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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Maintaining Traditions: Broccoli Cheese Soup with Apple

Thanksgiving was pretty mellow this year. There were only 9 of us, so I bought a 16 lb. turkey, which is the smallest I've cooked in years.

Which actually turned out to be kind of problematic... because the turkey ended up hitting temperature about an hour before I thought it would be done and I hadn't put ANYTHING else in the oven yet. As I'm standing in the kitchen staring wide-eyed at the completely cooked bird while simultaneously calculating all the side dishes that weren't even close to done, Mr. Soup came in and asked if I wanted him to rice the potatoes for me. There was an edge of terror in my voice as I replied, "I haven't even BOILED the potatoes yet!"

So, when I say Thanksgiving was mellow, I'm referring to everything except that final hour before I served dinner. That hour was pretty much hell.

On the bright side, I had already served the annual soup, following our tradition of serving it in teacups. This year I made a broccoli cheese soup, because it's my mom's favorite.  I find broccoli a tad bit bitter - it is part of the cabbage family, after all. So to balance the bitterness a bit I added some apple. Apple is so very Thanksgiving-y anyway. And to make it rich and creamy, I added a generous portion of extra-sharp white cheddar. Calories don't count on Thanksgiving.

And if a creamy broccoli cheesy cup of goodness won't mellow you out, nothing will.

Broccoli Cheese Soup with Apple

3 T. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 t. salt
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 1 generous cup)
3 T. all-purpose flour
4 c. broccoli florets (I bought a bag at Costco because I'm lazy)
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. cream
8 oz. extra-sharp white Cheddar Cheese, grated (I used Tillamook)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

In a large heavy soup pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and salt and sauté until onon is quite soft and starting to caramelize in spots, stirring often, around 12 minutes or so. Stir in the chopped apple and stir again to combine. Add the flour, and stir and cook until the raw scent of flour has left the pot, around 2 more minutes.

Add the broccoli florets and the chicken broth and bring the whole mixture to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered until the broccoli is entirely soft, around 20-25 minutes. Add the cream, and then use an immersion blender to smooth out the whole soup. This might take a little patience. Stir in the cheese until it's completely melted. Do not boil once you add the cheese.

This is one of those rare soups that tastes great right out of the gate. I made it 2 days ahead for Thanksgiving, and thought it lost a little oomph in the cheese department as it sat. I ended up adding more cheese right before serving. I wouldn't recommend this one for freezing, but it's still tasty 2 days post-holiday, so it will last in the fridge a few days.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hamzilla is Dead; Long Live Hamzilla: Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup

Recently I was rooting around deep inside my freezer, looking for ice packs for lunch boxes. Whatever little piece of DNA compels normal humans to clean out their lunch boxes after school and refreeze the ice pack is obviously missing in the genetic makeup of the people who live in my house.

So. Anyway. I'm rooting around deep inside the freezer and I come across a large chunk of something that I can't identify at first. And then it hits me... it's the final remains of Hamzilla!  Okay, fine, he's been in the freezer quite awhile (probably a whole lot longer than the FDA would recommend for food safety purposes). And okay, fine, he's a little frost-bitten around the edges (because I apparently was so sick of him I just threw him unadorned into a gallon-zip-lock without even wrapping him in saran wrap first)... but these are mere trifles and NOTHING a soak in some brothy soup can't cure.

And better yet, I know exactly the brothy deliciousness I want to soak him in. Lately, I have been absolutely craving a particular soup I haven't posted yet. It's hearty, with the perfect notes of smoke from ham AND bacon and a good amount of heat. I scored the original of this recipe from a recipe swapping forum I've been a part of  practically since the internet was invented. The poster who shared said it was her dad's favorite soup and she tried to make a pot of it every year. I've made adjustments over time to suit my tastes... but the basics of his recipe are still there. You can find his original recipe here... shout-out to magnoliainchicago! He called it Ray's Dallas Cowboy Bean Soup.  I call it a perfect send-off.

RIP Hamzilla.
In mah belly.

Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup
adapted and inspired by Ray's Dallas Cowboy Bean Soup

1 lb. white beans, soaked overnight (I have used canned in the past when I didn't have time, and it worked fine too)
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
2 yellow onions, diced (3 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (2 cups)
4 celery stalks, diced (2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 t. seasoned salt (I like Johnny's the best)
1 t. paprika
12 c. water
2 t. Tabasco (or less, if you don't like much heat)
1 T sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
Leftover ham - either on the bone or off - today I had about a 2 lb. section.

Heat a large (really, think LARGE) heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add diced bacon, and sauté until fat has rendered and it crisps up. Remove all but about 3 T. of the bacon fat and add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring often to bring the bacon fond up off the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots and celery and continue to sauté another 5 minutes or so. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes, seasoned salt, and paprika and stir to combine.

Pour water over vegetables, and add the beans, Tabasco, sugar, and ketchup to the pot. Stir to combine well and then add your leftover ham. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to allow soup to simmer, uncovered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender and the ham is falling apart.

Remove ham from soup, allow to cool slightly, then shred and add back into soup.

And in the words of magnoliainchicago's dad, "EAT IT!"