Posts Tagged ‘soup’


Fall ushers in soup time. The house is cool enough that I can leave a pot of chicken stock on the back of the stove overnight, and winter squash and root veggies are everywhere and make hearty, warming meals.

I made this butternut squash soup for lunch. Butternut squash soup is perhaps the most ubiquitous winter vegetable soup and is so easy to make.

I cut about three inches off the small end of a butternut squash and chopped it into 1″ cubes. In a saucepan I covered them with water and boiled until tender. I drained some (but not all) of the water and added homemade chicken stock– ladled right out of the pot (about 1 1/2 cups). After throwing in a large clove of garlic, salt, pepper, about 1/2 t each of ancho chile powder and paprika, and 1/4 t cumin, I blended it until it was fairly smooth. It’s better to start with less liquid and add after blending so you get a consistency that appeals to you.

When served you can add chopped parsley or cilantro and avocado…


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i made this for my mom tonight, to go with a rack of lamb and braised spinach [i’ll post tomorrow…]. i served it chilled with creme fraiche and some chopped parsley. chives would have been better, but i had none.

saute one small shallot in a couple tablespoons of olive oil or butter. add a handful of dried cherries, 1 t of madras curry, and 1/2 t paprika. stir until spices become aromatic. add i medium- sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed, 1 can of light coconut milk, and enough vegetable stock [or water or  chicken stock] to cover squash. simmer until squash is tender.

when the squash is cooked, the cherries will be reconstituted. add about 1 to 2 T of honey, let cool, then puree contents in a food processor until smooth. i reserved a little of the liquid, then added the puree back in to preserve some texture. whisk in about 1/2 c of creme fraiche [buttermilk or plain yogurt would also work], salt, and pepper. serve chilled with creme fraiche and chives or parsley as a garnish. if you want to serve it hot, warm it slowly without letting it boil or the dairy may curdle.

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cream of parsnip soup

not everyone loves parsnips, but i absolutely do. i roasted the parsnips first, to give them a richer flavor. i’ve never met a roasted vegetable i didn’t like.

take 4 medium- size parsnips. trip the large end off, and a cut into pieces. i take about two inches off the large end and split it lengthwise into quarters, take the next two inches and cut it lengthwise into half, then just use the small end as- is. arrange on a cookie sheet with olive oil. add 3 large cloves of garlic, in their skins, and 2 small russet potatoes peeled and cut into quarters. the potatoes make a creamier soup. you can add more of the potatoes or garlic, depending on your taste. parsnips can be very strong,
so more potatoes may be in order.

roast the vegetables until they are soft and brown. transfer them to a soup pan and cover them with chicken stock, or a combination of stock and water. squish garlic out of it’s skin into the pot. add about 1/4 t of dried tarragon. cook until the crispy outsides are soft. puree with a hand blender, or transfer to a blender to puree. do not close the lid all the way, or let soup cool before blending if you use a blender. you can get seriously burned.

add half and half or a combination of half and half, stock, or water, until it is a consistency you like. do not add wine, it does not taste good. season with salt and pepper to taste.  i added some chile flakes and served it with chopped parsley.
parsley is one of those miracle foods; i try to get it in whenever i can.

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curry dumpling soup

so, i had eggnog coffee cake for breakfast, and if i didn’t make lunch, i was going to eat the pie from yesterday [see below, below].

the other night after the baked chicken curry [see below, below, below], i took all of the large pieces of meat off the bone that were left, and put the chicken carcass [i know, horrible word] in a pot with a large carrot, a medium onion, a stalk of celery, a bouquet garni*, half a quart of chicken stock i had leftover in the fridge, and water to cover the contents. i put it on the back burner and have been simmering it for two days. today, it’s time to make soup.

put a fine sieve over a soup pot, and strain the contents of the stockpot. many people use cheesecloth, which filters out more of the smaller contents of the stock, but unless i’m using it for a recipe that demands very clean stock, i like the texture.

there are a few ways to defat the stock. if you have not boiled your stock [homogenizing the stock and the fat together], the fat floats to the top, making it easy to remove.

first, there are stock decanters where the spout originates from the bottom, and you can pour out the stock, leaving the fat. second, you can allow the stock to cool completely and simply pull the fat off the top as it solidifies when cold. or, the method i use, which is, no surprise, the fastest and laziest method, is to use a large ladle to skim the fat from the top. gently push the ladle into the stock flush with the top of the liquid. slowly tilt your hand and allow the fat to siphon itself into the ladle. do a little at a time, so you don’t lose much of the stock. it seems to help if i hold my breath.

while the residual stock parts are still warm, i go through it with my hands, picking out the pieces of meat left behind. some people don’t use this meat, as it loses a lot of flavor and the texture is not optimum, but i can’t stand throwing out stuff that could otherwise be used; hey, it’s lean protein!

dice a large carrot and put it in your beautiful stock. at this point you need to season the stock. you are next going to poach the dumplings in the stock, and you want it to be seasoned; the dumplings are better if poached with seasoned liquid.

if you have not made your own stock, heat some good chicken stock you have purchased [choose products made from poultry not treated with hormones]. this soup has a mild curry flavor; if you would like a bit more, add some now by 1/4 teaspoons until you have the flavor you want. if you are making this from scratch and not from stock made from the leftover baked curry chicken, add the curry when you start the stock; it’s better when the flavors meld over time. add salt and pepper to taste.

while the carrots are simmering away, prepare THE DUMPLINGS:

serve your daughter irish steel- cut oatmeal cooked with dried cherries and raisins for breakfast. don’t let her eat all of it, set aside.

beat 2 eggs with 1/2 cup of water. add 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t curry powder. add 1 and
1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup of the cooked, reserved oatmeal [chop cherries and raisins into smaller pieces if you like], 3/8 t of baking powder, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. combine. don’t beat the hell out of it, they will get tough.

make sure the soup is at a simmer, not a boil. drop the dumpling batter into the center of the simmering liquid by large spoonfuls. they will sink. as you make them, they will float to the top and begin crowding the pot. when you drop in the last few, make sure to scoot the already- poached dumplings away from the new one so it can sink and not stick to the others. the stock will also cool slightly as you make the dumplings, allow the stock to come back to a simmer before adding another.

add the reserved chicken [and any leftover meat from when it was baked, skin removed, chopped] and a handful or two of shredded spinach. allow the spinach to wilt, then spoon the soup into a bowl. i had my bowl with a very hoppy IPA.
now i can have pie.

a *bouquet garni is a sachet that is put into stock to flavor it. i use a huge tea ball,
but most of my life i used cheesecloth, tied with kitchen string. combine parsley stems,
a bay leaf or two, peppercorns, a clove of garlic [optional] and a sprig of fresh thyme [also, optional]. i did not add the garlic and thyme for the curry soup, there was plenty of flavor with the seasoning that was on the baked chicken, but you could with no fowl consequences. that pun was for dad. make a little bundle with the cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. bury it in your stock pot.

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after feasting new year’s eve on two huge lobsters, we had a lot of lobster meat leftover, and an ample amount of lobster shells to make a great stock.

as i have discussed before, i don’t use recipes unless i am cooking something that depends on a predictable result. if i used recipes for everything i would be bored out of my mind; i like the challenge of cooking, and the joy in finding something that works on my own. so, it had been a long time since i had made lobster bisque, and i have to admit, this was not my best effort. i rushed it, and in the end came away with two things that are essential for a successful bisque: very reduced, concentrated stock, and cream. the lobsters were so huge that i underestimated the strength of the stock, and i often am afraid of using so much cream, as i am sure that someday one huge serving of rich food will send me into cardiac arrest. so, i used half and half and cream and the bisque, in the end, was not as rich as it could have been, and therefore not as good. the recipe that follows is still good, if the aforementioned issues are corrected.

in a large pot, heat the lobster shells in olive oil, to enhance the flavor. i use a large pot because the larger surface area helps to reduce the stock faster. scootch the shells aside, and add one large, minced shallot. after the shallot begins to turn a bit translucent add a carrot, cut in a few chunks, and a couple outside leaves from a fennel bulb. i add fennel instead of celery because the flavor is better with the delicate lobster flavor, and i leave them in large pieces because i like to remove them before making the soup, so they flavor the stock, but don’t over- power it. chicken and beef can stand up better to the strong celery flavor and overwhelming sweetness of the carrot, but lobster i think demands a lighter hand. i also add a bosc pear, quartered; it adds a sweetness that i like better than the carrot.

to the shallots add some cayenne pepper and paprika, then fill the pot with the water originally used to steam the lobster [i just threw the lobster remains into the water the night before and put the pot on the back porch overnight]. fill the pot to the top to cover the lobster contents. you can use about 1/4 to 1/3 parts chicken stock if you like; it adds richness and body, but you have to be willing to accept a little of the chicken flavor.
i used just the water. add a bay leaf [two if you are making a lot of stock] and a few peppercorns and let the pot simmer well until the stock is very reduced, to about 1/3 the volume of liquid. this is where i made my mistake, i really should have let the stock reduce further, but my child was getting a bit sulky, as i was spending what she thought was an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen.

while the stock is simmering away, take a few small tomatoes and drop them in the stock for a minute, then peel off the skins with a sharp knife. plunging tomatoes in boiling water for about 45 seconds is a great trick for peeling tomatoes, but since you have the stock simmering anyway… i like the heirloom tomatoes, not just for their superior flavor, but because i like the darker, meaty color.

after the stock has properly reduced, strain it through a coarse colander into a pot, mushing the flesh of the pear through the colander, but expelling the stem and seeds. this pot you will just use for heating the stock, so unless you want to transfer it again, don’t strain it into the pot of which you wish the final soup to reside. many people use cheesecloth at this point, but i like the little bits of lobster stuff that’s in the stock. you could even just strain the bigger stuff out with a slotted spoon, just make sure you retrieve the pieces of carrot, peppercorns, fennel, bay leaves, and shells.

in a pot large enough to hold the final bisque [the amount of stock plus cream] make a roux from equal parts flour and butter. i used the leftover butter from dipping the lobster the night before. stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until toasted, but not burned. whisk in the hot stock, a little at first, then bring to a simmer. i do this just to give the soup a little body, not to make it really thick. after the stock has come to a simmer, add the cream. how much cream you want to add is up to you; add some once it is seasoned, try it, add some more if you want. the stronger the stock is, the less cream you can get away with, but it’s just not lobster bisque without the cream.

at this point, i take a hand blender to the pot and make it somewhat smooth. you can also do it in small batches in the blender, but cool the soup a bit first, do it in small batches, and have the plug in the lid out. hot liquid tends to explode in a blender, and can cause serious burns. this is why i prefer to use a hand blender; plus i like the control. after the soup is a consistency you like, add some sherry and the tomatoes [chopped into small pieces] and season with salt, pepper, and if you like, a bit more of the cayenne pepper [don’t make it spicy, a little just enhances the flavor]. you can add the tomatoes before you blend it if you like, but i like the bits of tiny sweetness and the different texture.

chop the lobster meat into small pieces and add to the soup. i garnish it with just a tiny bit of chopped italian parsley or chives, but not much. i don’t like too much interfering with the subtle lobster flavor.

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this is a pretty basic mushroom soup, but the oven roasting of the mushrooms i think makes an extra rich, woodsy flavor.

line crimini mushrooms cap side down on a baking sheet oiled with olive oil (i also add chunks of butter), being careful to not have them touching one another. whether it’s meat or vegetables, when you are trying to brown, or create caramelization, you cannot have pieces touching one another. if they touch while cooking, food will release their moisture rather than searing it in, and the juices will have to evaporate in able to brown.

roast in a hot oven. when they have browned on the bottoms, flip them over and roast them until they are uniformly brown; they do not have to be cooked all the way through.

pour some chicken stock onto the pan, and deglaze, scraping all of the little brown bits into the liquid. set aside.

slice and caramelize one onion in a few tablespoons of butter. at this point i like to add herbs; i think they benefit from being introduced while there is heat and fat, rather added after the liquids. leave the salt until the end, however. i like fresh and a little bit of dried thyme. dried spices are more intense than fresh, but i think fresh herbs have a certain quality that dried herbs don’t, so i use both. don’t over season, you can add more later.

in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the mushrooms and onions together until a small, uniform size. do not puree. set aside.

in a large pot, make a roux from almost equal parts butter and flour. i made a big pot of soup, so i used about 6 T of butter and 7 T of flour. stir on medium- high heat until a nutty brown aroma develops. don’t burn. turn up the heat and add hot chicken stock and hot half and half. it depends on how thick you like your soup, or how mushroomy you like your soup, but for the amount of roux above, i use about 8-10 cups of liquid to start.

stir in the chopped mushrooms. taste the soup. add some sherry, salt, and pepper. depending on the thickness and mushroom flavor, you can add more half and half or chicken stock until you have a soup that you like.

if you have read my blog before, you will know that i rarely give ingredient amounts, this is for two reasons: first, i don’t cook that way. i don’t use recipes, and i think our culture has gotten too dependent on them. second, i like to encourage people to learn to cook more intuitively so they can learn how to either make things without recipes, or adjust them to make what they want. it’s also a good way to learn too expiriment.

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i don’t know about you, but i have a LOT of turkey stock! before my stove blew up and i was without a stove for two weeks, i had procured green tomatoes from a couple of friends to make green relish. well, they ripened! so i was lucky enough to get TRULY the last red tomatoes of the year. because they were not ripened on the vine, the normal tomato-y fresh aroma is not as strong, however, roasting tomatoes brings out their flavor and is a great way to use tomatoes throughout the year, even with those otherwise tasteless hot house and import fruits.

i preheat the oven to 400 degrees. i like a hot oven. i like brown. i like caramelization. cut the tomatoes lengthwise (a lot of these were roma), and put them cut- side- up on a lipped baking sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil. DON’T take out the seeds and stuff! drizzle with more olive oil, salt, and herbs de provence, and roast until the pan is juicy and there are brown caramelized bits of yumminess in the pan. if you like, you can add some garlic when roasting, but i suggest leaving skins on until done.

put roasted tomato halves in a blender and add the liquid. add a couple ladles full of stock to the pan, and put it over a burner. scrape away all of those brown parts in the pan (you are ‘deglazing’) until they are incorporated into the stock. pour the liquid into the blender. it’s prudent at this point to allow the ingredients to cool before blending. in the least, make the plug at the top of the blender loose and cover with a cloth. hot liquid in a blender can potentially disfigure driver.

blend thoroughly, pour into soup pan, and add more stock until you have a slightly thick consistency. i don’t like it gloppy. add some evaporated milk, cream, or half and half if you like. to a half-sheet of tomatoes i added about three to four cups of stock, and about 1/2 cup of evaporated milk. salt and pepper to taste.

for the garnish, chop italian flat-leaf parsley with a clove of garlic and some salt (i used smoked salt). the salt keeps the garlic from sticking to your knife. chop until fine, but still has nice texture. add a couple of tablespoons of nice olive oil. garnish the soup with a dollop of the parsley concoction and some black lava salt for glamour. simple and yummy.

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