Category Archives: Soups

Kale-a-loo

Tonight’s recipe is a leafy soup from the islands called Callaloo. Traditionally made from Callaloo leaves (which are, depending on whom you ask, actually amaranth or taro leaves), I made it with kale because that’s all I had, and because kale-a-loo has a nice ring to it. (Although, to be honest, I did not come up with the name.) This soup is very easy to put together, and it’s nice and green to make you feel good in anticipation of all the Christmas cookies on which you’re about to feast.

The original recipe called for crab meat, but I made a vegetarian version to serve to a vegetarian (the vegetarian, by the way, also came up with the name “kale-a-loo”), and don’t really see a reason to make it any other way. (In fact, the soup is even vegan. Take that.) I especially like the okra in this – it adds the perfect thickness and body.

hot hot hot

Kale-a-loo
adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook

  • 3 tablespoons oil (olive, veggie, whatever you have)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 fresh chile (I used jalapeño), seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, optional
  • 8 ounces okra, sliced (about 1/4-inch slices)
  • 1/2 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped into large bite-size pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • A few strands of saffron, optional
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Limes, cut in slices, to serve
  • Cilantro, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chile, turmeric, and curry if using and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the okra and kale. Cook a few minutes, until the kale starts to wilt. Add the vegetable broth and saffron, if using. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 – 35 minutes, until the kale is soft enough to your liking.

3. Stir in the coconut milk and scallions, stirring to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with slices of lime on the side and cilantro sprinkled on top.

kalealoo

Kara

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Beef Curry

So remember those exciting announcements I promised a few posts back? Here we go!

In addition to having the wonderful, beyond amazing, crazy-busy, never bored job of being Joan‘s assistant, I recently got a job working at Bazaar Spices, a lovely little spice shop in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. If you’re in D.C., be sure to stop by Union Market, and, more importantly, Bazaar Spices. The second you walk by your senses are almost assaulted (in the best possible way) by the smell of super fresh spices and herbs. It’s been great to expand my spice, herb, and botanical knowledge, and to talk to the different people who stop by. Next time, maybe it’ll be you!

Part of the Bazaar Spices job includes contributing to their Spicy DC Blog, and I wrote a recipe for Brown Butter Cinnamon Cookies with Crystallized Ginger Studs, based on my mom’s recipe for Polvorones. They’re pretty delicious, if I may say, and would love a spot on your holiday cookie rotation. (AND, and, and, the recipe was featured in Union Market’s Thanksgiving shopping list. Boom.)

Also, the blog now has a Twitter account! Follow us @thetroikatable to get random musings and pictures of food from yours truly.

And, coming soon, there will be a WHOLE ‘NOTHER PAGE on the blog! I’ve been compiling a running list of recipes I want to make from the pages carefully doggy-eared in cookbooks before bookmarks and the internet was a thing (aka, when I was 12), websites I’ve bookmarked only to never look back, and pages that I’ve saved to Pocket (and no, I still don’t have a Pinterest, but I’m sure that will come any day now). I decided that it’s about time to actually DO something with them, and putting the list on the blog and actually, you know, making them and telling you all about it would be just the ticket.

Anyway, time for the 9th day before Christmas special: Beef Curry!

Beef Curry

This Beef Curry is adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook edited by Heather Thomas, a spicy little book full of recipes from throughout the Caribbean. The original recipe, Colombo de Porc, is a Pork curry from Martinique. After doing a little research, I discovered that Colombo Curry is a spice blend commonly found in the French West Indies (Martinique, Guadalupe, St. Martin, to name a few), and that Colombo Curry blends typically have toasted, uncooked rice ground into the mix, lending a nutty flavor and acting as a natural thickener.  Maybe my recipe isn’t a Colombo at all, but it’s still pretty tasty.

I changed the recipe quite a bit to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand, and came up with something very delicious. The curry is fairly spicy and quite saucy, with a nice creaminess from coconut milk, and the curry would love it if you made tostones to dip up its juices. Don’t take my word for it, though, just make it; you’ll see.

almost ready

Faux Colombo de Bœuf (Beef Curry)
Adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound beef stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 6 to 8 allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 to 2 hot peppers (such as jalapeños), sliced (remove seeds if you want less heat)
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 chayote squash, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 to 2 poblano peppers, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 to 3 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 small can of tomatoes, or about a cup of leftover slow-roasted tomatoes (can you guess which one I used?)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cilantro, to garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides.

2. While the onions and beef are cooking, make your curry paste: Mash the coriander seeds, allspice berries, turmeric, mustard seeds or powder, and peppers in a mortar and pestle to make a paste.

3. Add the curry paste to the beef and onions, stir, and cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring once or twice.

4. Add the pineapple juice and water, cover the pan, and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the beef is starting to be tender. (Or, if you have a pressure cooker, cook at high pressure for 10 to 12 minutes with a natural release, then proceed as directed.)

5. Add the chayote, poblanos, tomatoes, coconut milk, salt, and pepper, and cook uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the chayote is easily pierced with a fork and the beef is tender. Serve with rice, or tostones, and garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

all dished up

Kara

 

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

After a long, four-day weekend, we had yummy chicken soup on Monday.  We were in the mountains overnight, and I’m so glad I have finally realized that we play a little too hard, and pre-planned a comforting soup for tonight when we returned.

The night before we left to go to the mountains, we had some friends over and made our favorite fried chicken.  I have talked about this recipe before, and it is a must make if you like fried chicken!  We bought two cut up whole chickens, and used the wings, thighs, as well as the spine for a roasted chicken stock. We always make WAY too much food, so we had plenty of chicken left over to go into the soup.

stock

To start, sauté ½ of an onion, 2 cloves of, and one bell pepper, all finely chopped.  After they are slightly softened and aromatic, ladle stock into the pot.

onions and carrots

We added the following spices: salt, pepper, onion powder (I add it pretty much to everything I cook), chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper (not too much, so the kids would still eat it), and a bit of cumin to appease my husband (I’m not a big fan, the smell reminds me of elephants at the zoo), and 2 bay leaves (just remove them at the end). Next, add sliced chicken as well as any other desired vegetables.

spices

chicken

veggies

Toward the end, we added 1 tablespoon heavy cream, just to give the soup a yummy creaminess.  Lastly, serve the soup and garnish with some grated cotija cheese, and sliced green onions.  Jason also made some fried tortilla strips, and they were delicious!

tortilla strips

Chicken soup!

On the side, we of course served a grilled cheese sandwich.  This time it was ham with colby jack cheese! 🙂 It doesn’t quite go with the theme, but it was delicious nonetheless.

Janessa

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The Great Pumpkin

I have something to add to your binder full of pumpkin recipes.

Do you like fall? I love it. I know, you might not be ready for the change in season, the shift from wearing shorts to wearing scarves and pants and tights and boots. (Even though scarves and tights and boots are so much cuter than shorts and sandals. You know it’s true.) And I know, you might be sick of all the pumpkin madness already, but this is something different – promise. No cinnamon and nutmeg here. (Although come to think of it, they would be nice additions.)

Braeden gave me a Caribbean cookbook for my birthday a few years ago, and I’ve been meaning to post something from its colorful, spicy pages. And since Braeden’s cousin gifted us a little pumpkin from her CSA box, the timing is just right. I present to you a pumpkin curry from St. Lucia (which admittedly is not the first place I’d look for a warming curry perfect for a chilly fall’s night, but whatever). After a few changes to use what ingredients I had on hand, we created a cozy, spicy curry that came together in a little less than an hour, leaving you plenty of time to get out to that pumpkin patch, or look through your binders full of – well, you know.

Pumpkin Curry
adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (red, yellow, sweet, any kind), chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste, or 2 tomatoes roughly chopped, or 1 14-ounce can tomatoes, with juices
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 2 fresh chiles (I actually used a few pickled jalapenos I had, but non-pickled are perfect, too), chopped (seeded if you like less spice)
  • 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded*, and cut into 1-inch cubes (our pumpkin was probably 1 – 2 pounds)
  • 5 – 6 leaves of chard or kale, (stems removed but reserved and chopped), and roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 cups water, chicken broth, vegetable broth, coconut water, or a combination thereof
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. If using tomato paste, add it now to caramelize it a bit and get that tomato-pasty flavor out. Add ginger, turmeric, and chiles; cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring.

Add the pumpkin, tomatoes (fresh or canned, if using instead of paste), and 2-3 cups of your liquid. You want the pumpkin to be mostly covered, but it doesn’t have to be completely submerged in liquid. Cover the pan and cook over medium low heat on a gentle simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender but not mushy. After 10 minutes or so, add in the reserved and chopped chard stems, if you like (you know, in the spirit of not wasting. It actually added a nice flavor and cooked celery-like texture). Stir every so often to make sure any pumpkin not submerged in liquid gets mixed in and cooks with the rest. Add chard or kale, stir to wilt, and season to taste with salt and pepper

Serve over rice – I used basmati, jasmine would be good too. It’s also really, really tasty topped with a little sour cream or this, and some cilantro. You know, if that’s what you’re into.

*Also, save the pumpkin seeds and try roasting them with a little curry powder, salt, cayenne, and olive oil. They. Are. Awesome.

Kara

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To Spring, and Mother’s Day, and Daylight and Green Things

First, a dedication:  here are Edvard Grieg’s “To Spring” and Christian Sinding’s “Rustles of Spring” for all the mothers out there, especially to my own mom and others who faithfully drove their kids to music lessons week after week.  The Grieg piece is beyond me now, but I surprised myself recently when I sat down at the piano and discovered I can still sort of play “Rustles of Spring” (it sounds a lot harder than it really is).

It makes a lot of sense that Norwegian composers would salute spring in their music.  Even here where we live in Germany, winter is long, cloudy, and dark, and the arrival of spring is a welcome change.  This year we had an early teaser with several beautiful weeks in March, then it turned gray and cold on us.  Finally now every day is longer and lighter, the trees are all covered with new leaves, it’s getting warmer, and I have a couple of springtime recipes that go together very nicely – nettle turnovers and Spargelsuppe.

A month or so ago I was talking with my friend Rebecca and she mentioned some kind of whipped up green appetizer they’d sampled somewhere in the Black Forest.  The chef wouldn’t say what it was, but he did say no, no, and no when she guessed ingredients such as spinach, peas, and asparagus.  I wondered if it might be nettles, and that set me to looking up recipes and gathering tips.  Stinging nettles grow all over around my favorite walking route, but around that time we hit a busy and rainy spell and I didn’t make it out to pick any until the other day.

In my reading I learned that nettles have historically been valued as a spring food source in northern Europe, especially in places like Scandinavia and the Baltics.  In fact, when I gave Rebecca a sample of my nettle turnovers she mentioned that her neighbor from Lithuania said they always used to gather nettles for soup and dry them for tea.  Rebecca got me started on this nettle tea with lemongrass and I really like it.

Nettles don’t even grow where I come from on the dry side of the Evergreen State, so I didn’t know what they looked like until I pulled one out of my little flower garden after we moved to Germany (bare-handed gardening, ouch!).  Ever since then I’ve been careful to avoid nettles when I’m out walking, and it felt a little funny to be purposefully seeking them out.  Although they are thriving along all the nearby country roads and trails, it seemed like a good idea to gather my greens off the path a ways where people don’t walk their dogs.  Other than that, my only tips are to go gathering before the plants get tall and start to bloom, wear gloves, hold the top of the plant with tongs, snip to remove the top few sets of leaves, and drop the cuttings into a basket or other container (and don’t touch them!).

   

   

When you get home, use the tongs to hold each stem while snipping off the leaves, then dump the leaves into a big bowl of cold water to wash away any dirt or bugs, which will settle to the bottom of the bowl (well, the bugs might float, but you can pick them out with a spoon).  I found lots of conflicting advice about blanching time, ranging from 30 seconds to five minutes, and just today I came across a New York Times article from last week that said blanching is not necessary – the leaves can go straight into a sauté pan and the heat will deactivate the sting (and next year I might be brave enough to try it with young early spring nettle leaves).  I put a big pot of salted water on to boil, thinking I’d go with a minute, but I chickened out and left the leaves in for almost three minutes just to be sure they wouldn’t sting me.  I didn’t think to try to weigh the leaves, but I started out with a big pile of leaves, and after blanching, chilling in cold water, draining, and squeezing excess water out I had a solid ball of green stuff about the size of a softball.  I would say it was about a pound of leaves, or maybe a quart and a half to two quarts of loosely packed leaves before blanching.

 

 

The turnovers use the same method as spanakopita triangles, and I think it would work very well to use a spanakopita recipe with nettles instead of spinach.  When I was getting ready to do something with nettles I didn’t have any feta, but I did have some mascarpone I bought with a vague purpose in mind, plus some shredded emmentaler, and the combination turned out very well.  I added an egg as a binder to keep the mascarpone from melting all over the oven, and continued the green theme by finally thinking to use some of the mass of chives growing on the edge of the terrace.  The result looked like it was bursting with chlorophyll! Next year I’ll try to go out gathering much earlier in the season and make some beautiful spring-green filled turnovers for St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Nettle Turnovers

  • 1 ½ to 2 quarts nettle leaves, trimmed, washed, blanched, drained, and squeezed as described above
  • 250 grams mascarpone (cream cheese or ricotta would also work)
  • ¾ cup shredded emmentaler (or any “Swiss” type cheese)
  • 3 tablespoons snipped chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 10 sheets phyllo
  • ½ – ¾ cup butter, melted

Place the squeezed-together lump of blanched and drained nettles on a cutting board and roughly chop.  Blend the cheeses, nettle, and chives in a bowl and salt and pepper to taste.  Beat in the egg and set aside.

Place a sheet of phyllo on your work surface and brush it lightly with melted butter.  Put another phyllo sheet on top and brush it with butter.  Cut the double layer of phyllo into four strips with a pizza cutter or knife.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Place a tablespoon or so of the nettle filling on the end of one strip, then fold into a triangle (like you would fold a flag).  Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and brush one more time with melted butter.  Repeat this process until all of the phyllo is used up – you should end up with 20 turnovers.  Poke the top of each one in several places with a fork.

Bake at 375 F until the turnovers are golden brown.  Based on the spanakopita recipes I read, I thought it would take around 15 minutes, but it was closer to 25 minutes (just keep an eye on them).

Cool slightly and serve, or they are also good at room temperature.  I didn’t try freezing the turnovers before baking, but baked frozen turnovers were very good warmed in the oven (I let them thaw first, but I don’t think it would be necessary).

 

Spargelzeit! Asparagus Season!

Signs are popping up all over, advertising frische Spargel in the produce markets and Spargelmenu in restaurants.  Germans celebrate Mother’s Day the same day as Americans, and Spargel is traditional for Mother’s Day dinner since the date coincides with Spargelzeit.  Germans do love their asparagus, especially the white kind that is covered while it grows to prevent photosynthesis (hmm, good thing we have a good shot of green stuff from the nettles in this meal).  I have developed a real taste for asparagus – I actually like the green kind better, but I am also very fond of traditional German Spargelsuppe made with white asparagus.

One thing about white asparagus, it has a tough, somewhat bitter skin, and you have to peel the stalks.  Well, I was surprised when I stopped at a local produce store to learn that they have a giant asparagus peeling machine that does the job in no time.  However, the last bundle I bought came from a little roadside stand, with no fancy machine in sight, so I peeled the spears myself (really not too time-consuming).  Even so, I had soup on the table pretty quickly, and it is a good pairing for the nettle turnovers.

 

Spargelsuppe
Adapted from the Dr. Oetker German Cooking Today cookbook

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound white asparagus, peeled and tough ends removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 1¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • Dried or fresh parsley, chopped (to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan and stir the asparagus pieces around in it until they are coated.  Let the asparagus cook in the butter for about five minutes, until it releases water.  Sprinkle with flour and stir to mix the flour in and coat the asparagus.  Add wine, water, and milk and stir until the liquid is smooth.  Let it simmer uncovered until the asparagus is tender, about 20 minutes.  Puree in the blender or using an immersion blender.  Stir in crème fraîche and chives and season to taste with parsley, salt and pepper.  In restaurants here, the soup is frequently served with a big dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a few croutons, and it is really good that way (but you can always substitute another spoonful of crème fraîche and it will still look pretty and taste like that flavor you looked forward to all winter long).  Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Tami

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On Scotland, and Cullen Skink

Scotland is pretty. Scotland is very, very pretty. We were just there for four days, but it was so lovely. Cold, a little rainy at times, but lovely. And you know all those things you’ve heard about English food being kind of gross and bland? (Haven’t you?) And you know how one might also assume that Scottish food could be gross and bland? Don’t believe a word (or assumption) of it. Plus there’s that whole really delicious cask ales and single malt Scotch thing, too. Plus there’s Sticky Toffee Pudding! Really, Scotland has a lot going for it.

    


And here, probably my favorite part of Scotland (or rather my favorite indoor part): The pubs, and cafes, and breakfast.

That basically describes our trip. We did a lot of walking, and ate a lot of food. And, we even came back with a recipe or two.

~~~

If you like clam chowder except for the clams, Cullen Skink is just the right soup for you.  (You can even like clams and still like this soup, har! – Kara) We picked it off the menu in a pub because we were intrigued by the name (plus they were out of the brie and chutney we were eyeing), and it was the perfect thing to warm us down to our toes after a cold evening walk around Edinburgh.  We really didn’t know what to expect, but when the soup bowl arrived and we took a taste, we knew it was one we could reproduce at home.

Cullen Skink

  • ¼ cup finely chopped sweet onion (we would have used a leek, but we were out of them)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 4 medium cooked potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup light cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk (you need about 3 cups liquid all together – use any combination of milk/cream that you like)
  • ¾ pound smoked fish (haddock is the most authentic, but we found smoked halibut and it was a good substitute – about 330 grams or 11.5 ounces)
  • A sprinkle of dried parsley, marjoram, or other herbs of your choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a 3-quart or larger saucepan, cook the onion in the butter until it is tender and just beginning to brown.  Add the potato cubes and stir around to coat with the butter, then sprinkle the potatoes and onions with flour, stirring again to coat.  Add the cream/milk and stir occasionally while it heats.  When it is nice and hot, add the smoked fish in chunks.  Season to taste and gently simmer for about ten minutes so the flavors can mingle (stir as needed to prevent sticking).

Tami and Kara

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Transitions and ugly soups

I apologize for my lack of presence lately, but I’m going through one of those big transition periods. You know, trying to find a real job (because let’s face it, the customer isn’t always right), trying to find an apartment in Washington, DC when the market is horrible and no one wants to approve three college graduates who have some sort of job and have money saved up and could totally pay for rent, trying to pay off student loans and not liking the thought of asking for help, and trying not to get too frustrated with the entire country and its stupid, silly inhabitants. Hmph.

Things get ugly sometimes, but a girl’s still gotta eat. I made some soup the other day, and it wasn’t my prettiest work but the taste, oh the taste. It was a mish-mash soup with a sort of strange list of ingredients, brought on by the suggestion of a previous recipe for red wine-braised bacon from the Chez Panisse cookbook – to save the braising liquid to use in soups or sauces. Red wine and chicken broth flavored with bacon drippings? In a soup? Twist my arm, why don’t you.

I don’t want to suggest that you braise some bacon in wine just to make this soup, but I hope to give you inspiration to use every little bit of food that you can, and to not waste something that has potential to be delicious. Think of this soup as the gateway soup – once you start making soups like this, you’ll inevitably go on to experiment more. And it will be delicious.

So, here’s the bacon braised in a bath of red wine, courtesy of the Chez Panisse Cookbook:

Red wine-braised bacon

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thick
  • 1/2 pound smoked bacon, sliced 1/2 inch thick (or, well, whatever bacon you have, I imagine. Our bacon was from the farmer’s market and delicious, but wasn’t 1/2 inch thick)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups (dry) red wine

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the onion and bay leaves in a glass rectangular baking dish (like one of those 9×13 Pyrex ones). Arrange the bacon slices on top and pour enough wine and chicken stock (in equal amounts) to just cover the bacon. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until bacon is tender when probed with a fork.
The Chez Panisse recipe would have you fry the bacon in a skillet to crisp it up before serving, but we were too hungry and just ate it straight from the braising liquid. Both ways are delicious.

And then, don’t you dare throw away that cooking liquid with its braised onions. Discard the bay leaves, then put the liquid in an airtight container in the fridge for future use, such as in a soup or a sauce.

Ugly potato soup

  • 2 or 3 large potatoes, such as Russet (or, substitute one potato with a sweet potato – I did, and it was good but probably contributed to the ugliness)
  • some onion (to taste), chopped
  • salt, pepper, other herbs of choice
  • the braising liquid from above
  • extra water or chicken broth
  • olive oil
  • other possible additions, if you like: a few carrots, other root vegetables or squash

This soup is simple. First, cook the vegetables. I chose to bake my potatoes (skin on, pierced with a fork several times) in a 400 F oven for about an hour, until cooked through. I then took the skin off and roughly chopped the potatoes for the next step. If using other vegetables, I would also roast them with the potatoes but for less time, depending on the vegetable. Or, you could dice and boil the potatoes until soft. You could even microwave them. I won’t judge.

Next, over medium-high heat cook the chopped onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes, until soft. Or, if you have a few extra minutes, cook the onion over low heat for about 20 minutes, until they are deeply golden and caramelized. Add the prepared potatoes and other vegetables and the braising liquid and bring to a boil. At this point it is up to you to decide if you want or need to add extra water or broth. I decided to add a bit more water, then I used an immersion blender to make a pureed soup.  Add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste.

Serve warm, drizzled with olive oil or an herb such as parsley,  if you like.

Until next time (hopefully from a new apartment in DC?!),

Kara

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Snowy Soupy Day

We are so lucky in Colorado to have four distinct seasons.  The only thing is… a lot of times, it gets a little mixed up!  Everything doesn’t quite happen when it is supposed to.  Take today, for example, it’s snowing.

This isn’t the earliest I have seen snow here, a few years ago it was snowing in September.  No, I am not kidding.  And yes, I do remember one June storm.  When it snows, I love having warm comforty food, and usually soup is on the menu.

We love playing outside with the kids in the snow, ‘cause let’s just face it…we are just big kids too!

                                                   

One of my absolute favorite soups comes from my childhood, and my mom’s baked potato soup is the best ever!  Shortly after we moved to Colorado, and my parents moved to Germany, I was dying for my mom’s soup.  She was so kind and patient with me, as I tried to figure it out.  Seriously, when I learned how to make this soup, she had to explain to me what a roux is. Luckily, I’ve grown up a bit from those days.

Mom’s Baked Potato Soup

  • 5 russet potatoes (I use one potato per person)
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup ham, cubed
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Pierce the potatoes, and bake the potatoes in a 400-degree oven.  It usually takes about an hour.  The potatoes can absolutely be baked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

To prepare the soup, peel the baked and cooled potatoes, and chop into cubes.

       

In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until they are translucent.

       

Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon.  Season the roux with the salt, pepper, and thyme.

After the roux has a bit of color to it, add the potatoes to the pot.  Add the milk, and bring to a gentle boil.

After the soup thickens a bit, take about 2 cups out and puree the mixture, and return it to the pot.

       

This should thicken the soup a little more.  Add the ham and cheddar cheese, stirring until the cheese has completely melted.  Taste, and if needed, add more salt and/ or pepper.

To serve, simply dish the soup into a pretty bowl!  Feel free to garnish the soup with anything that sounds good.  Personally, I love fresh dill and green onions.  My husband goes for sour cream and of course, bacon.  My kids all take more cheese on top.

       

I must say that this soup (or any soup for that matter) goes particularly well with Kara’s Hot Toddy.  I personally like it made with chai spiced black tea.

Cheers!

Janessa

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Breck and chili

At this stage of life (three kids, husband, school, house, laundry, cooking, cleaning… you get the idea!) I sometimes find myself thinking…I need to get away!  This always seems to hit me during the month of October. Coincidentally, my children have a school free week mid month.  Where do we usually go, you may ask?  Living close to the mountains, we have many options, but the town of Breckenridge beckons me like no other.  It is a perfect mountain escape.  Plus the time-share there kinda helps.

It is beautiful and amazing, inviting and charming, quaint yet full of fun outdoorsy activities.

Can you tell I’m obsessed?

The week leading up to our Breck trip is always filled with a lot of crazy running around to get ready, and a lot of pre cooking since we like to balance eating in and eating out on our trip.  This year, we decided to do a big pot of shredded pork chili.  I say we, but actually I did the deciding, and Jason (my husband) did the cooking.  Quite often that’s how our relationship works.  Luckily for me, the boy can cook! I love chili, especially if there are lots and lots of beans.  I have never met a bean I didn’t like, so this is a very beany chili.  I also snuck in some lima beans.  Jason wasn’t originally thrilled but came around when he saw how it thickened the chili in the perfect way!

Shredded Pork Chili (with lots and lots of beans)

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder (country style pork ribs will also work)
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-4 diced chilies of any kind (poblano, anaheim, jalapeño)
  • 1 16 ounce package dried kidney beans, soaked overnight
  • ½ 16 ounce package dried black beans, soaked overnight
  • ½ 16 ounce package dried lima beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Pork Rub

  • 2 teaspoons new mexico chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Chop the pork into fairly large pieces, and sprinkle with the rub.  Massage the rub into the meat.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Sear pork on all sides, place finished pieces in a pressure cooker, working in batches.  After all of the pork is seared and in the pressure cooker, pour the remaining rub on top. Add water to the pan, covering the pork most of the way.  Cook in the pressure cooker for approx. 45 minutes, according to manufacturers instructions.

Since we live at high altitude, it is necessary for us to precook our beans before they cook in the chili.  I place them in a crock-pot for about 4 hours on low, covered with water, and salt added.  If you don’t live at high altitude, disregard this part!

After the meat is finished, remove it from the pan and cool.  Once the liquid has cooled, strain the fat from the top, and set aside.  Shred the cooled pork, and set aside.

In a large stockpot, sauté the onions, garlic, bell peppers, and chilies.   Add the braising liquid, shredded pork, and beans.  Add the cans of tomatoes and the tomato paste.  Add all of the seasoning, and stir thoroughly.  Add enough water until desired consistency is reached.  Simmer the chili for at least an hour, longer if you did not pre cook the beans.

Not only is Breckenridge too cute for words; they have amazing food.  To me, there’s nothing better than grabbing a delicious bite to eat without having to slow down, so we often opt for street food.  Our favorite in Breckenridge is their delightful little crepe stand.

This crepe stand has many options, for the sweet tooth, or not.  Unlike everyone else in my family, I will always take the savory route; their pesto chicken crepe is to die for.  My children and husband will always agree on the nutella, banana, and strawberry combination.  Luckily for me, that means I don’t have to share!

The best part about this place is their patio. Of course, they have tables and chairs, but the best part is the fireplace.  You can warm your fingers and eat all at the same time!

Since we are on vacation, there is no better way to start the day than the hot tub and some delicious Irish coffee.  I think you can figure out the recipe on your own…but if not, here’s a good one. Beware: it’s strong! (Especially if you have not had breakfast….)

  • 6 oz. brewed coffee (the stronger the better)
  • 1 oz. Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 oz. Irish whiskey

Enjoy!

Janessa

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Perfect Roasted Chicken, and Mom to the Rescue with a Really Good Chicken Stock

I’ve been in a Wednesday chicken habit for a while, because that is the day the rotisserie chicken truck parks at the grocery store just off the traffic circle on my way home from work.  However, two weeks ago, the chicken lady sold the last one just as I was walking up to the window, and this past week was really busy and the truck was long gone before I ever thought about leaving work.  I’ve been hungry for some good chicken enchiladas, so I decided to roast my own chickens this weekend (plus, when I read about Kara’s less-than-full-flavored chicken soup, I thought to myself, “I can help out with that!”).  The roasted chicken was easy, and the result was so delicious I don’t know if the chicken truck lady will ever see me again.

Many years before brining became trendy, I remember my brother-in-law telling me about a nice lady who came into his office in Portland, Oregon, and told him the secret to moist, juicy fried chicken.  I’m sure she was there on other business, but somehow the topic of chicken came up, and she said to soak the chicken in salt water for a couple of hours (refrigerated).  I’ve followed the advice ever since whenever I make chicken.  Sometimes I add other seasonings, but this time it was simply a tablespoon of kosher salt dissolved in a cup of boiling water, with cold water added until it was deep enough to cover the chicken.  I was making two chickens, so I used my 6-quart stainless steel pan, and they fit in just right.

My standard go-to reference cookbook is the yellow-covered Good Housekeeping Cookbook that Janessa gave me one year for Mother’s Day.  I picked the herbed roasted chicken recipe and made a few small modifications – I used less butter, and I substituted sage for the chives or tarragon in the original recipe.  I’ve made quite a few roasted chickens in the past, but this was the first time I tried lifting up the skin and stuffing anything between the skin and the meat.  It was the best roasted chicken I’ve ever eaten – I don’t know if it was that technique, or if I simply had really good chickens.  The choices in the store were fresh corn-fed organic chickens from France or frozen who-knows-what-fed chickens from the chicken factory in Arkansas, and I went with fresh because they were nice and plump and I wanted to make them that same day.  Since I mentioned the chickens’ diets, here’s a random piece of culinary trivia: in Mexico, chicken meat is quite yellow, and Mexicans think pale American chickens are flavorless.  The yellow color isn’t because the chickens themselves are a different breed, but Mexican chicken feed contains marigold petals, and that gives the chickens a nice yellow color.

Perfect Roasted Chicken

If the chicken is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator.  Then wash it thoroughly, especially the insides, and cover with a light salt solution (about a tablespoon per 2 quarts water) and refrigerate for several hours.  You can boil a little water and then mix in the salt to hasten dissolving, and you can also steep a spoonful of peppercorns and fresh or dried herbs of your choice in the salt water.  I sometimes include a big handful of thyme or rosemary sprigs, but this time I went with plain salt and water.

When you are ready to roast the chicken, put it in a greased deep baking dish.  I don’t use a rack, and I think letting the chicken sit in the juices during roasting results in moister thigh meat.  Cut thin slices of butter, and lift the skin from the breast meat, using a big spoon to reach clear in.  You can also use a knife to cut through the part where it will stay attached along the center line of the breast.  Use the spoon to hold the skin up and slip slices of butter in between (I used about ¾ cup butter for two chickens).  Then slip in whole sage leaves, or an alternative to the butter slices and whole sage would be to mix dried sage or other herbs of your choice with softened butter and then spread the mixture on the meat with a slim rubber or silicon spatula.  I used six sage leaves per chicken, and next time I will use 10-12.

Roast the chicken in a hot oven (I did mine at 200 C. on the heissluft or hot air setting, about 400 F., and a regular oven will work just as well).  When juices start to run, spoon some over the top of the chicken a couple of times during roasting, and that’s all there is to it.  Depending on how big the chicken is (and if you are making two, how crowded they are in the baking dish), it will probably take an hour and a half to two hours. You will be able to tell the chicken is done when you see that the drippings inside the cavity have turned completely brown with no red tinge.  I was a little concerned that crowding the chickens in the pan like I did would affect the final results, but my oven, though very high-tech, is very, very small and stuffing the chickens in the 9 X 13 pan was the only way I could do two at once (speaking of my oven, anyone know why I might use the infrarot fläschengrill or turbo raumgrill settings?).  And speaking of stuffing, I didn’t, but I think it would be really good and might try that next time (if you do, it will take a little longer to get done).

After you take the chicken out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.  Depending on how many people you are feeding, even one chicken will probably provide several meals and give you the basis for a flavorful stock.  The secret to the stock is the bones, so if you are serving some of the chicken for a meal, cut the meat away from the bones rather than plating up the hindquarters with the bones in.

If you want to make gravy, pour about a cup of the pan drippings into a saucepan and whisk in a heaping tablespoon of instant-blend flour (Wondra or other brand).  Bring to a boil while whisking and season to taste.

Perfect Full-Flavored Chicken Stock and Diced Chicken for Recipes

As soon as you finish your roasted chicken dinner, pull all of the remaining meat off the bones (there will be a lot along the backbone, in the wings, and on the ribs, etc. – it comes off the bones much more easily if you do it right away rather than putting the whole remaining chicken in the fridge first).

Cover and refrigerate the meat for later (easier to dice after it is chilled) and put the bones, all of the skin, and the remaining pan juices in a slow cooker or large pot with a lid (at least 3 quart capacity).  Add flavor-boosters such as a teaspoon of whole peppercorns, a big shake of dried parsley, a teaspoon of dried marjoram and/or dried or fresh thyme, a quartered onion, one or more carrots (slice or cut lengthwise), and one or more ribs of celery (leaves too if they are still attached).  I’m not wild about bay leaves in chicken dishes, but go for it if you like it.  Sometimes I add a sliced potato, but I didn’t this time.  Acting on a tip from Janessa’s husband, I also included the onionskin to deepen the color even more.  I had a red onion, but yellow onionskins were a traditional dyestuff for centuries – they’ll give a nice color too.

Add enough boiling water to cover everything, then put the lid on and cook for a long time.  I use my slow cooker on low and leave it overnight; if you are using the stove let it simmer at least three hours.

To strain the stock, suspend a fine-meshed strainer over a deep bowl.  Remove the vegetable pieces from the stock to a small bowl, and strain the bones/skin a few spoons full at a time, pressing gently with the back of the spoon to extract all of the juice.

Discard the bones and pour the stock through the strainer (you might want to put the bowl/strainer in the sink).  Cover the stock with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours, until the layer of fat has thickened enough that it can easily be spooned off.  Puree the vegetables and refrigerate until the stock is chilled.


I ended up with about six cups of stock and a cup of fat.  Since a lot of the fat was butter, I decided to keep it for chicken recipes that call for butter.  If you want to keep the “chicken butter,” spoon it into a re-sealable bag, label, and freeze.

To prepare the chicken for recipes, dice to the size you want and put it in a bowl.  Mix in about a half cup of stock, or enough to lightly coat the meat.  At this point you can refrigerate it if you will use it in a day or two, or freeze for future use.  Sometimes I divide it into recipe-size portions before freezing, but this time I put it all in a gallon-size bag and shook up the bag a couple of times while it was freezing to keep the chicken cubes somewhat separated.  We ate about half of one chicken for dinner, and the remaining chicken and a half yielded around six cups of diced chicken.

This last step in making the stock is where some of the extra flavor comes from: stir in the pureed vegetables.  Mix well and then use a one-cup spouted measuring cup or ladle to pour the stock into freezer bags.   I didn’t add any extra salt, since I prefer to do that when I am using it in a recipe, and speaking of recipes, this stock is quite concentrated, but you can wait to add water when you are using the stock so it doesn’t take up extra room in the freezer.   That’s it, and it so much better than the canned or boxed variety – even if you are starting with a deli chicken instead of roasting your own, follow these steps and you will have delicious flavorful homemade chicken stock.


I know I’ve mentioned them in a couple of posts now – enchilada recipe coming soon!

Tami

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