Friday, December 21, 2012

Festival of Soups!

Most people this time of year are making Christmas cookies and I usually would be, too, but this is a different Christmas season for us as my Dad has not been well so we have put many of our traditional Christmas customs on hold while spending much time with him. I decided to spend this very special Winter Solstice day making soup, which I find comforting, relaxing and satisfying. I know you are aware that today--December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar and I believe offers a powerful day of new beginnings and hope for mankind and our beautiful earth. This will be my last blog of 2012 and also is the first time I have blogged twice in one week!

This is one of my favorite winter-time hearty, healthy, and filled with rich goodness. I made the ham stock earlier in the week so although I made 3 different soups today, because I had the stocks for two of them made it was fairly easy to put them together.
For the stock:
Take the last of the ham off the bone and cut into small dice. I purposely leave about 2 cups worth of baked ham on the bone when I plan to make pea soup. In a big soup pot, cover the ham bone with water--about 1 quart. Add mirepoix--3 stalks celery cut in chunks, 2 carrots peeled and sliced in thick pieces, 1 onion roughly diced.  Add 1 tsp. of ground bay or 2 whole bay leaves. I am out of whole leaves so used the ground. 1 tsp. dried thyme and 1 tsp. sage. If your ham was fairly salty do not salt, but add liberal amount of black pepper. You can always season with salt when cooking the actual soup if it needs it. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain and cool stock if you are using at a later date as I did. Cooling also allows you to skim off extra fat from your stock which comes off easily using a spoon to slide off the top of the stock once it has cooled. The stock will now be in a gelatinous/jelly form. Leave some fat as it helps flavor and season the soup.

3 cups split green peas
1 quart ham stock
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried bay

Place split peas in a collander. Rinse and clean peas...that means sort through them under running water. Sometimes you will find a stone mixed in with the peas. In a soup pot add peas to ham stock and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook peas for about 1/2 hour. Add carrot, onion, garlic and 1/2 tsp. dried sage and 1/2 tsp. dried bay. Cook for another hour+ until peas are very tender and start to get mushy making the soup thick. Stir soup mashing peas into side of the soup pot. Add 2 cups diced ham and cook another 15 minutes until warmed. This soup freezes well.

I make this soup every year when we're in Ireland. Generally the first night we are there I make a French chicken (recipe is in a previous blog--go to and at top left 'SEARCH FOR RECIPES' and search for French chicken) and from this I make the stock and then finally the potato leek soup. Cooking equipment in Ireland is minimal so when we're in Spiddal the soup does not get blended, but mashed with the back of a spoon. I like it chunky, but today I used a blender to get a velvety creamy texture.

This soup needs adorning...chopped chives or parsley, but it is pouring out today and I did not want to venture into the rain to chop herbs. It still tastes great, but will look better with garnish.
1 quart rich chicken stock
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced, white with only a little green part
6 potatoes, I used Yukon golds, peeled and cut into pieces
1 tsp. salt, 1/4+ tsp.white pepper (I am ALSO out of white pepper so used black. I prefer white for extra heat and the fact that it does not interfere with the color profile of the soup. I know that may sound weird.)
1/2 cup Half and Half

Put all ingredients into the soup pot with the stock. I also had this stock prepared ahead so it made things easy today. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and cook about 1 hour until potatoes are very tender. Cool completely. Taste and season appropriately. Blend in batches. Add 1/2 cup Half and Half and reheat. I am going to serve this soup with grated extra-sharp cheddar. I think a drizzle of roasted red pepper cut with a little cream cheese and cream might also look and taste great. Let me know what  you come up with!

The third soup I made today was Turkey with vegetables and a blend of brown and wild rice. I used the turkey carcass from the Thanksgiving turkey that I cut off the bone and stuffed and rolled and also used the bones from the roast Thanksgiving turkey. Cooking the soup stock twice gives the stock a richer and deeper flavor and it only takes about another hour.


For the stock:  Mirepoix. This time since I had the tops of leeks from the Potato Leek soup I used them instead of onions, 2 carrots and 3 stalks celery. I also added 1 tsp. dehydrated onion and 1/2 garlic, 1 tsp. each of ground bay, thyme, and sage,1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Cover your chicken carcass with about 1 quart of water. Add all other stock ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. Strain and cut meat off the bone. I used about 1 1/2 cups turkey. My husband usually lights into the cooked veg as a snack!

Soup Ingredients:
1 quart turkey stock
3/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice*
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups turkey meat in pieces
1 tsp. dehydrated onion; 1/2 tsp. dried garlic

Add 1 cup brown/wild rice, herbs and onion/garlic to turkey stock. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and cook rice for about 1/2 hour. Add diced carrots, celery and cook for another hour. Add 1/2 cup frozen peas and 1 1/2 cups turkey and cook another 15 minutes. This soup freezes well, too.

* I know you probably know that wild rice is not really rice at all, but an aquatic grass related to rice, but more like a cousin than a sister. It grows naturally and in abundance in Minnesota. I was recently in Minneapolis at a board meeting for a nonprofit group I belong to ( and bought some local wild rice from Northland Products, a native American company that hand harvests this wild rice. It is nutty and delicious!

One more soup tip...last week I was making CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP, but realized I didn't have any cream or milk to make the roux. Instead I made the roux

--(Roux:  3 Tbsp. butter melted; add 4 Tbsp. flour; stir constantly over medium heat to cook flour pressing on flour to make a smooth paste; add 1/2 can evaporated milk and keep stirring for another 5 minutes)--

using evaporated milk which gave this soup a fabulous flavor. For stock I used 2 cups of rich chicken stock and 2 cups of mushroom stock made from dried wild mushrooms (porcini, oyster, shitake or whatever you have on hand--I actually buy these dried mushrooms at Big Lots, very inexpensive).

Bring 2 cups water to boil, add several handfuls of dried mushrooms and a little salt. Turn off heat and let sit for a couple hours or more. Strain. I do not use the dried mushrooms in the soup as they are sometimes a little tough, but do use them in other ways. This time, I chopped very finely and mixed with pasta, shrimp, red sauce, to make a mushroomy marina sauce.

Back to the soup...Use a large box of button mushrooms. Clean and slice. Add mushrooms to the chicken/mushroom stock and cook for about 45 minutes. Add the roux. Stir until well belnded. Viola!

Christmas is 4 days away and I want to share my Christmas dinner menu with you. This year it is all about Dad and I am making many of his old-time, old-fashioned favorites.

Little Smokies wrapped in Crescent dough
Deviled Eggs with various toppings
Baked Kielbasa

Baked Ham with Raisin Sauce
Mashed Sweet Potato with Mascarpone/Marshmellow Fluff drizzle
Steamed Peas and Onions
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Rich and Velvety Chocolate Cream Pie

This is from last year's Christmas table--roasted asparagus
with olive oil and sea salt,
eggplant rollatini with home-made simple red sauce and baked ham!
My Mom made the cute pot-holder!

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