Deep Run Roots: Stories & Recipes from My Corner of the South,” by Vivian Howard (Little, Brown and
Company, 2016).

Meal Type: Entree

Print Recipe


1 2-1/2 to 3-1/2
pound chicken
yellow onion, peeled and split
garlic cloves
sprigs thyme
tsp dried oregano
tsp chili flakes
bay leaves
quarts water
tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
small yellow onions, diced
cup diced celery (2 large stalks)
cup diced carrots (2 medium)
teaspoons salt, divided
cups Tomatoes in Jars (page 264) or canned tomatoes
oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds (about 3 square inches)
lb. collards, large stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch squares
tbsp light brown sugar
turns of the pepper mill or ¼ teaspoon black pepper
cup Basil Pesto (page 346), optional


Step 1

Rinse the chicken and place it, breast-side up, in a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven.  

Step 2

Add the peeled onion, garlic, herbs, chili flakes, bay leaves, and water. Cover and bring it up to a boil.

Step 3

Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour or until the chicken is, as my mother would say, “falling to pieces.” Let the chicken cool in the broth for 30 minutes. 

Step 4

Transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate. Pluck out the herbs, bay leaves, and onion (but feel free to leave the garlic) and pour the broth into a bowl.

Step 5

Wipe the same Dutch oven dry and add the olive oil. Over medium heat, sweat the diced onion, celery, and carrots with 1 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes.

Step 6

Add the broth, tomatoes, and Parm rinds to the pot. Cover and bring it up to a boil.

Step 7

Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pick the meat off the chicken and get the collards ready. You want these collards spoon-friendly, so make sure you cut them into squares, not ribbons.

Step 8

After 20 minutes, remove the Parm rinds and add the chicken, collards, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the black pepper. Cook for 20 minutes more.

Step 9

Serve warm as is or with a dollop of pesto.

Recipes found on this page are from Got to Be NC members, staff, industry partners and Stove Side Chats. Stove Side Chats is Got to Be NC’s cooking show hosted by restaurant marketing specialist Chad Blackwelder. This series invites chefs and home cooks from around the state to teach you how to cook with in-season North Carolina deliciousness.