Soup Season

The other day, I walked home from one of the local butcher shops with about 10 lbs of chicken feet, like ya do. It’s soup swap time.

Do you know about soup swaps? The basic premise is:

  1. Make and freeze 6 qts of soup.
  2. gather with at least 6 other people who have done the same
  3. exchange soups
  4. have a variety of great soup to get you through the winter

The Kitchn offers a write-up of how to host a swap with a bit more detail. In the next week, I’m going to two different swaps, with three different soups. Thus, chicken feet*, because they make really good stock.

Soup the first: Tomato w/ Parmesan stock

This one is kinda cheating. The truth is, tomato soup is super easy to make if you have stock on hand. It goes like something this:

Sauté an onion in olive oil or butter. Maybe add some thyme or oregano. Add a large can of crushed tomatoes. Add about half a can of veggie, parm, or chicken stock (by pouring it in the tomato can so you can also get more bits of tomato out). Blend. Bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Maybe add a dash of sherry. Serve with a dollop of cream or good olive oil and crunchy croutons if you’re feeling fancy.

So why bring tomato soup to a swap? Because parmesan stock** is really, really good and because tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side is one of the ultimate winter comfort meals. If you already have the soup in the freezer, it’s even easier. Yum.

Second Soup: Anna Thomas’ Green Soup w/ chicken stock

This one? This one is winter’s answer to summer’s green smoothie. It’s 5 gallons of greens & 10 lbs of chicken feet*** made into 7 qts (plus some extra stock) of superfood. It’s chicken soup to heal what ails you with all the green veggies you know you should be eating, but you probably aren’t because it’s winter and who wants salad, blended in. Plus! it actually tastes good. I used Anna Thomas’ recipe with chives instead of green onions and parsley instead of cilantro and chicken stock instead of the water and veggie stock. So far everyone likes it except my youngest, and, well, my youngest doesn’t like much.

Last Soup: Classic French Onion

You know what takes a very, very long time and might just drive your children away from the first floor of the house***? Caramelizing 10 lbs of onions does. I’ve never made French Onion soup at home because it’s always seemed like so much hassle for something most of my family won’t eat, but now that there is the promise of a comforting, easy, slightly fancy winter meal just waiting in the freezer, I’m happy I did it. I’m envisioning the folks who select this at the swap settling in one winter evening with French Onion Soup Gratinée and a good white wine, maybe with a simple baby spinach salad on the side.****

Bonus, I actually broke out my copy of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook for this recipe, and I love consulting Julia.

*and beef shanks and parmesan rinds and …

**a variation on this recipe from epicurious, though I use more water and don’t reduce it as much. (Note: Many stores which sell in-house grated parmesan will also sell parmesan rinds, for much less than than the cheese. It’s worth asking!)

***Don’t worry, I didn’t leave the chicken feet in. I used them to make the stock and strained them out.

***”Mom!! Stop cooking onions!!!”

****With this one, I managed to make 8 quarts, so I’m also envisioning myself doing this, some evening. Hooray!

The Family Biscuits

There aren’t many things that everyone in my family will happily eat. Arugula salad with apples, almonds, and sherry vinaigrette is one. Cornbread, as long as it’s served butter and honey for some of us, is another. Fruit*. And then there’s these biscuits. Everyone will almost always eat these biscuits.**

NB: These are not high-rise flaky southern biscuits. I hear I need self-rising flour for those. Or maybe cake flour mixed with AP. Or maybe something else. Someday I’ll try out the options.*** These are also not fancy, mix-in, serve at a dinner party biscuits. These are “I have half an hour before dinner and 2 qts of frozen soup” biscuits. They’re for when you just want something hot out of the oven to go with dinner.

An aside about flour: I often use sprouted spelt flour instead of standard whole wheat. This is mostly because I have sprouted spelt flour. I have it mostly because I have a habit of trying things and know someone who likes spelt, so one day I tried it and decided I like it. Pretty much anything I do with sprouted spelt can be made with regular (or sprouted) whole wheat pastry flour. Since the point of these biscuits is to make something quick and easy that the family will eat, I highly recommend using whatever you’ve got on hand.****

  • 12 oz (2 1/2 cup) sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 6 oz (3/4 cup) yogurt*****
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) milk*****
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • coarse sea salt or fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 375º. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter, using your hands, a pastry cutter, or a food processor, until it is in pea-sized pieces or smaller. Add the yogurt and milk and stir using a spatula, folding the mixture against the sides of the bowl, just until it comes together in a ragged dough. (If it refuses to come together, add a smidge more milk.) Scrape onto a counter or other good rolling surface and fold and press, repeatedly, until you have a cohesive square. Roll to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into rectangles with a bench scraper (or use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds if you prefer). If you have time, let the biscuits rest in the refrigerator for a bit (15 minutes up to a day). Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake ~20 minutes, until beginning to brown. Eat with soup (or honey or apple butter or …).

*Yep, pretty much any good fresh fruit.

**Of course, yesterday, when I made them (and typed most of this post), the youngest decided he didn’t want any, he wanted bread and butter instead. sigh.

***My sis just sent me a link to this post comparing self-rising flours, which got me thinking, but not testing yet.

****Unless whatever you have on hand is old, sad, dusty, whole grain flour; please don’t use that. These biscuits are basically just flour and butter and yogurt, so you can really taste the flour and if it’s old and sad, your biscuits will taste old and sad.

*****if you happen to have buttermilk, use 8oz buttermilk in place of the yogurt and milk.

Not Really Resolutions

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, per se, but I’m a big fan of reflection and of well-chosen goals, so I ponder a bit this time of year. The very end of December is, if nothing else, a great time for day dreaming about all the things I might just do once the winter holidays and their distractions are over. This January, I’m planning to do a 21-day day kitchen cure, something like the one the Kitchn tends to run annually. I’ll pick a daily project every day for three weeks and, I hope, end up with  a better organized, cleaner, easier to cook in space.

Other food-related things I intend to, or at least would like to, do in 2016 include:

  • continuing to write here, at least weekly, as well as slowly improving the site organization, my posting and pictures techniques, etc.
  • regularly trying food projects that scare me, at least a little bit*
  • helping run (and attending!) a cookbook club, inspired by this article on Serious Eats
  • meatless Mondays
  • more** actual weekly meal planning
  • more cooking with kids (and stepping back and letting kids cook)
  • etc.

What are you up to in the kitchen in 2016?

*suggestions welcome!

**really any weekly meal planning.