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

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 (dendĂȘ 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 dendĂȘ 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.