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West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder

20 Dec

This is one of those beautiful soup recipes that can be created 100% from your local farmers market produce, even in the thick of winter.  Onions, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms and herbs are some of the staple items these markets build on in winter (plus a wonderful selection of bread, cheese and jarred goods).  This week I went a little crazy at the River Valley Ranch mushroom stand and purchased about 6 pounds of mushrooms for my Mushroom-Asparagus Strata which I plan to make for our weekly supper club which is themed Breakfast for Dinner this week,  for a green bean casserole I plan to make for Christmas (more to come on these in the next few days), and for this soup.  I had the poor guy at the stand separating Creminis, Shitakes and Oysters into 3 separate bags of various sizes, rummaging through my list while I counted pounds off on my fingers.  Needless to say, Tom crept back into the crowd, ashamed of my torture of the local mushroom man  and my embarrassingly horrible mental math skills.   I was embarrassed not in the least!  It’s winter, I’m carrying my coat and my hat and my scarf, a new bottle of hot sauce, a bag of lettuce…and I could hardly be his most difficult customer of the day…right? I also picked up a new barrel-aged hot sauce from my new favorite local hot sauce supplier CO-OP (who also makes a great Ghost Pepper and Grapefruit hot sauce which I have been unable to stop raving about for weeks).

The aromas emanating from this soup while cooking are reason enough to make it.  It just smells so good.  I was actually a little concerned in the early stages of cooking that the dish would be overwhelmingly rich but it is actually very well-rounded, subtly highlights each of the individual flavors.  Tom’s 8 year-old nephew even finished the bowl.  The addition of Worcestershire and sherry (or red wine) brings out the earthy flavors of the mushrooms and the hot sauce adds a nice, gentle kick (although I doubled the hot sauce).  If you still have not picked up the Soup & Bread Cookbook, get out there and pick it up.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 cups chopped mixed mushrooms

1 1/2 cups carrot, finely diced

2 1/3 cups peeled potato, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, minced

1/2 cup sherry or dry red wine

5 1/3 cup vegetable broth or water

2 large bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Sauté: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until tender and slightly browned (7 minutes).  Add mushrooms, cover and cook on a lower heat until the juices release from the mushrooms (5 minutes).  Uncover, raise the heat to medium and cook until the mushrooms are tender (7-10 minutes).

Reduce: Add carrots, potatoes and garlic and stir.  Add wine or sherry and cook until the vegetables are coated and the sauce has reduced to a glaze (2-3 minutes).

Boil: Add broth or water.  Add springs of thyme and bay leaves, preferably tied so as to easily be removed.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer until all vegetables are tender (20 minutes).  Remove bay leaves and thyme.  Puree one cup of the soup in a food processor or puree slightly with an immersion blender.  Chowder should remain slightly chunky but the puree will add a heartier texture to the broth.

Cream and Season: Add cream and return to boil.  Reduce to medium and boil until slightly reduced (10 minutes).  Add Worcestershire sauce.  Season soup with salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Garnish with croutons and chopped fresh thyme.

Adapted from West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder by Susan Goss as published in the Soup & Bread Cookbook.

 


Haitian Independence Soup

14 Nov

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion, small diced

2 carrots, small diced

3 ribs celery, small diced

1 turnip, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cube vegetable bouillon

SOFTEN: Place cubed butternut squash in large pot.  Cover with water and add sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer until squash is completely softened (15-20 minutes).

PUREE: Using an immersion blender (or blender or food processor) puree water, sugar and butternut squash combination until smooth.  Set aside and keep warm.

SAUTE: Heat 1 spin of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add carrots, celery and onion.  Saute until softened (5-7 minutes).  Add turnips, potatoes and salt & pepper (as desired).  Stir and cook for another few minutes (3-5 minutes).  Add garlic, stir and cook one additional minute.

SIMMER: Add butternut square puree to the other veggies.  Add water to desired consistency, if needed.  Add bouillon cube, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.  Stir in cilantro.  Simmer together, the longer the better (at least 15-20 minutes).

Adapted from Chantal Powell in Soup & Bread Cookbook

This is the first recipe in the newly published Soup & Bread Cookbook.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Soup & Bread, be sure to check them out.  S&B was started by Martha Bayne who was bored of spending cold, not-so-busy Wednesday nights tending bar at The Hideout so she invited some friends by to make some soup, share, mingle and eat.  She encourages local professional and amateur chefs to bring crockpots filled with their favorite soup or some tasty loaves of bread to share.  Everyone pitches in a donation which is then given to local charities, particularly the Chicago Food Depository.  She also has plenty of tips for getting similar initiatives started in other cities.   S&B is a great homage to soup itself, which has been building community, stretching foods to help ease hunger and keeping us warm through many winters.   Be sure to come out for the next S&B series in Chicago which starts this January.   The S&B Cookbook is a compilation of favorite soups brought to S&B over the years, with helpful tips and entertaining stories on using soup to foster community building.

This recipe is absolutely delicious.  Adding just a touch of sugar to the butternut squash as it boils adds a subtle sweetness, almost similar to sweet potatoes.  I added a little cayenne pepper which created a nice balance of spicy and sweet.  I love the simplicity, adding only cilantro to spice it up; yet simmering the cilantro into the soup prevented the cilantro from overpowering the it which I’ve found cilantro has a tendency to do.  Great start to an excellent cookbook.  More soup recipes to come..it’s only November.

Spicy Corn and Crab Chowder

23 Aug

1 medium poblano chile
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup half-and-half, divided
1 (8-ounce) russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 (8-ounce) container crab claw meat, shell pieces removed

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 8 minutes on each side or until blackened. Place pepper in a small zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop.
3. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper) to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn; sauté 2 minutes. Remove 3/4 cup corn mixture from pan. Combine 3/4 cup corn mixture and 3/4 cup half-and-half in a blender; process until smooth. Add potato to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes or until potato is almost tender. Reduce heat to medium.

4. Combine remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half and flour in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return corn puree to pan. Stir in poblano, milk, and crab; bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light, August, 2010

As you may know, my favorite things to cook are breads, pies and soups.  So, when the weather turned chilly (and by chilly I mean high 70s to low 80s, but it’s all relative, right?) I wasted no time getting back to chop-stir-simmer-enjoy business.  I love that you can leave most soups to boil away, filling the house with complex yet comforting aromas and a steamy heat you can’t find anywhere else.   As such, I was a little disappointed to find that while this chowder did provide the hoped-for olfactory excitement,  it did require quite a bit of hands-on time and sagged on flavor.   The lack of sit-and-simmer time  may have contributed to the disappointing outcome of the chowder in which the flavors both failed to come together or to shine individually.  I love poblanos and could barely taste them.

If I made this again, I would add additional poblanos, sweet peppers, potatoes and possibly even bacon to to add a little something extra.  I would decrease the milk added in the last step as it seems a little watered down or, well, milky.  I would also add some additional spices such as thyme, chili powder or paprika (though not all at once) to spice it up a bit.   This could make for a good base upon which to develop a more complex chowder, but let’s face it, there’s much better recipes out there already.

Creamy Potato Soup

13 Dec

2 cups thinly sliced onions or leeks

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

8 oz. Swiss-style cheese such as Gruyere or baby Swiss, shredded

Fresh snipped herbs

2 oz baby Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook onions in hot oil over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until tender.  Whisk together milk and flour; add to onions.  Cook and stir 5 minutes.

2. Add potatoes and chicken broth.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Remove from heat; cool slightly.

3. Puree soup, half at a time, in blender.  Return to Dutch oven; add shredded cheese.  Cook and stir over medium heat just until cheese is melted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs; garnish with sliced cheese.  Serve at once.

Yield: 8 (1-cup) servings

Better Homes and Gardens, December 2009

I made this soup during the devastating Bears-Patriots game and didn’t miss a single play.  If you cut the veggies and shred the cheese ahead of time, you could easily whip this up for a get-together without missing a thing.  I love the subtle flavors of a good potato soup recipe.  This one is both light and hearty at the same time and makes a great snack, appetizer or meal.  I used organic vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth, onions instead of leeks (because I had so many in the house) and Trader Joe’s Gruyère.  I also used green onions as my fresh snipped herb.  And, of course, I used my trusty immersion blender rather than a blender.  So much easier!