Tuesday, December 6, 2005, 12:51 PM - soupsWe made soup from the capon carcass the other day. We actually made the stock the day after thanksgiving, froze it, then made soup with some of it later.
You'll need a big pot of some sort. You don't actually need a big pot; last year we didn't have a big pot so we broke the carcass up into a couple of absurdly small pots & it still turned out ok. But a big pot helps. This year, we had a big pot. We got a dutch oven after discovering that a good quality stock pot costs several hundered dollars more than a good quality dutch oven of the same capacity. The dutch oven could double as a roasting pan as well, which a stock pot wouldn't be able to do. Maybe if we made soup all the time, a stock pot would be worth it. But given that we make it only several times a year, it wasn't worth it. Don't get a crappy stock pot, either, because that would be silly. We could have gotten a crappy stock pot for much less than the dutch oven, but it wouldn't have worked properly. Good ones have an aluminum core that goes up the sides; crappy ones have an aluminum core just on the bottom, or nothing. We have a small pot that just has an aluminum core on the bottom and you can't just turn down the heat and let it simmer because the heat won't get to the top of the pot; it's a problem for 2 people's worth of soup. I can only imagine how bad it would be in a stock pot with 4-5 times it's volume.
Stick the carcass and giblets in the pot along with coarsley chopped celery, onions, carrots, and a handful of black peppercorns. I think we used 2 onions, 6-8 carrots, and a comprable amount of cellery. Fill the pot with water so that the carcass is under water. If the carcass sticks up, just break it up so it gets underneath. You can do this with your bare hands and feel very primal. Grunting helps, as does using telegraphic speech. Actually, it's just easier with your hands than to go pull out a cutting board and a cleaver. You're welcome to do that, though, since I recognize that cleavers have their own appeal.
Let it ook on low heat for 3-6 hours; if you have a crappy pot, you'll want to use a higher heat. It should be at the low end of simmering. Every 15-20ish minutes, go skim the foamy stuff off the top. When foamy stuff stops forming, you can ignore the pot for longer. But check on it periodically because it's bad to leave something completely unattended on the stove for hours. You never know when a badly aimed mind-control-laser might be directed at the pot, causing its entire contents to sublimate. Then you'd want to turn the stove off.
When you think it's ooked for long enough, take out the carcass and throw it in the trash. Then use a sieve or collander, remove the smaller chunks from the liquid and throw them out. Skim the fat off of the top and throw it out too. Since a dutch oven has a very high surface area, skimming the fat was hard because it didn't make a very thick layer. So I dipped a mug into the pot and let the top layer of stock fill the mug. I skimmed the fat from the mug (which was now a quite thick layer) and then repeated the process until the great majority of the fat was gone.
We had a much higher volume of stock than we had containers, so we condensed it to about 1/4 the volume by just letting it simmer without a lid for a while. Then we stuck it in a container in the refrigerator. When refrigerated, it had the consistency of jello. When it became apparent that we weren't making soup any time soon, we split it up into freezer boxes and froze it.
Remove stock from the freezer. Stick it in a pot... you can even use your small crappy pot. Add some water if you condensed your stock. Add a bunch of brussel sprouts and perl onions. Ack!. I've been hanging out with too many programmers. You can use pearl onions if you don't like scripting languages. I'm more of a c person, myself. Add some salt (since we didn't add any to the stock) and other seasonings if you feel so inclined. I don't remember what I used because I was slightly irresponsible and didn't post about the soup in a timely fashion.
Let it ook for about half an hour. The important thing with brussel sprouts is to let them ook properly. People often think they don't like them because they haven't had them cooked properly. Remember, if you take the ook out of cook, all you have is c. Or something like that... um... nevermind. But ooking is important.
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Saturday, October 29, 2005, 11:18 PM - soups, comfort food
breakfast: um... breakfast?
dinner: mashed potatoes with gravy and meatballs
1. Search your house from top to bottom in hopes that you have some foodstuffs besides the ones you just bought at the store, because you just aren't in the mood to eat any of that stuff today. I didn't buy much because my car is 3000 miles away so I just bought some staples I was out of due to poor planning in July. Plus I'm going back to Albany in a week so I didn't want to buy anything that could go bad. Just some canned and frozen stuff.
2. Discover a stash of ramen in (surprise, surprise) the little hidden ramen cupboard. Score!
3. Boil water. I boil water in one of those counter-top boiling water pitchers. You could use a stove top, but it's much slower and quite possibly less efficient (more waste heat). I couldn't swear by the heat efficiency, but I can swear by the time efficiency.
4. Scrounge through your freezer for veggies. I found green beans.
5. Microwave the green beans in the bowl you plan on eventually having your ramen in.
6. put the ramen in the bowl. use the block of ramen to put the beans aside so that the beans end up on top of the ramen; this way it's easier to make sure the noodles are properly submerged.
7. add flavor packets. If you know what you're doing and buy the good ramen, there will be several flavor packets. I had 3 flavor packets. Do not decide that fat is bad for you and you're going to skip the fat flavor packet. I've never tried this myself, but I've been warned by several reliable sources that it tastes yucky without the fat packet. And really, it's not that big and your body needs some fat.
8. Pour boiling water over the ramen.
9. Let it sit a while.
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Meatballs
1. decide, upon reflection, that you still don't feel like eating anything you bought at the store the other day.
2. poke around looking for cream of mushroom soup.
3. open the can and put it in a saucepan. stir up the soup. You need to add a can of water, but if you stir it first it won't get lump. Once it's smooth, you can add the can of water and it will stay smooth.
4. Remember to turn the stove on at some point. It doesn't really matter when. I turn it to hi because i'm impatient. If it bothers you to risk boiling a cream soup, you might be more patient and use a lower setting. But I've always been too impatient so I use high and turn it down when I remember.
5. Add 6 fake meatballs. Why 6? because the package says 6 is a serving. If you're using different fake meatballs, you might need a different number. My fake meatballs tell me they should be cooked for 8 minutes. It really doesn't matter if you overcook them, but I set a timer just in case, because nothing is worse than having an unexpected frozen chunk in your food from undercooking.
6. Poke around in your freezer for vegies. Ideally, you want brocolli, but no such luck. Add a bunch of green beans. Somehow brocolli is much more comforting than green beans. When I was a little kid, I always wanted brocolli on my birthday. Yeah, maybe I was a freak. It might have been because when my mom made mashed potatoes she let us build landscapes with gravy volcanoes and tree-covered slopes and all that... Let that be a lesson to any parents that might be reading this: if you want your kids to eat their veggies, let them play with their food. It's all about presentation.
7. You might want to stir periodically.
8. Oh yeah, I added a couple of cloves of garlic. I didn't have any real garlic, I had this frozen stuff in cubes that are each supposed to be a clove. I dunno... it seems mighty suspicious, but the store I went to didn't have any other garlic. It's better than that powdered stuff, anyway. Not having a car really cramps my style. If I ever have to do this again, I might risk eviction and sneak out the back of the apartment complex, cutting 2 miles off of the round trip walk to the grocery store.
9. Boil some water in the water-boiling-pitcher.
10. Stick a chunk of butter in a bowl.
11. Pour some instant mashed potato flakes into the bowl. Just eyeball it... make about as much as you think you'd want to eat once they were expanded. And add some salt.
12. Pour some water into the bowl... just enough to make the flakes turn potato-like when you stir them with a fork. I always eyeball these things because following the directions never works. It's always too runny if you follow the directions, so you go back and add more flakes, then you have way more food than you intended. The directions also call for milk, which I don't have on me at the moment. But it tasted fine just using water---good to know for future reference.
13. Spoon the mushroom soup/green bean/fake meatball mixture over the potatoes. The gravy-type stuff made enough for 2 meals (I ate all the meatballs, I'll probably cook up some more and add them to it for another meal some other time).
Spinach Soup, part 2. This time it's personal.
Saturday, October 22, 2005, 11:23 PM - soups
breakfast: More cold pizza. It's good stuff.
lunch: I can't recover what I ate for lunch. I'm pretty positive I ate something, but I don't know what it was... maybe it will hit me sometime around 4am and I can come back and edit. This is what happens when I eat by myself; the details become sketchy and there's no one to confirm or deny rumors of what I might have eaten. Although I'm feeling a bit peckish; it's entirely possible that I was irresponsible and completely forgot about lunch.
dinner: It was a gloomy, rainy, soup day today. We just made spinnach soup a few days ago, but there was still some spinnach left, so we made it again. I keep wanting to write spinnach. I've become entirely too reliant on those spell checks that underline everything in red. Back in the day, I could spell all by myself.
Spinnach Soup, revisited
1. fill a pot with water and stick 6 eggs in it. Also stick in an egg timer if you have one of those egg-shaped timers that changes color when they're done. Why 6 eggs? You might want to save some for later; they're good to have around.
2. In another pot, add chopped onions, cellery, and carrot. If you're me, you pulled these all out of your freezer. Add a dollop of bacon fat and sweat the entire mixture for a while.
3. Add a bunch of spinach and stir it around until it wilts down.
4. Add some chopped broccolli stalk (we used the flowery part last night).
5. Add water until it covers everything up.
6. Add 5 calamata olives---remember to take the pit out first. Why? We were trying to figure out what classic combinations went with spinach, and spinach and olive oil is the classic combination. So why not spinach and olives?
7. Add some hazlenut liqueur. Why liqueur? You always want to add some alcohol to soup... it makes it seem more full bodied. The alcohol will cook off. Why hazlenut? It seemed like a good idea at the time.
8. Add salt and coriander.
9. Heat to boiling, then turn the heat to low, put a lid on, and ignore for 30-45 minutes. You might want to check on the eggs at this point; they're probably done.
10. Remove the eggs from the pot and put them on a towel or something. While they're still hot, draw on them with a crayon. Draw smiley faces, or frowney faces, or vampire faces, or faces sticking their tongues out... this is to distinguish the hard boiled eggs from the raw eggs. You can draw on all of them, because it's fun, but you will want 2 eggs for dinner (assuming there are two of you eating dinner). I always try to use up the cracked eggs first. You should draw something distinctive on the cracked eggs. We draw faces with big, beady eyes.
11. Blend with immersion blender. The soup, not the eggs. Then put the soup back on high for a while; I have found lately that it is a little cooler than I like it when it's been ooooking on low heat for a while.
12. Chop up the 2 eggs you set aside for soup. Put the rest in the refrigerator; they're probably cooled off enough by now. Peel the eggs before chopping them. You'd think I wouldn't have to tell you this, but I once asked a friend to chop some garlic and he just took a knife and started slicing it without taking the skin off. Plus, chopping garlic is more fun when you violently whack it with the side of a cleaver. Whacking the eggs with a cleaver is probably a bad idea.
13. Dish the soup into bowls.
14. Put an egg's worth of chopped egg into each bowl. In retrospect, we probably ought to have blended this in, but I really don't know how the white would behave.
15. Put a piece of stale, rye bread on top of each bowl.
16. Put a generous amount of grated cheese on top of the bread... enough that some of it slops over into the soup. We used a the a pre-grated Italian cheese blend and then added chopped some sharp vermont cheedar because there wasn't quite enough grated cheese left. I thought they'd conflict, but they didn't.
17. Microwave so that the cheese melts. I realized after I microwaved them that it's winter and we could have just broiled them without any ill effects, but I'll have to remember that next time.
It was interesting, and not in a bad way. There was a lot going on. I liked it, but I wouldn't serve it for company. PD thinks the hazlenut liqueur added a weird taste, but I didn't notice any weirdness. Then again, I still have this dumb cold and I feel like I have a golf ball stuck in my throat, so maybe my taste buds aren't terribly reliable right now. If you decide to do this, y ou might just use vermouth instead of getting experimental.
Other Spinach Soups:
October 18, 2005
Tuesday, October 18, 2005, 11:24 PM - soups
breakfast and lunch: again, eating seemed like a bad idea. I snacked on goldfish crackers when I got really hungry, but that was it. I'm starting to get sick of goldfish crackers, despite their high placebo rating. I probably ate as many cough drops as I did goldfish crackers. I hate being sick. If I get through today without getting a strong message that eating is a bad idea, I think I'll have something more substantial for breakfast tomorrow.
dinner: spinach soup
We started with a dollop of bacon fat in a pan. We tend to strongly resemble vegetarians when cooking at home, but everyone who resembles a vegetarian but isn't ought to go buy a thing of bacon once in a blue moon and save the fat. It keeps a really long time in the fridge and a teaspon or so adds a lot of flavor to many recipes.
Then we added about half a cup each of chopped onions, carrots, and celery. These were all frozen. I don't know if you can buy frozen celery or not; I just buy celery once in a while and chop it all up and throw it in the freezer. We also found a bag of chopped parsley in the freezer. There was quite a bit, probably a third of a cup, maybe even a half. It was stuck in a big clump; after one injury trying to de-clump it, we just threw the whole thing into the pan.
We defrosted then sweated these in the bacon fat. The purpose isn't to brown them, so much as to have the veggies suck up the fat and the fat suck up veggie flavor and so on. Then we added half a bag of pre-cleaned spinnach. We also added the leftover, leftover rice from that duck dinner on Saturday that was too big. When the spinnach wilted down, we added just enough water to cover the vegetables and some salt and pepper. Then we heated it to boiling, just to make sure it was hot enough, then turned it to low, put the lid on it, and set the timer for half an hour.
Half an hour later, the timer rang. We weren't paying attention. So who knows how long it really ooked... maybe 45 minutes? We blended the soup with an immersion blender until it had a creamy texture. Then we added the leftover, leftover duck, which we'd diced. We gave it another 5 minutes (and even payed attention to the timer this time).
We split the soup into 2 bowls and topped it with a grated cheese blend. It was one of those Italian blends you buy when you go to the store and find they're out of parmesian. We microwaved it to melt the cheese; if we'd been high falutin', we would have probably broiled it to melt & brown the cheeze, but we didn't.
October 9 -- Pizza
Tuesday, October 11, 2005, 05:09 PM - soups, breakfastI've been irresponsible the last couple of days... I didn't forget to eat, but I forgot to update the blog. Here's what I've recovered.
breakfast: fake sausage wrapped in pancakes
pancakes with fake sausage
We used up the last of the leftover pancakes. We wrapped fake sausage in them. It was the kind of fake sausage that comes in a tube and you have to brown it in a frying pan. It's good stuff.
1. Put some water in a pot.
2. add a bunch of onion, carrots, and cellery.
3. if you don't want it to ook forever, you can throw in bullion if you want it to taste like broth sooner.
4. add some spices. We used salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.
5. Cook it until it boils, then turn it down to low and put a lid on and ignore it for half an hour or so.
6. Add frozen fake meatballs and noodles and let cook for about 8 minutes. These were pretty thick noodles; if I were using a thin noodle I might let the meatballs go for a while then add the noodles later.
We both felt sick and didn't want to cook so we ordered tomato broccolli pizza. I've had bad experiences with broccolli on pizza, but this time it worked out well.