Category: Soup/Stew

Gumbolaya

I guess you could really just call this a stew, but that’s not really telling of what kind of awesome goes inside. You know what you’re getting into when you say gumbo or jambalaya. This is just like both of those, taking the great things about them, stewing them in a pot and pouring them over rice.

The spice is going to creep up on you quickly depending on what you go for in terms of sausage and how much cayenne and creole seasoning you use. The hotter the better for us, as usual. I like to blow my nose during the meal. Super classy, right? The rice soaks up all of the tomato juice and helps mellow the kick. I picked up the okra in the freezer section and finally grabbed a jar of filé powder. It’s a gumbo necessity. I don’t cook this stuff often, but ever since the cajun cooking class I’ve been meaning to get some. It adds a bit of flavor and is a wonderful thickening agent. I’ll even throw it on a bowl of curry every now and then if it’s particularly watery.

While you could use chicken breasts for this, I really really really advocate for thighs here. They have so much more flavor and stand up to cooking for longer periods without drying out. The shrimp is optional, but again, I highly recommend it. It’ll add another layer of flavor to this quick dish. It’s not going to benefit from long cooking time. It needs all the help it can get. You do sacrifice a bit of flavor for the sake of time if I’m honest, but sometimes I don’t want to wait. This is perfect for my impatience.

Inspiration: The Cozy Apron

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1lb andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1lb chicken thighs [or breasts], cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, small dice
  • 1 large yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 large bell pepper, small dice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2lb okra, sliced
  • 28oz can of tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1/2lb cleaned and deveined shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • rice, for serving

Preparation

Heat some oil in large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the sausage. Let it sit for a minute or two so the oil starts to release from the meat and it starts to brown. Stir accordingly until all sides are heated. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered plate. Add the chicken to the pot. Brown it in the oil on all sides. Remove it to the plate with the sausage. Now add the onion, celery, and bell pepper [aka the holy trinity]. Stir occasionally until tender. Add the bay leaves, creole seasoning, cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine in the oil and vegetables. Add the garlic and stir quickly so it doesn’t burn or stick. It should smell heavenly. Add the tomato paste, stirring for about a minute or two before adding the stock, okra, tomatoes, chicken stock, chicken and sausage. Stir and bring to a boil before turning down to a low simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Finally add the shrimp and cook for about 2-3 minutes and they get color. Sprinkle the parsley and cilantro on top before serving. Oh and remove the bay leaves. Service over rice.

Spicy Kale and Pork Noodle Soup

And just like that the holidays came and went. Well, we still have NYE, right? I’m already writing 2015 at the office, and just like I wrote it now, I had to go back and fix 2014 to say 2015. My finger and brain are just not ready to coordinate in that fashion.

The holidays were full of good people and good food as they always are and always should be. That’s all I care about. The Christmas Eve feast of sandwich fixins and chips and dips outdid itself. My parents found a new-to-us Bavarian deli called Edelweiss, which yielded some new meats for the table. They also carry European specialty foods. I need to check this out. I made some parker house pretzel rolls based on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. I didn’t get a photo as I was running out of the house to get over to my parents’, but they’re just as good as they sound. I had to make the dough the night before, let it do its first rise, shape them, and then let the second rise happen in the fridge overnight. Since it was Christmas Eve, and I was working, I didn’t know when I’d get home. I wanted them to be freshly baked, so this was my first attempt at slowing the rise down like that. You don’t have to bring them back to room temp before baking. I let them sit out while the oven preheated and I boiled the baking soda mixture to ‘pretzel’ them, but that was it. They baked just fine, and I wouldn’t have known I had them in the fridge overnight. I also made the reuben dip again, in honor of Grammy, but the Thousand Island dressing I picked up really wasn’t my favorite. It was too sweet for my taste, but there was plenty of other food to make up it.

Christmas Day was the usual Mexican food feast since repeating Thanksgiving got old a few years ago. Crockpots full of meats, rice, and beans coupled with tamales, chicken enchiladas, taquitos and a table full of all kinds of toppings — fajita veggies, salsas, guacamole, more cheese, etc. It was heavenly. I avoided tortillas and chips just so I could mound my plate with a “taco salad.”

I hope your holidays were equally awesome.

I also wanted to leave you with this simple little soup if you’re not in the mood to cook or eat leftovers anymore. It’s really, really, really simple and has a whole bunch of greens if you feel like you’ve been missing that in your life the last few weeks. The “spicy” is relative to your tastes. Ramp it up or down depending on who is doing the eating. Feel free to use the already grown versions of these spices. I just happened to have them on hand and went with it.

Inspiration: Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients

  • 1/2lb ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce [plus more to taste]
  • 8oz dried rice noodles

Preparation

Smash together the ginger, peppercorns, chili flakes, cumin seeds, and garlic. I used a spice grinder because I’m lazy. Add the spice mixture to the ground pork in a bowl and mix together until incorporated. In your soup pot, heat the oil and medium high. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, add the ground pork. Let it sit for a minute before breaking it up. Any caramelizing on the bottom of that pan is a good thing. Break it up into small bite sized pieces while it cooks.

When the pork is no longer pink, add the chicken broth, scallions, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Bring the whole thing to a boil before turning it down to a simmer for 6-8 minutes. Add the kale [in batches if necessary] and allow it to cook down. Allow it to cook another 10 minutes or so.

In a separate pot, cook your rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and run cool water over the top. To serve, add some noodles to the bottom of your bowl and then add the soup on top. Add more chili flakes or fish sauce to taste.

Sardine and White Bean Stew over Couscous

I’m back. Well, I’ve been back since Thursday night.

I’m currently craving cheap espresso, fresh seafood, all things ham, and vermouth. I could absolutely go back to Portugal or Spain. I loved them both.

The recaps are in progress, I promise. In the meantime, I’ve been catching up on a lot of sleep and easing back into normal routines, whatever those are supposed to be. Between busy season at work and the vacation, I’m not sure I know anymore. Coming home to a three-day weekend was pretty awesome. I grilled because it’s Memorial weekend, and I’ve been dying to cook. The latest issue of Bon Appétit came in awhile I was gone, and it has a whole section about food and drink in Barcelona. Perfect timing. I was excited to see my favorite little bar of the whole trip was mentioned in it.

Since I’m clearly on a seafood kick, let’s eat some sardine and white bean stew. I’m always amazed by couscous whenever I actually decide to buy some. I eat it so infrequently, and you hardly ever see it in restaurants, that I forget how quickly it cooks. I don’t think I’ve ever screwed up a batch either. Is it possible to over/undercook it? I don’t think I have ever done it, not that I’ve tried.

Well, it’s a good base for pouring this sardine stew over the top of it. It’s not a heavy stew, and is totally brightened up by the fennel and white beans. The sardines are broken down within, so you only get hints of salty flesh here and there. It’s not overbearing in the slightest.

Inspiration: A Thought for Food

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 small fennel bulb, think sliced
  • 15oz can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 14oz can white beans, drained
  • 4oz sardines packed in oil, drained
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons, chopped parsley
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat. Cook the bread crumbs for a few minutes until it’s golden brown and smelling toasty. Set aside.

Add another two tablespoons of olive oil into the skillet, and lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic, carrots, fennel, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the skillet, and cook for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Add the tomatoes, beans, and sardines with a pinch or two of a red pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to breakdown the sardines into the vegetable mixture. It will thicken as it cooks. Taste for additional salt.

While the vegetables cook, bring a pot with the cup of water, oil, and salt to a boil. Add the couscous, turn off the heat, and cover. Allow it to cook for three minutes, absorbing the water. Fluff with a fork when it’s done.

Layer the stew over the couscous and top with the parsley and breadcrumbs before serving.

Cheese Tortellini Stew with Sausage

I’m still here. Promise.

Tax season is in full swing, so I’ve been spending 60 hours a week at the office and eating a lot of catered meals. I purposely go out to eat for lunch because a break from the computer is welcome. In other words, I’m not cooking.

I’ve been missing it, though. A lot.

In my lack of free time, we booked our flight to Spain and Portugal. Nearly three weeks there. I couldn’t be happier. It’s coming up quick, too, which makes it even better. There isn’t much worse than booking something so far in advance that it doesn’t even feel like it’s happening. Couple the quick timeline with a super busy work schedule, and I’ll be on that flight soon enough. Any suggestions? We’ve got a loose schedule of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Lisbon, and Porto. Anything else is extra. I’ve definitely learned that I can’t try to bake too much into the trip or I’ll be left exhausted and disappointed. The only things we’re trying to make happen is a ton of wine and a FC Barcelona match. I’m not a huge Barca fan, but I can’t go all that way to not see one of the best teams in the world. I’ve been working on my Español via Duolingo. I’m surprised at how much I remember. Seriously, though, suggestions. I need ’em.

This stew was random and made weeks ago in a fit of lusting after carbs and cheese. That’s normal, right? It all resulted in a famous “let’s throw everything in the pot, and see what happens.” Tortellini are one of those things that I can’t ever see myself making. It seems like way too much effort when there is are perfectly good pre-made ones at the store. Spinach, canned tomatoes, and Italian sausage round out the rest of it. It’s hardly a bad combination. Oh, and garlic and chili flakes. Lots of them, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from me. Shaved pecorino came later. And during. And before. That goes for the wine, too.

Ingredients

  • 8oz frozen tortellini
  • 15oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 10oz frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1lb spicy Italian sausage, sliced [mine was precooked]
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • chili flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
  • pecorino cheese, for serving

Preparation

Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the oil and wait until it starts to shimmer. Add the sliced sausage to the pan, browning it on a few sides. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Don’t let it burn. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, juice and all. Bring it to a boil and add the vinegar. Add the chopped spinach and tortellini. Bring to a simmer, and stir occasionally. Taste the tomato broth for salt and pepper. Add chili flakes to your heart’s content. The tortellini will be cooked through after about 10 minutes. Serve into bowls, and top with fresh shaved pecorino.

Chicken Soup with Dumplings

Valentine’s Day wasn’t nearly as awesome/awkward as those gone by. A delicious burger and fries from Killer Burger and baked brie with fig jam for dessert at home washed down with one of the most complex and incredible Brunellos I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. AKA – dinner. We followed up the following night at Mextiza. I was a tiny bit skeptical. Fancy Mexican food. It was totally worth it in the end. The flavors here are incredible. Molotes [fried dumplings, stuffed with black beans and spicy chicken, topped with cream and avocado chile sauce], enchiladas blancas [wild boar and spinach stuffed enchiladas, simmered in a spicy almond cream sauce, fried garlic and pickled onions], and cabrito [slow roasted goat, roasted yellow potatoes, grilled onions, served over a chile vinegar sauce, and pinto beans]. Yum. I highly encourage washing it down with a house margarita.

Did I mention that I have a copy of Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller? It’s a killer Christmas present [thank you!], and was originally suggested to me by my lovely friends at Radar. They make some of my favorite food in the city, so if they start suggesting things, I listen. The book is a lot little intimidating. These are mostly time commitments and have multiple parts, but are totally worth it for the finished product. I really really really really want to make the braised beef short ribs for the stroganoff, but when do I really commit myself to something that I have to start the previous day? I’m lazy. Someday, though.

In the meantime, I did make the Chicken Soup with Dumplings. It’s stellar. There is seriously something magical about making your own dumplings for the soup. I’d never done it before [I usually cheat and just use gnocchi or something], and it does make all the difference. The other part about straining out your vegetables that sweat together for nearly a half hour and then bathe in the stock for another half hour from your stock is something that’s so “duh” but not done enough. You’ve literally cooked out all the flavor from those vegetables. They’re shells of their former selves, and are just mush. Get ’em out of there and add fresh for the finish. Huge. Difference. The only thing I couldn’t really get right was the thickness of the soup. I don’t exactly know what I did wrong, but it wouldn’t stop me from eating it again, if only to try and perfect it. It’s not a bad problem to have. Oh, and prepare to use every single pot and pan in your kitchen. It’s one of those.

Inspiration: Ad Hoc at Home (pg. 122)

Ingredients

[this is list broken up into the order that you’ll use things]

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup leeks, coarsely chopped
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 4 quarts chicken stock
  • 5 stalks celery
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup roux [4 tablespoons butter melted into 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flour and cooked until nutty brown]
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • flat leaf parsley for garnish

 Preparation

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and leeks. Add a healthy pinch of salt, and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook very slowly with a little stirring for about 30 minutes. The vegetables will be super tender. Turn off the heat if you’re not done with the dumplings yet.

To make the dumplings, fill a wide, deep pot with salted water and bring it to a simmer. Set up a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Combine the water, butter and a teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan. On medium high heat, bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat a little and add the 2/3 cup flour all at once. Stir quickly with  a stiff spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. The pan will be nice and clean when you’re done. It’ll be smooth but moist still. Now you’ll work your arm out. For another 5 minutes, continue stirring the combined dough around the hot pan so it can dry out. You don’t want the dough to brown, so keep stirring. Once it starts to stick to the bottom or sides of the pan again, you’re good. Transfer the dough to the bowl of the mixer, and add the mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix for a few seconds so the heat can disperse. Add the eggs one at a time while the mixer is on the lowest speed. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of chives and mix. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Shape the dumplings using two soupspoons to make a quenelle shape. It took a bit to get them actually into that shape, but I ultimately did. Drop the dumplings into the simmering water. Cook them in smaller batches, like five or six, to avoid crowding. Cook they rise to the surface, it takes about five minutes for them sot cook through. This takes a bit, but again, worth it.

To finish the soup, add the chicken stock to the vegetables you cooked earlier, and bring it all to a simmer. After 30 minutes, strain the vegetables out. Cut the remaining stalks of celery on the diagonal. You want about 1 1/2 cups of celery. Blanch the celery until tender, and submerge in an ice bath. Cut the carrots into small pieces until you get a cup and a half. Cook them in a small saucepan with the honey, bay leaf, garlic, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with cold water and cook on a simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Drain the carrots. Bring the chicken stock back to a simmer, and stir in the roux a little at a time until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming often. I never thought that was a big deal, but it’s pretty gross. Add the dumplings, chicken, and vegetables to the soup so it can cook through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives.

Chicken and Mushroom Soba Noodle Soup

Are you adept at eating with chopsticks? Do they intimidate you? I don’t know at what point I became okay with them. I never remember eating with them when I grew up. I’m pretty sure we didn’t. The hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant I grew up with [which remains my favorite to this day] doesn’t have them I’m pretty sure. They’re not a Chinese thing anyway, are they? Seriously, though, I have no idea when I started eating with them, and I sure as hell don’t have any idea how I learned how. I’m certainly not a pro. I don’t like to use them while eating soup with mixed company. There is always that irrational fear that I’m going to fling a piece of pork out of my bowl of pho into my neighbor. Maybe that’s what keeps my skills in check. I know better than to eat soup at work as it is. I always leave with equal parts of the soup on my top as I do in my mouth. I accept defeat immediately.

At home is fair game. I finally got a bunch [thanks, mom!] to use to my hearts content, and since I’m not making sushi anytime soon, I’ll make soup. At least then I can wear my pajamas apron to prevent any messes. Roma will wait patiently on the couch for the second we’re done so she can come slurp up whatever made it to the floor. There’s always something.

This soup is easily my favorite soup to date. I’m particularly proud of my poached egg skills [again, thanks mom] as they were the perfect texture. No complaints as I gulped down three bowls of the stuff. Sometimes that just has to happen. If you don’t mind throwing down, the more exotic the mushroom, the better. I couldn’t justify rehydrating a ton of porcini, so I picked up a bag of frozen mixed mushrooms and a bunch of fresh sliced crimini mushrooms. It’ll do. Between the mushrooms and the poached eggs, the chicken is a total after thought, but keeps the soup filling. Loved this stuff.

Inspiration: How Sweet It Is

Ingredients

  • 1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 10oz frozen mixed mushrooms
  • 32oz chicken stock
  • 8oz soba noodles
  • 6 green onions, green and white parts sliced
  • 4 eggs, poached
  • salt and pepper
  • chili flakes

Preparation

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Bring your soup pot to a medium high heat before adding the chicken in a spread out, even layer. Let it brown on each side. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. Reduce the heat to low and sliced shallot, mushrooms, and garlic. Stir to coat in remaining olive oil and chicken drippings. Cover with a lid and cook 5-6 minutes until the mushrooms are softened.

Add the chicken and stock the pot. Bring everything to a boil and add the soba noodles. Cook until the soba noodles are cooked through. Add all of the green onions. Taste the broth and add salt, pepper, and chili flakes accordingly. Ladle out soup into individual bowls and top with a poached egg and more chili flakes.

Smoked Kielbalsa and White Bean Stew

I’ve started taking public transit almost exclusively. If I’m not on the train, I’m using my legs. It’s been equal parts refreshing and frustrating. It’s only been about a month. Nice, albeit cool and windy, weather helps. I hate having to plan my day around 15 minute increments, but I love not sitting in traffic. I hate smelly people and screaming children, but I love getting lost in a book with music in my ears. I hate showing up knowing I just missed a train, but I love randomly running into my friend Jenny. The control freak in me is learning to let go. Ask me again in a few months.

Is not using a recipe being a control freak or actually letting go? It could be both. I was inspired by the suggestion of using some of my grandma’s canned vegetables. Stew time. Canned green beans and tomatoes always go well in stew. I went off to let the store guide me. A package of smoked kielbasa and a can of white beans, we were in business. Warm. Hearty. Smokey. It was even better the next day, but that’s goes without saying.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups canned [or fresh] green beans
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, diced evenly
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 smoked kielbasa links [pre-cooked], thinly sliced
  • 1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Olive oil
  • Water for thinning, if desired
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a soup pot or Dutch oven. When the pan is hot and water sizzles when you toss little droplets on it, add the onions. Stir to coat them in the oil and then spread them out in a nice even layer. Sauté for 7-10 minutes until soft. Add the kielbasa, allowing it to brown on all sides. Add the beans, tomatoes, and green beans. Stir to combine. Smash the two cloves if garlic and add them. Add the broth, bringing it to a boil.  Stir in the potato. Bring the broth back down to a simmer and allow the potato to cook.  Taste the broth throughout, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Other spices would work well too. Once the potatoes are tender you can serve, otherwise you can continue to cook it down. Add more water if you want it thinner. I definitely didn’t.

Chicken Gumbo Soup

I looked up the difference between gumbo and jambalaya because I always get them confused. Gumbo is served with rice. Jambalaya is made with rice. Weird. Going by that minor detail, then this soup most definitely isn’t gumbo. I’m just going to go with it though because it’s just easier to throw the rice in the soup and let it cook up.

I don’t think I’ve had either one since the cooking class two years ago. Has it really been that long? I haven’t been to Montage since? Wild. I need up my Cajun food game.

Regardless, this soup hits the spot to break up the normal array of soups. It’s bright from the tomatoes and smokey with the bacon. I laid down some chili flakes with a heavy hand because I opened the wrong end of the container I like it.

Inspiration: Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 1/2lbs of chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning [or a mix of cumin and paprika]
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 32oz chicken broth
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • salt, pepper, chili flakes

Preparation

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot on medium high heat. Add the chopped bacon once it’s hot. Cook until crispy and brown. Remove to a plate covered in a paper towel. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery [trinity!] to the remaining bacon grease. Cook for about five minutes; you want the veggies nice and soft. Season the chicken with salt and pepper before adding it to the pot. Add the cajun seasoning.

Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding the garlic. After a minute, sprinkle the whole mixture with the flour. Stir until everything is coated and turning a nice brown color. Pour in the chicken broth, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and a pinch or two of the chili flakes. Bring everything to a boil.

Add the rice and cover. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for 15-20 minutes or as long as it takes the rice to become tender. Stir in the bacon and take the pan off the heat. Taste for additional salt or pepper. Let it thicken for 10-15 minutes before serving. It’ll be even better tomorrow.

Pork and Pumpkin Chili

I’ve been busy. Have you been busy? It must be that time of year.

I’m bouncing between two jobs at the moment, which is just as glamorous as it sounds. I’ve read Humans of New York, Coralineand The Captain is out to Lunch and The Sailors Have Taken Over the ShipI’m in the middle of Age of Miracles, and have been thumbing through Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs Favourite Restaurants. My two economics textbooks are in there somewhere, too. I’ve taken a Whiskey 101 class from The Old Goldfinally eaten at Pok Pok and Tin Shed, been hunting for the perfect hot toddy, and eaten salted caramel Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin custard with spiced chèvre ice cream from Salt and Straw. I watched the Timbers finish their third season in the MLS, and bought myself a winter coat that doesn’t look like a sleeping bag.

And somehow I managed to shop for my Thanksgiving ingredients well before the last minute. Who am I? Of course this is completely contingent on the jar of yeast to still work like a champion. I should probably test that tomorrow…after my massage. Priorities.

So let’s talk chili for a second. Am I the only one who completely disregards the liquid requirement in recipes for chili? I guess it’s impatience, but there is way, way, way too much liquid if I follow the rules. I don’t have time to let it simmer and cook down. I don’t want to let it sit in the fridge overnight. I’m hungry now. The soup tonight called for four cups of broth and two of water. I completely neglected the water. It came out fine, and was still a little too watery for me. This chili called for three cups of water plus 12oz of beer. I dropped a cup and was still thin. I want thick, hearty chilies and soups 99% of the time.

The chili with adobo has been in my freezer for a long, long time. I pureed the leftovers of a can and froze it, chiseling off pieces as I needed them. It’s either losing it’s potency or I’m getting my tolerance up. It’s nice to have a way to store it, though. I hate throwing it away.

Mustard greens came in the original recipe. I went with it. I liked the bitter/spiciness. You could easily substitute kale to keep it hearty but less bitter. Spinach would taste good but would totally wilt down.

Pork still ends up a little too dry for me. It would be neat to try a bone-in pork loin in a crock pot to see if it could up the juiciness. Dry pork is annoying.

Overall the flavors of the chili were nice. Pumpkin isn’t dominating despite having a whole can in there. It’s more for the creaminess than anything. I’d definitely lower the liquid even more next time. Bring on the thickness.

Inspiration: Food Network

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of pork shoulder, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups of water
  • 12oz beer [preferably a Mexican lager like Tecate]
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, small dice
  • 3 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 15oz canned pumpkin
  • 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded if desired, and chopped
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens, stems removed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • lime juice

Preparation

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, bring the water, beer, pork, and a healthy pinch of salt to a simmer on medium-low heat. Skim the foam of the surface as it appears. Add the chipotles and half of the oregano and cover for 30 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, poblano, onions, and two teaspoons of salt. Stir occasionally for about 15 minutes until the vegetables become soft. Add the remaining oregano, chili powder, and the garlic. Cook for another five minutes. The chili powder will coat everything and thicken up. Add the pumpkin, and cook for another five minutes.

Add the tomato/pumpkin mixture to the pork and cook for another 30 minutes until tender. Add the chopped greens and cook for ten minutes. Season the broth with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Remove from heat, and allow to sit and thicken up for at least 10 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, avocado slices, and chips.

Cream of Potato Soup

I’ve been back over a month, and I’m back to eating Cambodian food. There’s a food-cart-turned-brick-and-mortar spot called Sok Sab Bai. It’s about as authentic as it gets, so it’s nice to know it exists. You just don’t see Cambodian food often. Amok Trey [salmon, prahok, krueng, coconut milk, egg steamed in banana leaves, assorted vegetables for dipping], Nom Pa Chok [chicken, noodles, carrot, potato, onion, peanuts, shrimp paste, fresh assorted vegetables], and Khwa Ko [grilled fermented beef and rice sausages]. Hea-ven. It’s hard for me to explain the flavor profile of Cambodian food other than a lot of emphasis on any sour/fermented flavors. I love it. The Amok was thicker than the one in the coconut, but dipping vegetables in it was fun. The Nom Pa was heaping, and had the most tender chicken. The Khwa Ko…easily my favorite dish of the night. Those sausages were so flavorful. They were served on a bed of rice with slaw that was fresh and sour and pickles. It’s such a great contrast of bright flavors.

I miss daylight already, if only for the vitamin D good photo light. Priorities, y’know? I like to think the tripod is helping, but I still don’t like the artificial light. It’s never going to be the same.

I’m still on a soup kick. I keep bookmarking new soup recipes more than anything else. Soup is easy to make and easy to eat at work. They generally don’t smell terrible either, which is key when eating at the workplace. I’m not above eating smelly things, but I do try to have some common courtesy.

Smooth, velvety soups are not my go-to soups. I love them, but they leave me with the mental game of telling myself I’m full. My brain instead tells me I’ve just had something with the consistency of a smoothie, and that I should eat accordingly. It’s a first world problem, for sure. I can’t help but be drawn to them. Cream of potato is one of those soups that you can get away with less cream since potatoes are pretty dang creamy all on their own. I still put in a half cup or so. It helps the soup to achieve that thick and velvety texture. The bacon? Necessary. The leek? A flavor that I cannot get enough of. New potatoes are just that, new. I happened to find some, so I went with them. I think I’d go with some nice golden Yukons if I couldn’t get my hands on some new ones.

Quick. Easy. Simple. Delicious.

Inspiration: Simple Bites

Ingredients

  • three slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 3/4 leek [about one large one], sliced from white to light green
  • Approx. one pound of new potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • rosemary, chives, croutons for serving

Preparation

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, cook the chopped bacon through until all of the fat is rendered. Sauté the leek in with the bacon once the bacon starts to caramelize. It will take about 2-3 minutes for the slices to really start softening and breaking down in the fat. Add the chopped potatoes and about three cups of water. You can add more later if you want to thin it, but I like thicker soups.

Bring the water to a boil before turning the heat down to a simmer, and partially cover the pot while the potatoes cook fully. Once the potatoes are soft, about 20-25 minutes, puree the soup into velvety goodness either in your blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with herbs or croutons or even a grilled cheese.