Tag Archives: soup

black bean, chorizo + kale soup

close up

Someday I will get organized and do a series of posts on how one pot of beans can feed you for an entire week. If you play your cards right, beans can be an essential part of a sound weeknight meal preparation strategy. Actually, if it is true that dilettantes talk strategy while professionals talk logistics, then having a good supply of perfectly cooked beans on hand is a professional-grade maneuver. Especially in winter when vegetables are in shortly supply, beans augment fresh vegetables—in this case, dark, leafy greens—and can be combined in any number of dishes throughout the week.

kale leaves

I cooked a pound of Rancho Gordo “Midnight Black” beans on a Sunday and we had tacos one night and this soup on another. On a third night I made a bean side dish with onions, garlic, and a few tomatoes. I used some of the ingredients I had around for the tacos—queso fresco, cilantro—to garnish this soup. These beans, and their broth, are out of this world. I wanted to make a soup to use up the bean juice; I couldn’t bear to imagine pouring it down the drain. I like to keep a few cut-up pieces of chorizo in the freezer for scrounge nights when I might have some beans and some other odds and ends around, but I need something to add flavor and protein to the dish. If you did not cook your own black beans, use canned ones, but rinse them first. This means you’ll have to add some extra stock to the pan. The black bean cooking liquid gives the soup a lot more body, however. If you’re using canned beans and extra stock, you may want to run an immersion blender in the soup for a few seconds just to create a little more thickness. Because beans (and also chicken stock, if you’re using store-bought) have wildly varying levels of saltiness, be sure to taste the soup in its final simmer to determine whether you need to add salt to balance it out at the end.

Be careful; this soup comes together super fast. Supper might even be ready before you’re hungry.

bowl of soup

Black bean, chorizo + kale soup

  • 1 link fresh chorizo sausage (1/3 lb)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • 1/2 large bunch of lacinato or regular kale (6 ounces), sliced into a chiffonade
  • 3 cups black beans plus 2 cups of their cooking liquid (I use Rancho Gordo “Midnight Black” beans)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (if using canned beans, increase to 2 to 3 cups and rinse and drain beans)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • crumbled queso fresco (optional)
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. In your favorite heavy soup pot, crumble the chorizo and cook until browned and no longer pink. Add onion and garlic, and add a little olive oil if needed to saute these with the chorizo. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Add the rest of the olive oil and crushed red pepper, cook for 1 more minute, and add kale. Saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add beans and 3 cups of liquid (either 2 cups of bean cooking liquid, if you cooked your own dried beans, or use 2 additional cups of chicken stock) and salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. (This depends entirely on whether your beans were already salted.) Dish into warm bowls and garnish as you wish.


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split pea soup

I was serious when I said frugal was the watchword for January. And maybe February, too. I make no promises.

I read Joan Acocella’s review of two books about St. Francis of Assisi on the train on the way into New York earlier this month. I’m not going to lie: there is something about this guy that really appeals to me.

I don’t think he ate split pea soup, probably. But I think he would say we are on the right trail. Except that split pea soup is so delicious. I can’t understand how, when it only uses water, instead of broth. And split peas, well, they are so homely. But there is something delicious going on here. For me, the key is for the soup not to be too thick and pasty. As it simmers, I add splashes of boiling water as necessary to keep the consistency, well, soupy—instead of pasty. Maybe you like a much thicker split pea soup, so by all means adjust to your tastes, and then think about the possible connection between the frugal and the sublime.

Split pea soup

  • 16 oz dried split peas
  • 7 cups boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 large carrots, trimmed and peeled, sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. In a very large bowl, combine split peas and boiling water. Allow to sit and soak for 1 hour.

2. In a large soup pot, combine chopped onion, carrots, celery, and garlic with olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat. When mixture becomes fragrant, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft and onion is translucent and turning golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add crushed red pepper, thyme, and salt. Add soaked split peas and all the soaking water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Bubbles should break the surface of the pot every few seconds. Cook for 1 to 1 and a half hours and then taste to see if peas are cooked and soft, and break up easily. Add a little salt if necessary. If peas aren’t done yet, cook for another 30 minutes or as needed until peas are fully cooked. Throughout the cooking, if the mixture becomes thick instead of soupy, add splashes of boiling water to the pot as needed.

3. When soup is cooked, remove from heat. Use an immersion blender to carefully blend it into a puree. Add a bit of boiling water if soup is too thick. Alternatively you can blend it in batches in a regular blender, being cautious to vent the top slightly, while still allowing no soup to spatter or escape.

4. Serve in heated bowls. If you aren’t feeling as ascetic as St. Francis, serve with these biscuits.

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zuppa lombarda

Beans are an ideal January food.

Frankly, beans are an ideal anytime food, but in January they meet my criteria for health and frugality after a holiday season of extravagant eating.

I found this recipe in of my most treasured cookbooks, Il Libro della Vera Cucina Fiorentina by Paolo Petroni. The book is a Florentine classic, and was given to me by an Italian friend who is also a phenomenal cook. It is in Italian, but my food Italian is okay, and this recipe is so simple that you don’t even need to know Italian to decode it. It contains: beans, olive oil, sage, garlic, and bread. I don’t count the water you need to cook the beans.


The cookbook claims the recipe was misnamed, as the dish does not appear in the Lombardy region at all, but rather may have been popular with immigrants from Lombardy who lived in Florence in the 1800s. I don’t quibble about these things when something is this simple and good. As with most simple dishes, it depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients used, and in this case that means the beans. I used Borlotti beans from Rancho Gordo, and can only recommend that you do the same. The soup in the cookbook is made with fresh shell beans, and I’m sure you could use cranberry, cannelini, or a similar bean. It is essential in any case not to use the canned beans—the broth that develops while cooking dried or fresh beans is essential to the glory of this dish.

I used dried Borlottis that had not been soaked, and just covered the beans with about four inches of water, because I wanted the beans to soak up most of the water, and for the rest to evaporate during cooking. If the water level in your bean pot becomes reduced below the surface of the beans, add splashes of boiling water as necessary until the beans have finished cooking. When finished, you will want beans that are just covered in the nice, rich broth.


The original recipe includes bread that is toasted plain, and the sage is added to the pot with the beans, garlic and olive oil at the beginning of the cooking. I wanted something with a bit more of the sage flavor, and simply fried the chopped sage leaves and added them to the top of each dish of soup. Meanwhile, the bread was cubed and fried until a deep golden color in olive oil and sprinkled with salt before dishing the beans over with their broth and then topping with the sizzled sage. Perhaps a bit rich for the blood of the thrifty Florentines, but nonetheless extraordinary.

Zuppa lombarda

Adapted from Il Libro della Vera Cucina Fiorentina by Paolo Petroni

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 lb dried Borlotti beans or other dried cranberry or white bean
  • water to cover by 4 inches
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 20 or so fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 to 8 slices of stale ciabatta or other crusty Italian-style bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • sea salt or Maldon salt for finishing

1. Rinse and pick the beans over and add to a large soup pot. Cover with water by about four inches. Pour in the 1/3 cup of olive oil, add the garlic cloves, and set over medium-high heat. Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce to a bare simmer. Cook until the beans are tender (taste at least a dozen or so beans to make sure they are all tender), about 2 and 1/2 hours in my case. After about an hour of simmering, you can add he 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt.

2. When beans are cooked through, prepare the rest of the components. Warm the 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until quite hot. Add cubed bread to the hot oil, without crowding the bread cubes. When first side is golden brown, turn the bread and toast another side of the cube. This can be done in batches, adding more olive oil between batches as needed. When a batch of cubes are browned, place them in the warmed soup bowls, distributing evenly among the bowls. Each bowl needs the cubes from just 1 slice of bread. Sprinkle the browned bread cubes with a pinch or two of Maldon or sea salt.

3. When bread cubes are browned and in the soup bowls, warm a tablespoon or two more olive oil in your skillet. Add the sliced sage leaves and cook until fragrant and beginning to crisp. Turn off heat and sprinkle with a few pinches of Maldon or sea salt.

4. Assemble the soup. Ladle beans and some broth over the cubed bread. Sprinkle with some of the fried sage and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.


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ham, bean + cabbage soup

With a hurricane bearing down on the northeast, something strange happened. It would seem that I am genetically programmed to cook ceaselessly—like, everything in the refrigerator—when a storm is approaching. Apples were turned into a crumble, and also added to a slow-cooked pork loin roast with onions. Bits and bobs of cheese (four totally random kinds that had accumulated in the drawer) went into a big dish of macaroni and cheese. A container of leftover ham, the odd turnip, potato, carrots, celery, and beans was clearly the base for a soup. Hurricane soup! What could be more appropriate with a weird hybrid storm approaching? Soup is called for in this situation. Soup is part of the emergency planning scenario. The thinking was that even if the power goes out, we can use the gas stove to heat up the soup. And the longer the soup sits around, the better it tastes.

I’m not going to lie and say that this soup is terribly gorgeous. It is fairly unattractive. But, hey, any port in a storm, right? It is delicious, and filling, and flexible. You can add or subtract from the amount of carrots, turnips, cabbage, and potatoes I used. You could substitute other root vegetables, or swap in kale for the cabbage. Heck, you could substitute a few slices of smoked bacon in place of the ham. The soup won’t mind. It just gets better and better. If you still have power, and a gas stove so you can keep cooking if the power goes out, start a pot of soup. It’s time to get serious about storm preparation. Good luck to everyone on the East Coast, and I’ll see you on the other side of Sandy.

Ham, bean + cabbage soup

Makes 8 large bowls of soup

  • 2 small or 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 celery stalks trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups cooked ham, chopped
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch chiffonade
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (such as navy or cannellini), with some of their cooking liquid
  • salt, if needed

1. In a large soup pot, combine onion, carrots, celery, turnips, potato and vegetable oil. Turn heat to medium-high and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until vegetables are fragrant and onion is translucent, but not browned. Reduce heat to medium if necessary to prevent browning.

2. Add rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, and ham, and saute for 2 to 3 additional minutes. Add cabbage, stock, and cooked beans. Then add water to cover vegetables and ham by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 60 minutes, until turnips and potato are cooked, and soup is thick. Leave to simmer for longer, if desired. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve piping hot with crusty bread, or biscuits, and a salad.

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charred pepper + tomato soup w seared scallops

We are all in our kitchens trying to figure out what to do with all the gorgeous stuff coming from the market, are we not? When I walk to work in the morning, when I am standing in line waiting for an iced tea in the afternoon, when I am on hold, when I walk home at night, while I am in the shower, all I think about is what to do with all the tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, peaches, nectarines. Anything that stretches vegetables with other ingredients like breadcrumbs, cheese, onions, pasta—these are all out of the question. I need recipes that pack the highest density of produce into each increment of volume.

Therefore, readers, I give you this soup.

We made this for our friends Erin and Geoff, who were visiting from San Francisco week before last. In her past life, Erin headed up our local farmers’ markets (I was on the board), and even though they were coming on a Friday, I knew we had to have an absolute feast. Feast we did. This dish was a complete fabrication, and it was the first course of our meal. (Followed by the freshest possible flounder with sauce grenobloise, mashed local potatoes; then a salad of tomatoes, Greek-style; then cheeses; then blueberries with champagne zabaglione.) Given the whole Friday situation, I made the soup (which is to be served cold or at room temperature) on Thursday and it really did benefit from the time in the refrigerator. The flavors married beautifully.

Go to your fishmonger and get whatever is freshest—scallops or shrimp would work well here. Frankly, the soup would be brilliant on its own, or simply with the corn garnish. A little avocado cut up into the corn would not be amiss. The soup itself is absolutely smoky and the intensity of the peppers and tomatoes really shines through. The sweetest corn is the perfect partner, punctuating the dish with flavor and texture. If you’d like to use up some vegetables, you’re on the right trail here, and the recipe easily doubles. In fact, I heartily recommend it.

Charred pepper + tomato soup w seared scallops

Serves 4 as a first course.

  • 3 enormous or 4 large red bell peppers
  • 8 plum tomatoes or 4 regular tomatoes, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
  • 12 sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • handful of fresh cilantro, minced

1. Turn a gas burner or two on the oven to high. Place one or two peppers on each burner and leave over flame until one side is totally blackened. Using metal tongs, flip peppers to blacken remaining surface. Be patient and turn as necessary until peppers are blackened all the way around. This generally takes about 20 minutes. Place peppers in a large metal or tempered glass bowl and cover with foil; set aside for 30 minutes or so.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to high and adjust top rack to 3 inches from broiler flame. Arrange halved tomatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil. In a medium bowl, combine onion slices and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and then arrange onion slices in a single layer next to tomatoes on baking sheet. Wrap garlic cloves, drizzled with 1 tablespoon oil, in a corner of the foil lining the pan. Slide this baking pan into the broiler and cook (moving pan as necessary to distribute heat of broiler) until tomatoes are blistered and blackening, and onion is browning, roasted and soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. Set up a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or a blender. When peppers are cool enough to handle, place them on a work surface and remove as much of the charred outer skin of peppers as possible. Do not rinse with water, as this will diminish the peppers’ flavor. Open the peppers and remove the stem, seeds and membranes. Place the pepper meats (without the charred outer skin) into the food process or blender. Add the roasted tomatoes and onion. Squeeze garlic out of the papery covering into the food processor or blender.

4. Add 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock, salt, both paprikas, and Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper to blender or food processor. Cover and pulse carefully to obtain a puree. Then turn to high speed and fully puree the mixture until it is smooth. If it remains too thick, add the remaining vegetable stock and continue to puree. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. (*) Place soup in the refrigerator to allow flavors to blend.

5. Set a large pot of water to boil. When it boils, add the corn and cook for 6 minutes. Remove corn on the cob and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Use a large and very sharp knife to remove the corn from the cob. Reserve it in a bowl and toss with a few pinches of salt, lime juice, and the cilantro. Set aside.

6. In a large, nonstick skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter. When hot, but not yet smoking, add sea scallops. Cook until a dark golden brown on the first side, then flip to the second side. Allow to continue cooking until second side is very well browned and scallops are opaque.

7. Dish 1 cup of soup into a wide serving bowl. Place 3 seared scallops in the center and top with one-quarter of the corn-cilantro mixture. Repeat with 3 remaining bowls and serve.

* At this point, the soup can be refrigerated for up to two days.


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tortellini soup

Posts have been a little sluggish this week due to a nasty head cold, which has sent me to bed for the majority of the week. However, the upside of being sick is having soup, in my opinion. This recipe is a good one, hearty enough for a meal, easy to adapt, great for leftovers. Without the sausage, it is an equally good vegetarian soup. We are lucky here that we can get lovely little handmade tortellini. Look for those in your Italian market and serve them for supper one night. If a handful of the little dumplings are leftover, throw them into your soup pot the next day. They remind me of kreplach, and what is more comforting than a bowl of soup with a few kreplach floating in it? Nothing!

Instead of zucchini, you could tear up some kale and add it at the last. Or some other vegetable you like—I think winter squash cut into small dice would also be wonderful with the beans and the pasta. And if you don’t have tortellini, you could easily add some tiny dried pasta to the pot. It is snowing outside here today, and I truly wish I still had some of this soup leftover. But even for a sick person, it is easy enough to make. I hope you try it.

Tortellini soup

  • 1/2 lb. Italian link sausage, cut into 1-inch balls
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 small or 3 large cloves garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes from a can, drained
  • 2 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cups frozen or freshly made cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups canellini beans, cooked and drained
  • salt to taste

1. Brown the sausage balls in a large soup pot over medium heat. Let them get really brown. Then add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Add the stock and water to the pot, stir really well, and simmer until carrots are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste a carrot. If they are cooked, add the chopped drained tomatoes, zucchini, tortellini and canellini beans. Bring back to a bare simmer, stirring well so that pasta doesn’t stick. Add salt to taste at this point. (My soup took about a teaspoon of coarse salt, but it depends on whether your stock, beans, and tomatoes are salted already.) Cook just until tortellini are cooked through, about 5 minutes for fresh.

4. Serve in warm soup bowls. You can add some grated cheese to each bowl if you like.


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smoky roasted tomato soup

Probably the saddest thing about winter, for me, is the sad state of tomatoes in the grocery store. A few years ago, I started occasionally buying the pallid roma plum tomatoes in the store in the winter, and slow-roasting them for hours in a low oven. These were great on crostini, served with other roasted vegetables, or even made into a sauce. What I learned from this experience is that roasting those awful-looking tomatoes can coax an awful lot of flavor out of them.

When I set out to adapt the technique into soup, I found two recipes that seemed exactly right. This time of year, I only had access to the store-bought plum tomatoes featured in this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, plus I liked the addition of crushed red pepper to give the soup a little more kick. At 101cookbooks, Heidi made the soup during tomato season with nice tomatoes—not my situation. But I loved the variety of vegetables roasted along with the tomatoes, and the addition of smoked paprika to kick up the smoky flavor of the roasted vegetables. Done and done.

Adding bell pepper and onion give the soup unexpected complexity. Next time I make it, I will probably also roast some fennel and add it to the mixture. All the vegetables fit on one baking sheet. Next time I think I’ll double the recipe and use two sheets. We wanted even more of this soup, and I also suspect it would freeze well. The soup, if made with vegetable stock, is vegetarian and vegan, and it has an amazing flavor and creamy richness. I didn’t want the soup to be chunky, so I pureed it until smooth, but you could stop earlier if you wanted a chunkier-style soup. I can’t over-emphasize how quick and easy it is to make this soup if you have the ingredients in advance. Because the flavor is built through roasting, you have none of the usual soup flavor-building process of mirepoix, deglazing, simmering, and so on. You roast the vegetables, puree them, and soup’s on. It’s is a great soup when you want a very healthy and easy supper with just a tossed salad. A few grilled-cheese fingers (a blue cheese would be divine with the smoky paprika) to dunk in the soup wouldn’t be amiss either.

Smoky roasted tomato soup

Inspired by this recipe from smittenkitchen.com and this one from 101cookbooks.

  • 3 lbs plum tomatoes, cored and halved
  • 1/2 yellow onion thickly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, trimmed and quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups of vegetable or light chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Wrap garlic in a small packet of foil and place on baking sheet. Arrange the rest of vegetables on parchment, skin side touching the sheet. Sprinkle salt and drizzle olive oil over vegetables. Place in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 375 F. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, removing garlic packet after one hour and stirring onions or removing them if necessary to avoid excessive browning.

2. Peel garlic cloves and place in a blender. Add the rest of the roasted vegetables and any juices accumulated on the pan. Add smoked paprika and crushed red pepper, and about 1 cup of stock. Use the blender to puree the mixture until smooth.

3. Pour contents of blender into a large pot. Place over medium heat and add stock until soup reaches desired consistency. Simmer for a few minutes to warm and blend flavors. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve in warm soup bowls.


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beef stew

A couple of weeks ago, when I made a giant pot of beef broth, I didn’t freeze all of it. It had turned so chilly that my first instinct was to put on my flannel pajamas and crawl so far into bed that no one would find me until spring. Fortunately, my second instinct was slightly more practical and I got out my largest Le Creuset pot, the mainstay of wintry cookery in this kitchen, and hefted it onto the range. By the time I preheated the oven, it seemed possible that I might survive the winter. Such is the power of a good beef stew when we turn the corner to November.

Beef stew can be made a hundred different ways. If I had had turnips in the house when I made this pot, I certainly would have added two of them, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks. Rutabagas and parsnips are also delicious, and as we truly head into winter—it’s not here yet, in my opinion, freak snowstorm notwithstanding—these vegetables will be making regular appearances here. For me, the essentials for beef stew are great stew meat (I get mine from Four Mile River Farm, which comes to our local CitySeed market), great beef broth, wine, carrots and mushrooms. All of these ingredients are what ultimately build the rich flavor profile of a great beef stew.

The recipe below doesn’t take too long to prepare, but you will spend some time creating a fond on the bottom of the pan, which adds to the richness of the stew. I also give an option for stopping when most of the stew is done and letting it cool off and then sit in the refrigerator overnight or for a day or two. This sets you up nicely for a weeknight meal that you can make over the weekend. It also really improves the flavor of the stew. I have no idea why this is, but certain dishes are better after you’ve held them for a while, especially braises and stews. You can also prepare this stew entirely on the stovetop, rather than popping it into the oven to simmer away. I prefer using the oven because it keeps the range clear and allows me to make other things or just clean up a bit. I mean, if I’m going to have cabin fever, I prefer that the cabin is tidy, at least.

Beef stew

  • 1 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (or 5 or 6 shallots if you have them)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 4 cups beef broth or stock
  • 5 to 6 carrots, sliced 1-inch thick
  • 1 lb. small red potatoes, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch wedges
  • 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, drained of juice and cut into pieces
  • 10 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cups of peas, fresh or frozen
  • parsley, finely minced (optional for garnish)
  • salt
  • pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large, ovenproof soup pot or heavy oven (one that has a lid), place the olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the beef. Allow it to brown and color. Add the onion (or shallots), garlic, and celery and saute for five or six more minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally. Clear a place in the bottom of the pan and add the tomato paste. Smear it on the bottom of the pan and allow it to begin to caramelize. Add herbs.

2. When tomato paste has begun to caramelize and brown, add the wine and bring to a rapid boil for two to three minutes. Add the beef broth and return to the boil, stirring well. Add carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. Season generously to taste with salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. The liquid should just barely cover the vegetables and meat. If it does not, add a bit of stock or broth, wine, or water.

3. Return pan to a rapid simmer and cover with the lid. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 300 F and continue to let stew cook in oven for 30 more minutes.

4. Remove pan from the oven. (*) Place back on stove top and return to medium heat, at a regular simmer. Add peas and mushrooms and stir. Return to a rapid simmer and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste and correct for salt. Serve in bowls, topped with minced parsley, steaming hot.

* To finish cooking a day or two later, stop the process here, let the pot cool, and refrigerate with lid on until ready to continue.


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chicken broth

There are so many ways to make chicken broth. At home, we always took the carcass of a roast chicken plus anything that was scrapped after supper and submerged it in boiling water with a half an onion, some carrots, and some celery. This simmered for a long time and we used it for broth. I always made broth that way, but lately have adopted this method, which loosely resembles what I’ve read in many other cookbooks.

It’s true that there is no substitute for the rich color and flavor of the broth when you use raw chicken. Some people use wings and legs and toss everything, which you can do. I use a whole chicken, which I cut up into eight pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast pieces). Sadly I do not have a large stock pot that holds the whole chicken, so I divide it between two large soup pots and divide all the aromatics evenly between the two pots. If you have odds and ends of vegetable scraps (turnip peelings, parsnip ends, chard stems, onion peelings) you can quite happily throw them in with the rest of the ingredients and enrich your stock.

The key is to start with decently hot pans and render all the fat from the chicken before you add water. This creates a marvelous fond on the bottom of the pan and gives you a good amount of chicken fat for sauteeing your vegetables before you add the water. I do not skim the fat off of my chicken broth. It tastes so good, and I cannot believe that it can be bad for you! (This is obviously my totally uninformed opinion, but there you have it.) I tend to freeze this in small (1 cup or smaller) containers, as I use a little chicken broth in virtually everything—from pasta sauces to pot pies to fricassees. If you have a freezer full of good chicken broth, it makes it much easier to make supper our of what is in your fridge.

Chicken broth

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up (about 4 lbs) or 4 lbs thighs and wings
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 2 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 or so stalks of thyme
  • a large handful of parsley stems
  • salt, to taste
  • about 8 quarts of water

1. If you have a very large (12 quart or larger) stockpot, use it. If not, use two 4- or 6-quart soup pots. (If you are using two pots, for the rest of the recipe, divide all ingredients evenly between the two pots.)

2. Place chicken parts, with the side with the most skin down on the bottom of the stock pot. (Divide one of each chicken part between your two pans.) Turn heat to medium or medium-high—enough to render the fat and fry and crisp the skin to a golden brown. (If the heat is too low, the chicken will steam instead of crisp.) This takes at least 10 minutes. Flip chicken to the other side. Brown the second side. At any point if the chicken fat begins to smoke, turn the heat down a bit.

3. Place onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the pan. Make sure the vegetables come in contact with the bottom of the pan as much as possible. Let the vegetables caramelize. Stir occasionally, and try to loosen bits of chicken and skin that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.

4. When vegetables have just started to turn brown, add the rest of the ingredients, and sprinkle with salt. Pour in water, up to within about an inch of the rim of the pan. This should be about 8 quarts in total. Bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape loose all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

5. When the pot reaches a simmer, set it so it is just perking, with only two or three bubbles slowly breaking the surface every few seconds. Let it perk for four or five hours, skimming the scum from the surface at first. During this process, replenish the water periodically. (I keep a kettle at boiling to pour already boiling water into the stock to keep it cooking.) At the end you want the water to be an inch or so below where you started.

6. Taste the broth and adjust the salt. The broth should be palatable but not taste salty. When finished, strain chicken from the stock. Pour stock through a strainer into a fresh pan if you are going to use it right away. If you are freezing it, strain into small containers and cool before freezing.

Note: The cooked chicken is delicious pulled apart warm, on bread, with a little grainy mustard or anything else you have in the kitchen. (Chopped gherkins, mayonnaise or aioli, what have you.)

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beef broth

I hope it’s not an insult to you that I am posting this recipe, and another for chicken broth that will soon follow. I simply realized that with the nip in the air in these parts, I would soon be turning to fall and winter recipes that require (well, at least, prefer) that you have a system for laying in a good supply of broth every month or so. The reason I make broth, which differs from stock in that it has flavors besides that of the meat used to make it (that is, a number of aromatics and herbs), is that I find it makes it easier to use broth to make well-flavored dishes quickly throughout the week. You can take a lot of shortcuts with your soups and stews if you have a full-flavored broth to begin with. A well-trained chef wants the intensity of a stock without the interference of aromatics and flavors that may not mesh with any given application. I am not so picky, and on any given evening am happy when I can skip a few steps to get to a hearty and warm supper.

If the weather turns ill, I recommend this as a productive project for combating cabin fever. The key here is simply to brown the shank very well to create a flavorful fond, and then to keep the whole pot of scraps and shank at just a simmer, perking away on the back of the stove for five or six (or more) hours. You just want the bubbles to occasionally break the surface of the pot, and as water evaporates, replace it with a bit of boiling water from a nearby kettle. Feel free to improvise with your aromatics and scraps. Generally I keep a lot of random vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock, but there is nothing to stop you from adding them here instead.

Last weekend, Ty was away, and I took the opportunity to put my three biggest pots to work on the stove to make both chicken and beef broth. (By the way, it has made me realize that I really should obtain a proper stockpot of the 12- or 16-quart variety.) The project yielded about five quarts of broth, which I view as a good day’s work. Since then, I’ve made beef stew, and will share that recipe soon as well. If you are in New Haven, grab your shanks at Four Mile River at the CitySeed farmers’ markets. Their tough (in a good way—you want lots of cartilage to make a good stock) and flavorful shanks make all the difference to the quality of the finished product. In any case, nothing can replicate the sense of satisfaction you’ll have looking at neat rows of containers of broth at the end of a fall Sunday.

Beef broth

  • 1 large beef shank (sometimes called a soup shank), about 2 inches thick and 5 to 6 inches across
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1- to 2-inch lengths
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1- to 2-inch lengths
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 4 to 5 thyme stalks
  • a large handful of parsley stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 or 2 allspice berries (optional)
  • 4 quarts of water, give or take
  • salt, to taste

1. Place shank in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart stockpot. Over medium to medium-high heat, brown the first side very well. It should be dark brown and develop a crust, and the bone marrow should be melting and browning, as well as the edge of the bone.

2. Flip the shank to the second side and brown it well. Moderate temperature if fat begins to smoke considerably. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Put vegetables in contact with the pot and flick them off the top of the shank if they land there. Let them brown thoroughly to a light golden color, stirring occasionally.

3. Add thyme, parsley stems, bay leaves, and allspice berries if using. Sprinkle in some salt. Stir well and add the water, to within about an inch of the top of the pan. Scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, moving the shank around with a wooden spoon. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then cut the heat back to low or medium-low, until two or three bubbles slowly break the surface of the pot every few seconds. Leave the pot perking in this manner for 5 or 6 hours. In the beginning, when scum appears at the surface, skim it with a metal spoon and discard it.

4. During this process, replenish the water periodically. (I keep a kettle at boiling to pour already boiling water into the stock to keep it cooking.) At the end you want the water to be an inch or so below where you started. After an hour or so, taste the broth occasionally, and add salt if needed. When finished, remove shank and strain broth into a clean pot. If not using it immediately, let it cool before pouring into containers and freezing.

Note: The shank meat picked from the bone is a tasty treat for the cook, with a bit of grainy mustard, gherkins, or whatever else you might have around. And it goes without saying how much the dog will love the shank bone.

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