22 December 2006

Feel Better Soup

It seems that soups have been on my mind a lot lately, but hey, it's officially winter now. 'Tis the season for warm soups!
My work days are filled with chats about menus, service, procedures, construction, sodas and creamers. Opening a restaurant is hard work, and I know I'm only being exposed to a fraction of it. We spend lots of time talking about wonderful food and horrible food (usually someone's bad experience at a restaurant recently).
And while I'm surrounded by discussions of wonderful food, it seems I haven't been cooking too much lately. Perhaps that's why I was eager to make a great soup for a friend who was not feeling well.
The soup was a basic chicken noodle. What sets it apart is its homemade egg noodles borrowed from my Great Grandma Peach's recipe.
I'll share the ingredients and the techniques. I won't, however, tell you exact portions of ingredients. Now this isn't because I've turned into a food snob whose dishes are too good to duplicate. Quite the opposite.
I simply don't keep track. The meal came from the heart, guided by close attention to my sense of smell and taste.

I started the soup by roasting bone-in chicken thighs that had been drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
While the chicken is roasting, take out celery, two medium onions, a few carrots and sprigs of herbs such as thyme, sage and rosemary.
Rinse/peel veggies. Roughly chop a couple of the celery stalks, carrots and one of the onions. Place the rough chopped veggies in a stock pot. Rinse the herbs, and place in the pot, stem and all, if you're lazy like I am.
Take remaining veggies and slice more thinly for the soup. Store covered in the fridge for now. Fill the stock pot three-quarters of the way with water. Add a generous dose of salt. Then add a little more. Set aside.
Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle it. At that point, get ready for the mess.
Ready yourself by donning kitchen gloves if you have them. Set up your meat cutting board, a garbage bowl for skins and a storage container for the chicken.
Begin removing skins and pulling meat from the bone. As you remove the meat, pull it apart into bite-size chunks. Put the meat into the bowl. Place the cleaned bones in the stock pot.
Once this process is complete, cover the chicken and stick in the fridge. Put the stock pot on the stove top and turn on high. (It should be filled with veggies, herbs, salt, water and bones.)
Bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Now it just needs time. A couple of hours.
Start on the noodles by taking about two cups or so of flour. Add salt. create a well in the flour. Crack two eggs into the well. With a fork, break the yolks and begin slowly incorporating the flour. Be gentle with the eggs during this process, too much handling will toughen the noodles. Once you get the dough formed, generously flour the board and the top of the dough and roll with a rolling pin. Repeat until the dough is thin (think pie dough only a bit thinner).
Then I take a pizza cutter to cut the noodles from the dough. Once they're cut, toss with a little more flour and spread them out on a flat surface to dry for about an hour. Once they've become slightly dry, move them to the fridge until the last minute.
When the soup stock tastes right, remove from heat. Pour through a sieve or cheesecloth to separate solids. Discard veggies, herbs and bones. Return liquid to pot. Add remaining veggies as well as frozen corn and peas to the pot. Bring to a boil to cook veggies. Pull the chicken and noodles from the fridge to rise to room temp.
Once veggies are cooked through, turn the heat to lowest setting and let set for a couple of minutes. Add the noodles and immediately stir to make sure noodles don't stick. Add the chicken.
Stir soup and keep on low heat for a few more minutes.
When the soup is done, serve immediately or store in covered containers for the fridge or freezer.
Serve with a green salad and warm bread!

15 December 2006

Pumpkin Squash Soup

The past 24 hours here in Vancouver, Wash., have been wild. We had driving winds that took down tree limbs, fences and power lines. A tree along Main Street was uprooted and slammed onto the car windshield of a woman driving by. She was not hurt, but her car is surely out of commission for a bit.

Today the winds calmed down, but the wild weather did not. During about a two-hour span this afternoon we had sun, rain, sleet and snow. The snow was big and flaky and blowing around. For about 45 minutes it was beautiful and felt very Christmas-like.

So after a lazy afternoon at Mon Ami working online, I decided it was a soup night. And being a Friday, the fridge was empty. I peeked at the pantry shelf of canned goods. A can of pumpkin puree became my inspiration.

The result was warm, creamy and the perfect balance for a light meal. Of course, I'm quite sure that fresh pumpkin and squash would have a more robust flavor, this meal was quite good for a dish straight from the pantry (and freezer). If I had some fresh greens a wonderful salad with a little olive oil and sea salt would have been the perfect pair.

Pumpkin Squash Soup

1 can pumpkin puree
1 can chicken stock
1 package of frozen, cooked squash
1 cup of milk
1 cup of sour cream
Olive oil
Spices (see below)

Thaw the frozen squash in the chicken stock on the stove top. Once thawed, add the pumpkin, milk and sour cream. Whisk to combine. In a small bowl combine spices. I used salt, white pepper, ginger, ground coriander and paprika. The combined spices were probably roughly a tablespoon. Use whatever spices you like, or simply go with salt and pepper.

Stir in spices. Let soup simmer over a low heat for five to 10 minutes. Taste. Add salt if needed. Stir in a drizzle of olive oil to finish.

I served the soup garnished with scallions and chopped walnuts. I would have added sour cream to that if I'd had any left.

07 December 2006

Chili Night

So Dina wrote me the other day asking about my chili recipe. I'm sure most of you have your own chili recipe. And frankly, there's nothing too special about mine, just a little twist on the way Mom always made it.
About a year ago I managed to get Seth in the kitchen to make chili. In order to make it a bit more interesting for him, I decided to have him add beer. It made him have fun making dinner, and the results tasted pretty good.
Chili is pretty fool proof. Get the tomatoes and meat down, and everything else is gravy. Add corn if you like. Skip the beans if you want. Add less liquid if you like it thick, more if you like it thin.
Here's the recipe. If you have some good chili tips, ingredients or recipes, please leave a comment and share them with others here.

Seth's Chili

1 pound of ground chuck or sirloin browned, grease drained

1, 16-oz can of crushed tomatoes
2, 6-oz can of tomato paste
1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-dark beer such as an amber
chili spice mix (store-bought or created from chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, red pepper, ground coriendar, salt and black pepper)

Add the canned ingredients to the browned meat in a large soup pot. Add one can of water using the 16-ounce can and the beer. Stir and add spices. Bring chili to a slow simmer for about 20 minutes to cook out the alcohol. The chili could be served then or allowed to slowly simmer for another half hour or so until ready to serve.

Around here we pile on Fritos, sour cream and shredded cheddar on our chili.