Spoonin' some slurpy stuff about the world's drippiest drool

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Beef Borscht

Great winter soup. This one hits most of the senses - the color is beautiful, the flavor has the richness of beef, garlic mixed with the sweetness of the beets and the tangyness of dill and lemon. The aroma will fill the entire house.

No real recipe is necessary here - just some basic soup making approaches -

Start with a meat base - I used beef short ribs, but I'm sure chuck or shank would work well too - I do like using meat with bones - you get the added flavor from the marrow. The key is in the browning - I used butter in a cast iron skillet and got all sides nice and brown.

Next step, start to braise the meat - I used beef broth - I imagine water would work for cost savings, but the beef broth does add richness. Especially cooking beef in it - even the store bought stock that is usually just made with bones (maybe they pass a tray of beef near it when it is cooking) will be fine because it is infused with the beef flavor. I added onion with cloves, garlic and dill for flavor and let it simmer for an hour. I used an enameled cast iron soup pot, just big enough to keep the meat totally submerged in liquid, and covered the pot.

Next came the veggies - carrots, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes and beets (I'm thinking fennel might be nice too - any root vegetables would be fine - just nothing so strong that it overpowers the beets) as well as chicken broth (I used homemade brown broth, again for richness - but store bought would work fine) and caraway seeds - make sure you have about 10 cups of liquid all told - if as its simmering it cooks down add a little more. You could probably use water - just to keep it around ten cups. I also add a bit of tomato paste because we like tomatoey soups! (One note - because I wanted the meat submerged in the last step, I had to switch pots when adding the extra ingredients - one more pot to wash, but the meat turned out really tender).

After another hour of simmering, let it cool, shred the meat and return it to the soup. Toss the cloved onion (I quartered mine for ease of removal). The best situation at this point is to put the whole deal in the fridge, let the flavors meld and easily get the congealed fat off the top. Because the meat is fatty, there will be a good bit of grease which does nothing for the soup eating experience. If you can't wait, and must have the soup right away, strain the liquid and put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Then you should be able to skim the fat off the top. A gravy skimmer will work too - I actually used both methods last night just to be sure.

Finally, when you are ready to enjoy your soup, add more fresh dill (or whatever prevalent herb you are using - I am definitely trying fennel next time instead of dill, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. You might also decide to add sugar for balance - that is a taste as you go sort of thing. I also topped the soup with sour cream.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Soup with Duck

Pumpkin apple soup with duck topping at Clyde's Restaurant in Rockville, MD. The pumpkin was pureed very smooth, the apple was diced and still fairly supple. The soup was well seasoned with a mild bite to it. All of the flavors were well balanced. Personally, I would have preferred the apple as puree also, with some diced apple as topping - the small diced pieces of apple made the consistency less pleasant.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey

18 pound turkey cooked on an infrared grill. The U shaped pan allows total circulation of the heat without direct flame. Wood chips were also used for smoking. The result - the turkey cooked in 2 hours and was extremely juicy. The skin browned fairly quickly and needed to be tented for the last 30 minutes. The turkey was basted 3 times in the 2 hour period, and was cooked at 300 degrees. The skin was rubbed with olive oil salt and pepper, and the bird was stuffed with onion, lemon, rosemary and thyme. Helpful tips - the bird was brought to room temp prior to grilling, and was patted dry inside and out prior to dressing.