Archive for the ‘soup’ Category

Getting to pho …

18 December 2011

Well, long hiatus. We won’t go into the details.

Recently, a friend expressed interest in making a good pho broth at home. We’ve spent some time trying different versions (Modernist Cuisine’s version is pretty darn good) and tinkering with them, and are starting to narrow it down. In the meantime, here’s one we’re getting close to being happy with.

Onions and Ginger

Onions and ginger charred with a propane torch. A gas grill would have done a better job.

  • 1t black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick (we liked the Mexican kind)
  • 3 cloves star anise
  • 1/2t allspice (ground)
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds oxtail (jointed)
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds beef short ribs (separated between the bones)
  • 2 medium/large white onions (a little over a pound)
  • 1/4 pound ginger
  • 2 – 3 quarts water
  • lime, sugar, salt, fish sauce to taste

Briefly toast the spices in a pan and reserve. Rinse any dirt off of the onions and cut them in half, leaving the skin on. Rinse and then cut the (unpeeled) ginger in half. Using a gas torch, a very hot dry pan, an outdoor grill, or the burner on your range,  char the onion and ginger.

Sear the oxtails and short ribs in a pressure cooker or stock pot, in batches if needed. Return all the meat to the pot, and add the charred onion and ginger, the toasted spices (in a sachet if you wish), and the water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum or foam that comes to the surface.

  • If you’re using a pressure cooker, seal the cover, and bring the pressure to 1 bar (maximum). Adjust the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Don’t vent the cooker. When the 30 minutes is up, remove the cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to drop naturally (i.e. no cold water or venting).
  • If you are using a traditional stock pot, cover the broth and adjust the heat so that it is barely simmering. Cook for at least 90 minutes, periodically skimming any foam from the surface.

Remove the cover, and carefully strain the broth into another container. Adjust the seasoning with the lime, sugar, salt, and fish sauce. Cool to room temperature, then transfer individual portions to ziplock-style bags and either refrigerate or freeze.

Optionally, you can clarify the stock using a ground beef, egg, and mirepoix raft. This makes it looks absolutely stunning and intensifies the beef flavor of the broth.

Let us know any tweaks you make and how it turns out.

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Monday Green Board: Tomato Mushroom Soup

21 February 2011

First, an announcement … Sunday Green Board is hereby known as Monday Green Board. First reason is that Sundays are getting too busy for me right now to both prepare a special vegetarian dish and then get it into a post that evening. The next reason is to align with the current Meatless Mondays movement. I may not agree with them on some things, but I’m all for health, and people eating more vegetables is a good thing.

This week we have another damned soup, and to be honest I feel slightly upset about it, but it’s what I came up with yesterday so that’s what we’re working with. If you are sensing a theme right now, and you think that theme may have something to do with winter comfort food with Italian-American influences, then you would be right. Bring on Spring already, we’ve suffered enough.

Exhibit A: this week’s Tomato Mushroom Soup. You will need:

Tomato Mushroom Soup

Tomato Mushroom Soup

  • sea or kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • at least two dozen crimini mushrooms, the larger ones sliced thick (~1/2 inch)
  • six sprigs fresh thyme, substituting dried if you need to
  • medium sized zucchini, peel and diced, seeded if necessary
  • 1/2 yellow onion, roughly diced
  • 1 T fresh oregano, substituting dried if you need to (reduce the amount accordingly)
  • 1/3 cup good quality port
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes … the Italian ones, not the American ones named San Marzano, unless that’s all you have … crushed by hand, with the basil leaf removed, and WITH the juice
  • flat leaf parsley and freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan

The preparation this week takes place in two stages: first we cook the mushrooms so they retain their shape and texture, and then we cook the stuff that makes the soup, adding the mushrooms back at the end right before garnishing. Another thing to note is that this soup doesn’t require stock, which is a nice time saver when you’ve used your reserves and won’t make more until the weekend.

  1. Heat the butter and a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the thyme sprigs and mushrooms, toss, and cook for around 4 minutes, until the mushrooms have released some liquid and have shrunken a bit. You want them to remain meaty.
  2. Remove the mushrooms and stash away in a bowl. Add the onions and zucchini and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. If you need to add more oil, do so.
  3. After around four minutes, remove the thyme stalks. Many of the thyme leaves will have come off — this is what you want, just remove the woody bits. Add the oregano and continue to cook.
  4. About 8 to 10 minutes later, when the onion and zucchini start to brown, deglaze the pan with the port, transfer the entire thing to a stock pot, and return to the heat.
  5. Add the tomatoes (and juice) and one can (the same San Marzano can) of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Using a stick blender, food processor, or regular blender, working in batches of you need to, turn the contents of the pot into soup. The texture can be a bit rustic, you just don’t want any chunks of zucchini or tomato left over.
  7. Turn off the burner, and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. A splash of hot sauce wouldn’t hurt here, just don’t go overboard, this is about earth, not heat.
  8. Return the mushrooms to the soup. The residual heat will bring them back to temperature.
  9. Dish the soup into bowls and garnish with the parsley and cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the top and serve with some good crusty bread. If you feel luxurious, use truffle oil.

You should have enough for four people, and this keeps quite well in the fridge. Enjoy, and share your hints and tips no Twitter, Facebook, or here on the web site.

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Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

01 February 2011

As mentioned previously, roasted red peppers are a thing of beauty, and so is this simple bisque … soup, if you must … provided by Humboldt Kitchen’s “Currently Residing in the State of Missouri” contingent, known simply as R. I am hoping he will forgive the tweaks I made to augment his comforting, elegant, and wonderfully silky roasted red pepper bisque.

But first … a follow up to the roasting of red peppers question … I tried out a few different ways this evening, and for a home kitchen, I think the simplest and least messy of the lot is to preheat your oven to 500 degrees, stem and seed the peppers, slice them once so you can “unroll” them, and trim off the bitter white “ribs.” Lay them out, skin side up, on a sheet pan, and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so that they aren’t burning or sticking. When the skin is sufficiently charred, put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When they’ve cooled enough to handle, pull off the skin with your fingers. Done.

The following recipe makes around 5 quarts … one pint per punter gets you 10 servings. In case you don’t have that many at your table, you can refrigerate this for a couple days and freeze it for longer.

On to the show …

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

  • 14 ounces chicken stock or broth (Homemade? GREAT! In a container? No worries, this is soup, just make sure you avoid MSG and too much salt. If you can heat some up and it smells and tastes good, hopefully a bit bland, it’ll be fine.)
  • 2 (or 3) roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 tablespoons (half a stick) butter
  • 1 large russet or other high starch potato; cleaned, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cups heavy cream … yup, 2 cups. Yup, heavy.
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • chopped chives or (the green part of) green onions (1 tablespoon per serving)
  • some thinly sliced crimini mushrooms (2 per serving)
  • some slices of baguette (3 per serving) with butter to spread
  • enough cheddar cheese to cover the bread
  • black pepper for the croutons

OK … you don’t need to use white pepper, you can use normal old black peppercorns, but I like the white here because there won’t be any brown specks interfering with the smooth and gentle texture and color of the bisque.

Now the fun part …

  1. Put a stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add the butter and let it cook until it melts, and then foams. As the foam subsides, add the onions and sweat them until translucent. Take care not to brown the onions or the butter.
  2. Add the potatoes, peppers, chicken stock, and a pinch or two each of salt and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for half an hour. The potatoes should be very soft.
  3. Add the cream, stir, bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every so often to keep things honest. 🙂
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor (in batches if necessary) and puree, or better yet, break out the stick blender and process the mixture into a smooth, silky bisque. Remove from the heat and cover.
  5. Butter the bread slices and top with cheese. Give each of them a twist of black pepper. Toast in a toaster oven or under a broiler until the cheese melts.
  6. If you’re in the mood, “mount” the bisque with butter and plate into serving bowls. If you don’t know what “mount” means in this context, keep reading Humboldt Kitchen, ignore that part, and just ladle the soup into your serving bowls.
  7. Place three of the cheese croutons around the rim of each bowl, and sprinkle some green onions and crimini mushrooms in the center of the bowls. A cynic might drizzle a little truffle oil over the top, or maybe some nice cheese.
  8. Serve with some mixed greens and vinaigrette on the side, and perhaps some crusty bread for when the croutons run out, and you’re done. Eat.

Please keep in mind that this is FAR from a diet dish … that cream and butter will add up in the calorie and fat department, so portion accordingly.

Feel free to send R your comments via the website, Twitter, or Facebook, but above all, enjoy!

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Italian Wontons (Part One)

21 January 2011

just made Italian wontonsGot a hankering for ravioli but don’t want to bust out the Kitchen Aid and rolling pin? Want some Crab Rangoon but don’t feel like shelling out $12 plus tip to get the greasy, unhealthy, trans fat soaked but oh-so-tasty ones delivered? The solution is simple, and one of the greatest time savers you should never be caught without: frozen wonton skins.

To show you how nice having a stack of these in your freezer or fridge can be, the next post will contain a nice, easy, recipe for Italian Wontons — roasted butternut squash-filled wonton skins served in a basic marinara.

But first, there are two staples you will want to have prepped and ready to go. After you make these once, you’ll find them so useful you’ll always want them around, so making the wontons will be a cinch.

  • 1 roasted butternut squash

This couldn’t be easier to make, but you have to do it ahead of time, preferably the day before, so it has time to chill. There are tons of uses for this, so roast one on Sunday and keep it in the fridge for the rest of the week. For the basic recipe you will need a medium-sized butternut squash, olive oil, kosher or sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Clean the squash … not scrub, but just enough to clear away any obvious dirt or gunk (you know, the adhesive from the sticker?).
  3. Slice it in half lengthwise, and use a large spoon to remove the seeds.
  4. Paint the flesh of each half with a thin layer of olive oil (don’t be a wuss, use your fingers). Season both sides to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, being generous with each.
  5. Place on a baking sheet (or directly on the rack), flesh side up, and roast  in the preheated oven for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and mushy — not falling apart, but tender enough to mash with a fork if you wanted.
  6. Remove from the oven … carefully … and let cool to room temperature, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

This stuff is ready to eat after step 5 … scoop some of the flesh out, mash it, and serve it topped with butter and chives like you would mashed potatoes. You can also dice the flesh, stick it in a blender, add some minced ginger, chicken stock, and the flesh of one or two peeled and cored Granny Smith apples. Blend it, reheat in a stock pot, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve drizzled with some yogurt or cream, or crumbles of goat cheese, and splash with a few dots of sherry vinegar. Boom, you got soup. If you know how to make grilled cheese, you can avoid Panera all week long and keep some extra cash in your pocket.

The next basic item you will need is:

  • a basic red / marinara / pomodoro / tomato sauce

Yes, you can use the stuff in a can or jar if you want, so long as you like the taste of it, or can doctor it enough so that you like the taste. Otherwise, you can make your basic red sauce using canned tomatoes, some garlic cloves, kosher or sea salt, GOOD olive oil, and some patience:

  1. Buy a 28 ounce can of whole peeled ITALIAN tomatoes. The better quality you buy, the better the sauce will be. San Marzano are the standard, but any good Italian will work. Buy a few different varieties and find one you like … if they’re from California, so be it, we’re no hard guys, we just know what we like. If it’s tomato season, use fresh. Wait until the summer and you’ll see our series on making red sauce using fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market.
  2. Peel a few cloves of garlic. How many depends on how much you like garlic, but since this is a basic red sauce, you want it to taste of tomatoes, with just a hint of garlic, so 3 or 4 is probably enough. Give each clove a whack with your chef’s knife, and make sure you remove the germ — the greenish sprout in the center that gets bitter and gives you heartburn. After the whack, you should be able to scape the end up with your fingernail and pull it out.
  3. Gently (medium low) heat around 1/4 cup of GOOD olive oil in a sauce pan. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan and come up the side a bit; if it doesn’t, you’re using too big a pan. When hot (if the oils smokes, dump it, clean the pan, and start over with less heat), add the garlic and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until golden in color. If you burn the garlic, dump the oil and garlic, clean the pan, and start over. Burnt garlic is nasty.
  4. While the garlic is cooking, open the tomatoes and empty them into a bowl. Crush them with your (suitably clean) hands. Throw out any stems or pale green hard bits of tomato, and any whole herbs or leaves they may have been packaged with.
  5. When the garlic is golden, CAREFULLY pour the tomatoes (and juices) into the sauce pan, add two or three pinches of salt, and give it a good stir. Remember there is HOT oil in the pan that likes to splash up and burn things … things like your skin.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered for three hours or so, stirring every half hour. It’s done when it reduces enough to appear “saucy.” How long you need to cook it depends on the pot, the heat, and a host of environmental factors, so give yourself a break and don’t worry about anything but burning it.

When the mixture appears “saucy,” taste it and add some salt if you think it needs some. If it tastes like a basic red sauce should taste, and not like a warmed up can of smashed up tomatoes, then it’s done. If it doesn’t taste like sauce, let it simmer some more. Mine usually reduces by 1/3 to 1/2 before I feel like it’s “done.”

By the way, this recipe scales very well, and the way I see it, if you’re going to take the time to stir a pot for at least a few hours, you might as well make a ton of the stuff (just multiply the amount of garlic, olive oil, and pinches of salt by the number of cans of tomatoes you have on hand) and freeze what you aren’t going to use within a few days. Simply let the sauce cool for a couple hours, and stick it in the fridge. The next day, repackage it in useful quantities (1 or 2 cups) into freezer bags or containers and stash them in the freezer for a lazy day.

Note: g likes to add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, chili powder, or, when he’s feeling fancy, Piment d’Espelette, to the sauce. Add it after the garlic has turned golden, give it a quick stir, and then add the tomatoes.

OK, so that’s the basics. The next post will cover the recipe for making the Italian Wontons.

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A preview … r getting down in the kitchen …

04 January 2011

r gets down in the kitchen … PREVIEW

A low budget VIDEO preview of what’s to come … done on spec by r, who is the one wearing the gloves in the video. Click the link to watch.

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