Soups

Mushroom Soup

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The weather has been frigid lately and that demands soup to warm the bones. I had never done a mushroom soup so I decided to give it a go. I used a variety of mushrooms: 1/2 Crimini, 1/4 Shitake and 1/4 rehydrated Porcini. If using dried mushrooms, do not throw away the rehydration liquid. Strain it carefully and use it in place of some of the stock. In my case, I had 1 cup of rehydration liquid and 3 cups of broth. There is no sense in throwing away all that flavor.

I used a semi-dry sherry since the subtle, oaky flavors would go better with the earthiness of the mushrooms than a dry, fruity sherry. The Greek yogurt added some thickening and richness without the fat of regular or sour cream.

It’s not Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom (that is a good thing), but it was Mm, Mm, Good! I served it along side a pork loin roast stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and shallots, but it really could be a meal all by itself.

Ingredients:
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. fresh Rosemary
4 cups homemade chicken broth
1/4 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup semi-dry sherry
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1) Melt the butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2) Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
3) Reserve several slices of mushroom for the garnish and add the rest of the mushrooms and rosemary to the pot and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.
4) Add the broth, deglaze the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

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5) Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
6) Transfer about half of the soup to a food processor and puree until smooth.
7) Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the Greek yogurt and sherry. Salt and pepper, to taste, and reheat.
8) Garnish each serving with a couple of slices of reserved mushrooms.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

My wife called me from our daughter’s apartment last week where she is helping her pack for a move to a post-doctoral research position at Princeton University. Notice how I seamlessly worked in the facts that my daughter 1) has her Ph.D and 2) has accepted a position at Princeton. Okay, enough bragging and back to soup. It seems my daughter’s downstairs neighbors who are of Mexican descent were cooking something that smelled fabulous and my wife thought it might be soup. I had chicken tortilla soup on my mind the rest of the week. Sunday was cold and snowy so it seemed like a good excuse to cook some up.

Tortilla soup is one of those recipes where everyone seems to have their own favorite version and they are all different. I don’t know how authentic my version is, but it is smoky, spicy and full of beans, peppers and chicken; oh, and did I mention delicious.

I can’t do anything the easy way so even with the snow and the cold, I went out and fired up the grill for some of the prep work. Picture this: there is snow on the ground. Temps are in the low 20s. The wind is blowing. A neighbor bundled up like Nanook of the North is walking his dog past our driveway. Meanwhile, I am standing on the carport in a short sleeve shirt and socked feet firing up the grill. Yes, I know I am certifiably crazy which proves that my daughter got her smarts from her mother who is helping her pack for a move to a post-doctoral research position at Princeton University, but I guess I mentioned that already.

For peppers, I used Anchos, Poblano, red and yellow bell peppers plus some ancho chili powder and cayenne pepper in the spice mix. I roasted the Poblano and bell peppers on the grill until charred and popped them into a plastic sandwich bag to steam for 15 minutes. Likewise, I roasted the tomatoes on the grill until charred and soft.

Veggie

For chicken, I went with the bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Since the skin wasn’t going into the soup, I was forced to snack on it while I shredded the meat. Doesn’t that skin look crispy and tasty? It was! Snacking on it is just one of those sacrifices you have to make when you cook. People do not always appreciate the sacrifices of a chef.

Chicken

There are all sorts of time saving substitutions you can make with this recipe. Just understand, you may be impacting the taste, as well. I think the long form approach is best for this recipe . . . most recipes.

I used dry beans, soaked them overnight and then cooked them. You could buy a can of black beans ready to use. I roasted fresh tomatoes and processed them with the anchos. You could use a can of diced tomatoes. If you do, choose one with green chilies for extra kick. Instead of roasting red and yellow bell peppers, you could buy a jar of roasted peppers. I used homemade chicken stock. You could use low-sodium, store-bought chicken stock. I developed a spice mix for the soup. You could purchase a jar of Mexican spices to use. In a pinch, you could pick up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken instead of cooking a couple of breasts.

If you go with the jars and cans, watch the sodium level. By the time you are done adding the contents and pouring in that store-bought chicken stock, you have already added a whole bunch of salt. When I got to the “Salt and Pepper, to taste” step, I had zero salt in the pot and it only needed a little.

I did the prep work early in the afternoon and threw the soup together quickly in the evening. You could easily do the prep the day before.

I served mine garnished with some cilantro, chopped green onions and some crème fraîche. Yes, I know crème fraîche is not Mexican, but it is better than sour cream. I would have used Mexican crema, but I can’t buy it locally. I guess next time, I’ll have to make my own. With some corn bread, this is a meal of its own.

It’s worth the work to do it the long way. Give it a shot and see.

Ingredients:
8 oz. dried Black Beans, rinsed
2 tsp. Cumin, ground
1/2 tsp. Anchio Chili Powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. dried Oregano
2 bone-in, skin-on Chicken Breast halves
1 large Yellow Bell Pepper
1 large Red Bell Pepper
1 Poblano Pepper
3 dried Ancho Chilis
2 large Beefsteak Tomatoes
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 large Red Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 quarts homemade Chicken Stock
2 tbsp. Masa Harina or corn flour
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Salt and Pepper, to taste
16 oz. frozen Corn
5 whole Corn Tortillas, Cut in half and then 3/4 inch wide strips
1 cups oil, for frying tortillas

Garnish Ideas:
Sour Cream
Diced Avocado
Chopped scallions
Salsa Or Pico De Gallo
Cotija or grated Monterey Jack Cheese
Cilantro
Lime wedges

Directions:
1. Soak black beans in 4 cups cold water overnight. Alternately, bring 4 cups water and beans to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, remove pan from heat and cover. Let soak for 1 hour. Strain and rinse.
2. In a large dutch oven, add beans and 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Loosely cover and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until beans are tender, approximately 45-60 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine Cumin, Anchio Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano.
4. While the beans are cooking, season Chicken using 1 teaspoon of the spice blend and cook on grill. When chicken is done, remove to plate to cool. When cool, shred using two forks.
5. Roast Red and Yellow bell peppers and Poblano Pepper on grill until charred, bag for 15 minutes, peel, seed and chop.
6. Roast dried Anchos on grill until they are slightly softened. Soak in hot water for 30 minutes, seed and chop.
7. Cut tomatoes in half and grill until charred and soft.
8. In a blender or food processor, process Anchoes. Tomatoes and 2 cups of stock until smooth.
9. In a large dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp Olive oil over medium high heat.
10. Add the onions to the dutch oven and saute until translucent, about 8-10 minutes.
11. Add Garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds.
12. Add Red, Yellow and Poblano pepper, 6 cups chicken stock, tomato/Ancho puree, black beans and remaining spice mix to dutch oven, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
13. Add masa harina to soup and stir well to thicken slightly.
14. Adding juice of 1/2 lime. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
15. Add corn and shredded chicken to dutch oven and cook an additional 15 minutes.
16. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat oil over high heat and fry tortilla strips until lightly brown and crispy.
17. To serve, place tortilla strips in the bottom of the soup bowls and ladle soup over the strips. Top with any of the desired garnishes.

Old Fashion Bean Soup

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I smoked a pork shoulder in applewood last week. Three dinners and one sandwich later, I had the bone and some nice meat with plenty of bark left. As Fall sets in and temps continue to fall, this cried out for bean soup. This recipe is adapted from Old School Ham Bone Beans at Deep South Dish. Typically, a hambone or ham hocks would be the base for bean soup, but the smokiness of the pork was perfect. You probably do not need the bacon and bacon fat in the recipe, but, come on, it’s bacon. You can alway justify bacon!

It takes a little longer, but I make the meat stock first and then use it to cook the beans. Using rich meat stock when cooking the bean enriches the flavors. This recipe is all about layering flavor upon flavor for a rich, hearty soup.

Leeks are not traditional, but I love the flavor. Mushrooms are not traditional either, but complement the earthiness of the smoked meat and beans. They are optional. You can use commercial Cajun Spice. I make my own blend without salt. I prefer to monitor the salt used in any dish.

Serve with a hearty, crusty whole wheat bread for a healthy, hearty Autumn meal.

Stock:

Ingredients:
1 large ham or pork shoulder bone with meat
3 celery stalks with leaves, cut into thirds
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large Vidalia onion, quartered
2 Leeks, rinsed and quartered
2 bay leaves
8-10 whole peppercorns
6 cups of water or enough to cover

Directions:
1) Place bone and stock ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.
2) Strain stock and cool.
3) Reserve meat from the bone.

Bean Soup:

Ingredients:
5 slices of thick cut bacon (I use low sodium)
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
2 Leeks, rinsed and finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound package of dried mixed soup bean (I use Goya 16 Bean Soup mix), rinsed
Reserved ham or smoked pork, chopped
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
Reserved bacon fat
1 cup of reserved meat stock
12 oz mixed gourmet mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbs Cajun Seasoning
Hot Sauce, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1) In a large Dutch Oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Roughly chop bacon and reserve. Reserve 1/2 of bacon grease.
2) Add onions, leeks, celery and carrots to the Dutch Oven and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
3) Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
4) Add beans and meat stock (except 1 cup, reserved).
5) Raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
6) Add the reserved meat and bacon and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
7) In a small saucepan, reheat the reserved bacon fat. Stir in the flour and cook until lightly browned. Slowly stir in the reserved meat stock, bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until smooth.
8) Add gravy, mushrooms, Cajun Spices, hot sauce, salt and pepper to the Dutch Oven cook for an additional 30 minutes.

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

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Summer is waning and I picked the last 16 cucumbers off my shriveling vines yesterday. Today, I was challenged with using them or facing the prospect of eating Cucumber Benedict for breakfast, cucumber sandwiches for lunch and sautéed cucumbers for supper for days to come. The solution was 4 quarts of Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup (3 quarts in the freezer), 2 quarts of refrigerator dill pickles and a large bowl of Cucumber Salad with Red Onions and Mint.

Below is the recipe for the soup. A couple of replacements make this low fat and healthy. The avocado replaces any butter and adds to the creaminess. The Greek yogurt replaces sour cream. I partially peel my cucumbers to reduce the amount of thick skin. You could kick up the heat with some cayenne pepper (Chef John at Food Wishes would) and/or using the Jalapeño seeds.

Add the water as necessary. I have seen many recipes calling for 1 cup of water. I found 1/4 cup plenty. It will depend on the water content of your cucumbers. Start with a little and adjust to your desired consistency.

I garnished the dish with some fresh chives. You could use some mint, cilantro and/or avocado cubes. The dish is quick, simple and tasty.

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:
Flesh of one medium Avocado
2 cucumbers, partially peeled and seeded
1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
3 scallions, white and pale-green parts only
1 Jalapeño pepper, seeded
Zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Direction:
Blend all ingredients in a blender until very smooth.
Serve chilled.