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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beef, Borscht and Beyond

Beef Borscht

My earliest memories of borscht are my Mom taking the container of purple liquid with the occasional beet chunk out of the refrigerator, adding some hard boiled egg, and pouring it in a bowl. It is a wonder I ever tried borscht again.

Many years later, a neighbor of ours, freshly immigrated from Moscow, served me a warm version of that same purple concoction. This time, however, the soup was rich and velvety, brimming with melt in your mouth beef and bright, fragrant herbs. And so began my love affair with beets and borscht.

The recipe I finally have settled on starts with short ribs. I used boneless - that's all they had at the store, but on the bone would add more flavor. I browned the ribs and then simmered them in beef stock with cloved onions and dill for an hour and then with beets, tomatoes, potato, carrots, leek, caraway seeds, chicken stock and water for another hour. This time I added beer to deglaze the skillet after browning the ribs - I'm happy to report the beer added a yeasty flavor that complimented the caraway nicely. I finished the soup with lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and pepper and topped each bowlful with a dollop of sour cream.

And now for the beyond. What to do with the leftovers. The easy answer is - eat them. But when you have leftover horseradish mashed potatoes too, you start to get creative. My solution - pull the solids out of the soup and place in a casserole dish. Cook down the soup liquid to a syrup and pour over the solids. Mix in fresh chopped dill and top with the horseradish mashed potatoes. Voila - Psychedelic Shepherd's Pie.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ancho Chili Turkey Soup

After eating turkey for the last four days, I have to say I was less than excited about the prospect of turkey soup. However, the remaining turkey parts, leftover gravy and the need to reclaim my refrigerator from said leftovers, beckoned. So, I embarked on a painstaking search for an acceptable turkey soup recipe (ok, I used my Epicurious app on my Iphone). I settled on one that that suggested to me that with enough chili and cumin our beleaguered mouths and stomachs might not immediately recognize the same main ingredient they had been subjected to repeatedly since Thursday.

First let me say, that recipe was an extremely loosely defined term with this particurlar soup. More of an idea really - I liked the idea of spicy, smoky flavors. That is where we parted company. I already had made stock from the carcass, so I was way ahead of the game recipe wise. By way of preparation, I soaked a couple of dried anchos in a cup of boiling stock, then pureed it. To thicken the stock I made a roux with a butter/oil combination and flour, added in the onions, then when softened, the garlic and red chilis. A little white wine deglazed the pan (beer may have been better, but I was in the mood for a glass of wine), and in went the stock (mixed with the ancho liquid). I added in the leftover gravy too (no real need for it since I threw in most of the leftover turkey meat). After a good bit of simmering and tasting, I threw in frozen succotash (a dish served on the first Thanksgiving I believe) and seasoned with smoked salt. The spicy paprika I had planned to finish the soup with was unnecessary - the chilis spiced things up just fine. Tortillas served on the side added crunch and a bit more salt.

As hoped for, the turkey provided texture and some reminiscence of flavor, without just being more of the same. I would say four days of turkey is enough for awhile, but by next November we will certainly be ready to trod down the turkey path.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey stock

This year, our Thanksgiving meal began and ended with soup. Before, a lot of preparation, between, family, friends, lots of laughter and plenty of turkey, and after, exhaustion.

We started with chestnut soup. Roasted chestnuts pureed with veggies and herbs in homemade chicken broth and swirled with thyme cream. It's a rich soup, so I served it in a teacup, set on a saucer. And then we waited.

For the last ten years our turkey has perched on our grill rather than in our oven. While the results are juicy and delicious, the timing is less than predictable, with outside temps playing a part in the overall cooking time. To make life easier this year, I spent a bit more on an organic turkey - not for it's organicness, but for it's pop up timer. Hah. Guess what didn't work. Money well spent. A push or two on the bird and a thermometer in the thigh are a better tell anyway. Smartest move this year - buying a disposable roasting pan, putting a cutting board in it and carving the turkey. No lost juices and no mess. Ok, one out of two on the money well spent thing.

Dinner and cleanup was a group effort. I played no part in the creation of the desserts this year - a time saving relief for me, and a culinary relief for our guests. "mans got to know his limitations" - mine is pie crusts. Unless they are actually supposed to have the consistency of rubber, I fail miserably at pie crusts. Pumpkin whoopee pies were also a hit with the kids, and some of the not kids.

Last year, as we were enjoying our meal, our dog Ginger decided the trash can was not the best place for the turkey carcass - it was much better dragged out of the trash and gnawed on the kitchen floor. This year, I made stock. By the time the carcass was done simmering even Ginger wouldn't have wanted it. All the flavor from the meat was transferred to the liquid, fresh herbs and a bit of onion and lemon made for a really flavorful broth. Sorry Ginger. One meal done, and the promise of another already begun. More to be thankful for.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cioppino (Fisherman's Stew)


I love San Francisco. I love everything about it - the amazing hills, the barking of the sea lions at the wharf, Irish Coffee, fabulous hot chocolate at Giardelli's, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, MOMA, I could go on forever. Ok, maybe one more thing. Cioppino. Invented in San francisco by local fisherman, using their catch of the day. Cioppino comes from the dialect used in Genoa, Italy and means to chop. Italian fishermen settling in San Francisco in the late 1800s developed this wonderful stew as a means to use what was left of their catch.

Any assortment of seafood is fine here - as long as there is plenty! I used halibut, clams, shrimp and scallops. I love crab, and were there company coming it would have been in the pot, but for the three of us I saw no point in dealing with extra utensils to get the crab out of the shell, or the extra cost.

As for the red components of the stew; my mantra - if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it - a good, dry red wine should be used here. I also like to err on the side of too much when it comes to anything tomato - it is hard to find highly flavored tomatoes, so a little extra never hurts!

This particular recipe also calls for a combination of chicken broth and clam juice for cooking liquid. I have still never seen a chicken swimming in the ocean, so there will still be no chicken broth in my seafood stew. Last week I had made seafood broth from clam shells, parsley, garlic etc - it took about 45 minutes, made more than enough for last weeks recipe and the cioppino, so that's what I used.

Finally, I would suggest, wherever possible, to finish this stew with fresh herbs, not dried. There is so much flavor and acid in here that the brightness of fresh parsley and basil will really make a difference.

Oh, and as we sat eating our stew, there was an empty bowl placed in the middle of the table. For what you ask? Why to save the clam shells and shimp shells for the next batch of seafood broth, of course.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Matzoh Balls with Chicken Soup

Matzoh Balls in Chicken Soup

Happy Passover! As Jews all over the world contemplate the struggles of those without the freedoms we take for granted, solace is found, perhaps universally, in a familiar form; chicken soup. Maybe the seasonings and vegetables change with the locale, but warm, inviting broth with a generous dose of chicken, stays constant.

Seems like an easy enough soup to make. Heck, in a pinch, pop a top and you've got chicken soup. Just ignore that voice in the back of your head saying "man there's a lot of salt in this" and "I just don't get the sense of Mom in this soup".

For this particular soup, I needed a head start. I have found in the past, that if one of several aspects of this soup are bland, the whole thing falls apart. So this time, I decided to break out each component and deal with it separately. First, the chicken.

Day 1. Make roast chicken with lemon, rosemary, garlic salt. (1 C Kosher salt with grated lemon rind, chopped fresh rosemary, minced garlic). Clean and pat dry the chicken. Put 2 TBSp of the salt mixture in the cavity plus the juice of one lemon and the squeezed lemon rinds. Rub the whole bird with olive oil, and cook for 60 - 75 min @ 450 deg. As soon as it is cooked, and the juices run clear at the thigh, remove from the oven, and sprinkle with another Tbsn or two of the salt mixture. Let sit covered for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, deglaze the roasting pan and use as gravy. Enjoy - this dish makes my mouth water just thinking about it. SAVE THE CARCASS!!!! Put the carcass and any accumulated juices in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for a couple of hours. Strain and save. Make sure you save at least two cups of this chicken meat for the soup - you do not want to rely on the cooked chicken meat from the broth making for flavor.

Day 2. Make brown chicken broth. Roast the chicken parts, carrots, celery, leeks, onions at 450 for an hour. Then move to a soup pot, cover with water, and add your bouquet garni of choice. Since I already had some broth flavored with lemon, rosemary and garlic, my bouquet garni consisted of fresh rosemary sprigs, flat leaf parsley and bay leaves. Since my amazing Boss went to Egypt and brought me back a huge container of really high quality saffron, I added a bit of crushed saffron in too. All this simmered for about 3 hours and was strained and saved. The chicken and cooked vegetables were not saved - I know, I am a bad, wasteful person. I also tasted that cooked chicken and decided it had given all of its flavor to the broth and was simply a shell of its former self.

Day 3. Make the Matzoh Balls. I have been using a version of this recipe from the "New York Cookbook" for about 10 years:

The secret ingredient is Vodka! Selzer makes them light, vodka adds to the flavor. Don't skimp on the salt here, make sure all the ingredients are well mixed. And the less you touch the matzoh balls the better - wet hands, roll them off the spoon quickly and into the boiling water.

Next, cut up your soup veggies. I used carrots, celery and leeks. Saute them in butter until the colors are bright and they are slightly tender. Add in the chicken meat from day 1, and just cook a little longer until it is heated.

Combine the chicken broth from Day 1 with the brown broth from Day 2, for a rich, flavorful, mahogany colored broth. At this point, all players are still separate, and will remain so. Once the matzoh balls are done, plop two into a soup bowl, add the cooked vegetables and chicken, and then ladle on the broth. I saved whatever matzoh balls were left over with a little broth, and the remaining broth went in the freezer for the next soup creation.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Brazilian Seafood Soup

Brazilian Seafood Soup

Food & Wine, April 2010

One hundred, thousand, million times better than paella - if you like paella, you will love this. And if you don't like paella (infidel), try it anyway.

The most important step here, is to remember to read through the entire recipe before you ever touch a pan. Organization is key. If you marinate and make the stock the night before, this is a perfect soup for entertaining. It requires a bit of assembly, but is lush in color and aroma, and has enough flavors to keep your mouth highly entertained. Be sure to make the coconut cashew rice - it really adds dimension and sweetness to the soup.

I marinated my fish and seafood overnight. I only used the shrimp and mahi mahi, but truthfully, did not miss the squid. I think the main thing the squid would add would be additional texture - and truthfully this soup is texture city. I used peanut oil for the dende oil

"palm oil = dende oil (dendê oil) Notes: This bright orange palm oil is a staple in Brazilian cuisine, but very high in saturated fat. Substitutes: annatto oil (Not as flavorful, but it has a similar color and is lower in saturated fat.) OR peanut oil (This is lower in saturated fat, but it lacks dendê oil's distinctive color. To compensate, add ground annatto seeds to the oil.)" , Cooks Thesaurus, Oils & Cooking Sprays

because of the fat content, and paprika for the piment d'Espelette (dried red pepper from Espelette, FR) - because I didn't have any.

The shrimp I used was frozen with only the tail on (I know sacrilege) so instead of making my stock from shrimp shells, I used a bag of clam shells I had saved and frozen. Equally delicious, and I made enough to put 6 cups of seafood stock in the freezer for cioppino in the weeks to come.

The rest was per the recipe. If you already have the stock made and the seafood marinated, there is only about 30 minutes of work left to do. It only looks like it took forever.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage made in the Crock Pot

Corned Beef and Cabbage

First of all, I am not a week late with this post, I am 51 weeks early. Dishes like this take months of planning - I don't want anyone to fall behind. Not really. Actually, all the ingredients were assembled and in the crock pot in about 15 minutes. And in a mere seven hours +/- it was ready. Oh how I love slow cooking - thank you to my awesome Sister-in-Law, Juliana, for giving me a crock pot as a present many, many years ago.

The beauty of this dish, is you don't really have to prep before throwing the ingredients in the pot - there is no browning of the meat - just a tiny bit of cutting of the onions. The cabbage goes in at the end, ( I actually used some of the broth to braise my cabbage separately)and the pototoes are boiled separately, so really, the corned beef and seasonings are all in the pot and cooking in about 15 minutes.

From experience, I would suggest a good quality corned beef - I have heard corned beef horror stories of the meat turning out gelatinous, or being flavorless. The meat comes prebrined (unless you want to take the extra time to do the brining yourself), so is really about cooking slowly to tenderize this cut of beef (brisket) and seasoning well. Remember, it is a fatty cut. I had a 5+ lb corned beef to cook and cut it in half before throwing it in the pot. It let me see how much fat I was dealing with. Even with the long (what turned out to be nine hour) cook time, there was still plenty of fat to cut away during carving. On the plus side, I had lots of delicious broth that I will use in the future to cook vegetables and who knows what else. (And now you see why this recipe made it to the blog - it is no different than any other broth that you make, other than the meat is not roasted first).

Here is the link to the recipe from Cooks.com that I used.

Also, for those curious about the history of corned beef and cabbage, here is a short video that teaches and makes your mouth water at the same time.

Holiday Foods: Corned Beef and Cabbage — History.com Video

Monday, March 15, 2010

Smoky Black Bean Soup

Smoky Black Bean Soup

I'm getting smarter - I've learned to set the picture up before I put the sour cream in top - because once the cream hits the hot soup, you have about a nanosecond to take the picture before a dollop becomes an octopus.

I also picked up a couple of new soup bowls for a change of pace - the one in the photo was $3.99 at IKEA. The quality is decent, and the price was right!

This was also an easy soup to make - to speed up the process, I brought the beans and cold water to a boil, then turned off the heat and let them sit covered for an hour. This is a good method if you don't have time for an over night soak.

The soup gets its smoky flavor from the hamhock. The usual suspects - leeks, carrots, onions and celery are browned, then the ham hock, beans thyme and bay leaves are cooked with chicken broth and water (about 6 cups of liquid)- simmering for about 2 1/2 hours. Make sure the beans are always covered in liquid during the simmering process. I used a highly seasoned broth made from the carcus of a chicken I had roasted. (This is a great way to get the most out of whole roast chicken. Roast the bird, carve it, and then cover the carcus with water and boil it. It is not the long process you have when you start with raw parts - but it also only makes about four cups of broth.)

Once the beans are tender, add in crushed tomatoes and hot sauce to taste (I used a chipotle hot sauce for a little Tex Mex dimension). Cook for another 15 minutes, adjust salt, add more hot sauce? and throw half of it in the blender. Add it back in the pot, taste it again and serve. Personally, I like a bit of sour cream on top, and a bit of cilantro adds color and compliments the chipotle hot sauce. Oh, and a ice cold bottle of Yeungling beer!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cod Stew with Chorizo, Leeks and Potatoes

Cod Stew with Chorizo, Leeks and Potatoes

So, I believe I have found the simplest comfort food recipe on the planet. A monkey could make this one. It is from "Fine Cooking", April 2004, and not only is it simple and quick, it is delicious. You can make most of the recipe ahead and just pop the cod on top and steam it right before you are ready to serve it.

This stew is really no different than most soup or stew recipes. Heat your fat and flavor it. I used a spicy chorizo - there was enough sweet and starch in the stew to warrant a bit of heat. In this recipe the chorizo and leeks are cooked first and then garlic is thrown in for 1 minute. Be very prepared to slow down the garlic with liquid as soon as the minute is up - there is nothing worse than bitter, burnt garlic to muck up a perfectly seasoned bit of oil. Next come the stewing liquids - wine, water and the juice from the tomatoes. If you are using fresh tomatoes be sure you still have enough liquid - I'm not convinced there is that big a taste difference using the canned, quite frankly. If they are not fresh off the vine, I dare you to tell the difference, and if they are fresh off the vine, why on earth are you wasting them in a stew? (Make sure you use good wine - you will know the difference if you don't.) Next, thicken things up with the potatoes and parsley. Now taste it. Add salt and pepper now, because once the cod is in there it will be tough to stir in additional seasonings.

Set your table, take your shower, play with the dog, have a nice glass of wine, do whatever you want until you are ready to sit down to eat. When its time, season the cod, pop it on top of the stew and partially cover.

Don't forget to make it look like you've been working really hard.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Transylvanian Goulash


The bad news - I forgot to take pictures of my Transylvanian Goulash. The good news - I found beautiful pictures of Transylvania to post instead. I am also including a map to help locate Transylvania, and a travel website for more info.


As for the goulash, this one is made with pork shoulder and sauerkraut. I have also seen versions with chicken, and I'm sure they are delicious, but I'm sticking with the pork butt. I was struck by how closely this recipe is to traditional Alsatian recipes that combine meats simmering in sauerkraut. The difference is in the spices used. Paprika, caraway - provide a distinctly Eastern European flair.

As always when browning meat for stew, do not crowd the pan. It is always better to brown multiple batches properly, than to end up stewing your meat in released juices. Even if you are in a hurry, this step must be done properly or the meat will taste dry and the texture will be compromised.

It so happened the day I was making the goulash, I wandered into Wegman's supermarket. I don't get there often, and when I am there I don't always get to the deli counter, but on this day I did, and to my delight I found Hungarian sausage. Seemed like kismet to me, so they were browned also, when I was browning the pork.

After loosening all the yummy browned bits from the browning process with chicken broth, I proceeded to ignore the recipe, and did not wash the sauerkraut. I did that once, and ended up with tasteless cabbage. Now I leave the sauerkraut sour, the way it was meant to be.

My particular recipe also called for a red bell pepper and salt paste. Basically 2 lbs of pepper mixed witha cup of salt (I ground it with my mortar and pestle). This quantity may last me the rest of my life - we'll see. I did not get the sense it was absolutely necessary, salt would have done fine, but it did brighten the flavor and color of the dish.

With that said, I was a bit disappointed with the overall color once the cream was mixed in. I guess it can't be helped, but there was a muddiness to it that I did not find as appealing. I can't really complain though. The sourness of the cabbage combined with the sweetness of the pepper and paprika, and the savor of the meats was perfect in combination with the sour cream. Add in good, garlicky bread, and life is grand.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

Meatball tagine?! That's not soup, that's stew. And what happened to the Transylvanian Goulash?

So, the thing I'm finding about blogging, is it is really easy to get behind. I had made the tagine a couple of weeks ago, and just didn't have a chance to write about it yet. It just didn't seem right to move the goulash ahead in the blog line.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, January 2010, but I found it on Epicurious, when I was searching for a quick meat stew. A tagine is a Moroccan stew. Ok, technically this is not a soup, but the broth (hah, soup term) is so delicious you will want to to use a spoon, and for me, that is close enough.

I like this dish for a few reasons:
1. If you are organized and prepare properly, it takes about a third of the time of regular beef stew.
2. It meets a major criterion for moving from recipe to favorite - it excites four out of the five senses - glorious colors, tantalizing aromas, multiple textures and complex flavors.
3. The ingredients include saffron - 'nuf said.
4. The meatballs are made with minced garlic. So is the stew broth. Lots of garlic. Mmmm.
5. It only requires two cups of beef broth, so doesn't overly deplete my dwindling supply (yes, there is a broth making weekend in my immediate future).
6. It cooks in the oven leaving the cooktop free.
7. The meatballs cook in the stew, leaving the cooktop spatter free.
8. Did I mention all the garlic?

Like most soups/stews, this one was even better two or three days later. I served it over couscous, which gave it a bit more body, but wasn't starchy like rice. You may want good bread too, just so none of that stew broth goes to waste. You may also want to go to the gym, so that none of the meatballs go to waist.

As for the Transylvanian Goulash - stay tuned.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Epicurious App

I would try to blame my lack of posts on all the snow, but that would be ridiculous -I was stuck in the house anyway. Blaming it on my broken foot is pointless too - we still have to eat, and I can sit to type. So I am going to blame it on winter malaise. There. Argue with that.

However, the snow is melting, the sky is blue and I am starting to come out of the doldrums of monotone and frost, prompting me to begin rooting around for all things soup related. This exploration (and an ITouch from my thoughtful hubby) led me to my new favorite App - Epicurious


This app lets you search for recipes based on ingredients, meal type, cuisine, diet, or occasion. Once you do a search you can scroll through all the recipes for your parameters in the data base, most with photos and reviews. You can save your favorites and create shopping lists based on specific recipes. You can even email recipes. It is very convenient in a grocery store, when you see a great piece of something and need to build a recipe around it.

So far the recipes I have tried have been from top cooking mags - Bon Appetit, Gourmet, one was a rip off from Cook's illustrated, and the recipe reviewers caught it (I did too - it looked pretty familiar).

All in all, for under $5, I would say this is a handy, mobile tool.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Szechuan Pork and Pickle Soup, sort of

So, remember how I went to the trouble of color coding the lids on my broth. Apparently, that only works when you pay attention to the broth you are pulling out of the freezer. Because frozen, chicken brown broth looks a lot like beef broth. One trick, look for stray beef particles at the bottom of the container.

With that said, the other night, I made Szechuan Pork and Pickle Soup, sort of. Very quick and easy. Marinate very thin slices of pork in sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, combine with Szechuan preserved vegetable (you can get this at a specialty shop - there are lots of different kinds - cabbage and other vegetables). I wouldn't worry if you can't find the Szechuan preserved vegetables - even kimchee or any other asian pickled vegetable will impart that sour, spicy taste that makes this soup wonderful. I used a pickled cabbage, but not the szechuan version, so my soup was not terribly spicy. You can always add chiles to suit.

Next step, combine the meat and pickle with chicken broth, unless, of cccccourse you have defrosted beef broth. Since we all know what a time consuming activity it is to make broth, guess what I used...

Finally, add scallions and serve. Season with soy sauce if necessary.

Here is what I learned regarding this soup:
1) beef broth is too heavy a substrate for pork - even marinated pork is lost
2) I might have been able to use water instead of the beef more effectively. It didn't taste bad, its just that the pork was lost.
3) Keep the cooking time on the pork to a minimum. Unless it is paper thin, it will get chewy quickly.
4) Slice the pork paper thin

Here is what I am thinking for next time:
Substitute tenderloin or even brisket for the pork, use the beef broth and use spicier preserved veggies like kimchee or the Szechuan cabbage recommended originally.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sunchoke Soup?

Sunchoke Soup

Sunchoke soup. It was on the menu last night at The Blue Duck Tavern - a fabulous restaurant in DC. The full description included black garlic custard and gingerbread flavors. I was salivating. And yet I didn't order this spectacular soup. Why? Well, two reasons really; there was another appetizer that really intrigued me - when I am dining from the menu of a master chef, I am inclined to try dishes that I might not try at say, Denny's. A lesson learned from my husband - if I am going to try something questionable, I should at least be reasonably sure it is cooked properly, and - I knew at least one other person at my table would order the soup and I could have a taste.


First things first. The sunchoke, also called the Jeruselem Artichoke, sunroot, earth apple or topinambur, is a species of sunflower native to the eastern United States. It is a tuber, with a nutty, artichoke like flavor and a potato like consistency. It is wonderful to puree with other root vegetables, cauliflower, artichokes - you name it. Like everything else in life, it is great with bacon. Between the nuttiness and the sweet earthyness of the sunchoke, the possibilities for flavorings are endless. Add some good stock, a little cream, season to taste and off you go.

The soup last night was everything I expected - creamy texture, complex flavors that were made richer and sweeter by the additional flavorings.

So, what did I pass this all up for? Veal cheeks, that's what. Subtle flavor, succulent, braised to sublime tenderness, it doesn't even matter what other flavorings were on the plate (smoked potato puree and celeriac fondant). These cheeks definitely added to my smile.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Soup Flight

January is National Soup Month. Makes sense, sort of. I mean, yes, soup is wonderful comfort when it's cold out, but frankly, soup is wonderful period. Still, glad it's being given its due.

As for me, I will continue to celebrate the glory of soup on a regular basis. However, since it is soup month, I felt a little extravagance was in order. So, off to dinner I went, to Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda. Why you ask? Was it for Michael Corso's wine selection? Was it for their reknowned steak frites? Was it for the lovely dining experience? No, no, no. I wanted the soup flight. Three two ounce portions of their specialty soups (ok, and the wine).

The soup du jour was white bean purée with garlic and fried sage. Frankly, they had me at garlic and fried sage, the purée was just an added perk. Next was the porcini mushroom purée. Also lovely, great texture, nice flavors. Finally, onto my personal favorite - French Onion Soup - bubbly cheese tightly gripping the sides of the mug, thick with carmelized onions, tantalizing aroma - sigh, heartbreak - totally flavorless broth. Oh well, two out of three isn't bad for $5.95!

I paired my flight with a very dry reisling. Quite a nice way to begin an evening, or a mid month celebration of a favorite repast.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie

What do you do with a mountain of roasted chicken meat leftover from making stock? Why, you learn to make pasta, cut it into squares, and cook it in your fresh made chicken broth.

Learning to make pasta was easy - I had a good teacher and a hand crank pasta machine. I used a non egg dough recipe, passed down from my husband's Great Grandma. Mix it up, knead it till it holds together, flatten it out and crank it through on the fattest setting. You will have to put it through a bunch of times at that setting until it is fairly elastic again and ready for thinning. We folded it each time and turned it 90 degrees to keep it smooth and even. Keep cranking on thinner and thinner settings until you like the thickness. I rotated the strip 180 degrees each time to keep it smooth at the ends.

The rest was easy. once the pasta dries a bit it is easy to handle and cut - if it is too dry it will crack. Once it is cut into squares, you can add the squares, one layer at a time to the boiling broth. If you add them all at once they won't cook properly. I added a pinch of saffron too. Start checking the noodles after about 15 minutes.

I also sauteed carrots and onions in butter, and added them and the chicken meat to the broth after about 10 minutes of noodle cooking. A bit of good vinegar to taste and again, great, hard crusted bread. Who needs more? Well maybe a nice glass of wine too. A buttery Chardonnay would be lovely.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stock Talk

Stock. Do you immediately think of your portfolio when you hear that word? I do too, sort of. My portfolio is in my freezer. Chicken stock, beef stock mostly, but you never know. Except my portfolio was empty. Time to reinvest.

Stock - simple to make, if you plan well. Things to consider:

• How much? Stock is time consuming and freezes well, making large amounts can be cost effective and practical. Shop with an open mind - if chuck is on sale, great, but shanks and neck meat work well too. Whole roasting hens can be a lot less than cut up parts. Necks, backs and wings work too. Will you reuse the meat once its cooked - that will help choose the cuts you use too. Personally, I think beef chuck has a more pleasant taste and texture once it has been used
for stock than shank or neck.

Beef Stock

What kind? What do you use most - chicken can be substituted for beef if necessary, not alwaysthe other way around. Consider the time of year and the kinds of dishes you will be making.

Chicken Stock

• What will you cook it in? If you plan to make multiple pots at once, make sure the pots are large enough, and will all fit on the range top at once. At about five hours prep and cook time, I try to make as much as I can together!

    • What will you store it in? Multiple size containers give you flexibility when you are cooking - no point having to defrost more than you need. I use a color coding system with my lids to differentiate one type of stock from the next.

    With those questions answered, time to consider some details:

    • White or brown stock? For me, unless the color of the stock will effect the color of the dish, I go brown. That means the extra step of roasting the meat and veggies before simmering. It adds about 45 minutes, but the result is deep, rich color and a more developed flavor. I also think the cooked meat tastes better for the roasting.

    Roasting the Chicken

    • Veggies - the basics - onions, carrots, celery. For chicken stock, I like to add leek greens. I don't want to muddy the flavor of the meat, though, just enhance it.

    • Herbs - bouquet garni - standard is parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Consider what you will use the broth for. If you tend toward Mediterranean cooking, maybe rosemary and or sage would be better. I usually make batches with different herb combinations depending on what looks good at the store and what I will use the broth for.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Butternut Squash Soup

    The answer to winter's chill is soup. Soup to satisfy as many of the senses as possible. Last night I chose butternut squash. Beautiful orange color, aromas both sweet and smoky, silky texture with bits of bacon and smoked clams for chewing satisfaction, and a complexity of flavor. If this soup could play jazz, it would be perfect.

    As usual, I consulted a couple of cookbooks for ideas. Some I kept, most I didn't. I was in a hurry, so my usual approach of roasting the squash was out. Cooks Illustrated provided an option for steaming the squash. Shallots, squash seeds and guts are sauteed, then water is added to boil, creating an aromatic steaming liquid. Rather than 90 minutes, it took 30 minutes. Much quicker, but not as sweet as when the squash carmelizes from roasting.

    At this point, my path deviated from my recipe books. Rather than go the maple syrup or brown sugar route, I happen to feel that butternut squash has enough sweetness to stand up to smoky, savory flavors. So, into the skillet went chopped up bacon. When it was getting chewy and deep red/brown, I added diced jalepenos, diced red onions and after a few minutes, diced yellow pepper. I let it all drain and blot to remove as much bacon grease as possible then threw in a small container of smoked clams.

    Once the squash was tender, (and a bit cooled) I pureed it until it was smooth. I heated it up then took off the heat, and swirled in some golden balsamic vinegar. I put heaping spoonfuls of the bacon mixture in each bowl, poured the soup on top and yum.