The bomb

September 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

If I had to choose one favorite soup, it would have to be potato cheddar. It would be even more favoriter if it had bacon on top. When waiting to hear the soup of the day on a menu I always secretly hope it will be potato & cheddar and am sadly disappointed when it is something uber-healthy. That happens more and more these days, so it’s time to take matters into my own hands.

To finish my week of delicious soup I’ve made it my mission to find the most decadent potato cheddar soup recipe. I did a bit of scouring of the web and found a recipe from Wolfgang Puck that looked pretty darn good. My husband just saw him in a restaurant in LA, so I figure it was a good coincidence. You can find the recipe here.

Wolfgang is a man of my own heart and the recipe gets off to a good start by cooking bacon and then melting 1/4 cup of butter in the bacon grease.

It continues to get better with finely chopped leeks, yellow onion, carrot and garlic which gives the soup a nice depth of flavor.
 These are then sauteed in the bacon grease & butter before adding in delicious chicken broth.
Then it’s time for the main ingredient, 3 lbs of potatoes and a little bit of boiling until they’re tender.
And the soup continues to get better with a lb of sharp cheddar cheese and a cup of heavy cream. There is nothing really healthy about this soup to be sure but it is worth it.  I don’t know if this will be my ultimate potato & cheddar soup recipe but it was definitely one of the best I’ve made.

Ancestral comfort

September 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Few things are as comforting as a bowl of soup on a cold day. Add to the fact that soup is an old family recipe passed down for who knows how long, and it becomes the perfect recipe for comfort. When I spent a week looking through my ancestry, one of the things that stuck out was that while we may not have preserved language or some other customs, family recipes were one of those things that survived in some form or fashion. As I looked through old letters and calendars I came across a recipe I remember my grandmother making and subsequently my mother trying a few times: Groesknettlke soup.

There are often things you wish you knew more about with your heritage but can no longer ask. I wanted to know more about the origin of the soup but Google surprisingly yielded nothing, so I enlisted my German friend, Vicky, to try to figure it out. The recipe came from my great grandmother who lived in a German enclave of the Austro-Hungarian empire and then later immigrated to the US, settling in Pennsylvania. Vicky explained the spelling is very typical of how the “mountain Germans” write with the “lke” on the end. The soup means “big dumpling” soup (Gross Knudle). I supposed I could have gathered that but it’s still good to know for sure. It is in fact a big dumpling soup, similar to matzo ball soup.

Great grandma Zinz’s Groesknettlke Soup:
broth:
4lb organic chicken (can also make with just beef broth)
2 qt. chicken broth (or beef broth)
2 qt. water
1 yellow onion
3 stalks celery
2 med. carrots
salt to taste

Bring chicken and broth to a boil and then simmer over a couple of hours until meat starts to fall from the bone. Strain the chicken and veggies from the broth and return the broth to the pot on low to stay warm. Keep lid on to prevent liquid from reducing too much. Pull apart the chicken to return to the soup at the end. Pour some liquid over it to prevent it from drying out.
dumplings:
1 cup farina
6 T. crisco (my great grandmother used lard originally)
3 eggs

First cream the shortening and add 1/2 farina. Mix a little bit. Add the eggs and stir until blended (don’t overmix). Add the remainder of the farina until you have a good consistency. I of course didn’t know what “good consistency” meant since it was my first time. Ladle some broth into a bowl and take a small spoonful of the mixture and drop it in. If it starts to disintegrate, you need to add more farina. I ended up having to add a bit more. I think it’s ok if it disintegrates a little bit but you want it to hold its shape overall.

Let the mixture stand for 5 min. Drop by teaspoon into the broth that is warm but not boiling. I formed them into quenelles with two spoons to give them a bit more of a dumpling shape. My grandmother (who was very superstitious) adds a note here NOT to count the dumplings as you drop them in as it is bad luck.

Let the soup come to a boil and then add 1/2 cup cold water. Boil at medium heat until the dumplings are done and soft inside (about 10 min on medium boil). The funny thing about old family recipes is that they weren’t trying to publish cookbooks. The recipes assume you already know what things should taste like. Measurements weren’t really exact. I didn’t know what “done” meant for the dumplings and ended up serving them to my friends a little underdone on Friday night, chalking it up to my first attempt. When my husband got home later, they were perfect. They just needed a little more time.

The dumplings should just about double in size and should hold their shape but be the same soft consistency the whole way through (like matzo ball soup). The only way to tell is to try one.

Another note from my grandmother reassures me that even her mother made hard dumplings once in awhile. Overall it is a delicious soup and easy to make. I’m going to make it my mission to make my great grandmother proud and keep this recipe in my family.

Evoking Thomas Keller

September 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve never really attempted a Thomas Keller recipe although my husband likes to from time to time. I’ve always been more of the slow cooking comfort food contributor in our house, recipe optional. I thought this week it would be fun to combine my love of comfort food with trying out my first Thomas Keller recipe. I decided to make one of my favorite comfort foods, french onion soup, for the first time from the Bouchon cookbook. I’ve generalized the recipe here.
To cook like Thomas Keller you have to have a few traits: a tremendous love of food, a meticulous nature and lots of time and patience. I am a little short on the meticulous nature but you can see above I did my best to cut 8 yellow onions into perfectly uniform 1/4″ onion slices without a mandolin. You’ve never cut an onion before until you learn to cut it the way Chef Keller does. It is an art. I also made my kitchen my office yesterday as in typical Keller fashion, these onion slices had to be stirred every 15 minutes for 5 hours! Yes 5 hours to perfectly carmelize the onions. It was a good break as I worked through a difficult freelance project I’m trying to finish.
 I have to say I’ve never tasted truly great carmelized onions until yesterday. It was worth the 5 hours and the intense smell of onion that took over the house, leaving a friend of mine who stopped by with the sniffles. The onions were delicious to snack on on their own and then I also made myself a little bite of baguette, peach basil preserves (from preserving week), pleasant ridge cheese and topped it off with the onions. It was amazing and would be a great way to repurpose extra onions not needed for the soup.
After the carmelizing was finished you add 3 1/2 quarts of liquid (half beef broth/half water) and a bouquet garni and then let it simmer for an hour. Another hour of cooking those onions! After an hour the broth had reduced nicely and I tried my first taste of the base of the soup. It was hands down the best french onion soup flavor I’ve ever had. I had to hold myself back from eating an entire pot of it.
I let the pot sit off the heat until dinner time and then warmed it up again to prepare the rest of the soup. You make the croutons by simply slicing a baguette into 6 3/8″ (yes, 3/8″ to be exact) slices, brushing them with olive oil and broiling each side until golden. Then you combine all the great ingredients of the soup. Pour the soup into a french onion bowl up to 1/2″ from the top. Lay the croutons on top and then top it off with a couple of slices of emmantaler cheese. I had to slice my own so they were not very perfect. You can then add additional grated cheese to the top to fill in potential holes. I love the gooey cheese in french onion soup and I would probably go heavy with it in the future.
 After only a couple minutes under the broiler the cheese had bubbled nicely. I think it’s important to get the slices because then it will stick to the sides vs falling into the pot like mine did, but it was delicious nonetheless!
My friend Alicia joined us for dinner last night and it felt good to serve something that turned out so incredibly delicious. It’s an understatement to say this soup is made with love, but every bit of effort is worth it.

I now have a new favorite comfort food in my repertoire and I’ve tackled my first Thomas Keller recipe.

Ushering in Fall

September 13, 2011 § 3 Comments

The beginning of fall always signifies two of my favorite things: pulling out all of my big, comfy sweaters and making delicious pots of soup. Soup is definitively a seasonal food for me and has to be one of my favorite things to make on a cold day. There’s nothing more nourishing or comforting than a warm bowl of soup you’ve spent a few hours making.

To make a good soup you have to have a good pot and I was lucky enough to get one of my great grandmother’s cast iron pots handed down to me. Yesterday I broke it out and made one of my favorite fall go-tos: roasted butternut squash soup. Around Boulder we have so many farms you can hop in the car and visit for good produce this time of year. I had hoped to get squash that was a bit more rich in color, but the taste is still pretty wonderful.

I tend to play around with my recipe each year and it takes me a few times of making it to get back into the groove of it.

2 small butternut squash or 1 large one
bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig sage, 2 bay leaves) tied together
2 cartons organic chicken broth (or veg broth)
2 shallots
2 T. butter
olive oil
honey
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes (if you like a little kick)

Preheat the oven to 350 & take 2 small butternut squash & cut into 4 segments. Clean out the seeds & pulp. Lay them face up on a baking sheet & brush with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Drizzle a little honey over the segments. Roast the squash for about an hour until it turns slightly darker & softens.

About halfway through roasting the squash I start the broth. Make a bouquet garni by tying together a few sprigs of thyme with a couple bay leaves and a sprig of sage. I really like sage with the squash. Dice 2 shallots. Heat 2 T. butter in the pot and sauté the shallots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add 2 cartons of organic chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the bouquet garni.

 When the squash is finish, separate from the skin and add to the broth. Boil lightly for about 30 min. Remove the bouquet garni. Puree the soup in a food processor or blender. I do 3 batches and usually put the first batch directly back in the pot. Then I will strain the next two batches to get rid of some of the pulp.

It is usually pretty good to eat now, but I like to let it cook for another 45 min or so on low and reduce a little further. The soup is usually even better the next day.

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