My best memories of Christmas have everything to do with the food. Mom would make pierogi and cabbage rolls and patychky, or meat sticks, as we liked to call them. She’s long gone now, but I try to keep up some of the food traditions by making at least one of them on the high holidays.
Yes, I’m making meat sticks. We’re going to my sister’s place Christmas Eve and on Christmas day, Tuffy P’s family are joining us for dinner here in Long Branch (I’ll be doing the cooking). Sunday I’m going to venture out in between ice storms to buy my meat, which I’ll marinate overnight and then Monday I’ll make them. Just about every Christmas I’ve republished my recipe, and when I looked at my stats today I saw that post has had 10 hits, a good reminder that it is time to re-share. So this is how I make them (it’s not quite the same way mom did….I’m going to come out and say I think mine are actually better), although I admit my sister’s meat sticks are also most awesome. I’ve taught Sister-in-law Viv to make them along the way, and hers are just as good as mine.
When is a poblano not a poblano?
In our area, I rarely see poblano chiles in our grocery stores, so when I saw them at Starsky’s the other day, I bought a bunch of them. Some went into last night’s soup and the rest I popped into the dehydrator. Dried, poblanos are called anchos, and they’re great in just about anything. I sampled a few of the dried ones and they’re tasty as snacks. I was surprised at how variable the heat is from one chile to another. Some are totally mild, others have a bit of heat, and a few of them offer up more heat than you’d expect.
Today, my colleague and I walked across the street to get a FourBucks. On the way, we spied some shaggy mane mushrooms – Coprinus comatus – on the grass. This left me no choice but to plan a mushroom soup for dinner.
For mushrooms I used the shaggies + I rehydrated some honey mushrooms and some slippery jacks and some lobster mushrooms from earlier this season + I chopped up some grocery store white mushrooms just because I had them. The shaggies are the heart of this soup.
This is a simple soup made special by the great mushrooms that give it wonderful body.
I started the soup by heating up a little splash of vegetable oil in a heavy pot. I tossed in half an onion, chopped up and let it cook for a few minutes with about a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves. While that was happening, I parboiled the honey mushrooms and the slippery jacks for a couple minutes (both these mushrooms can cause stomach upset in some people and a bit of parboiling apparently helps). These mushrooms don’t bother me, but I parboil them in any case because I might just share my soup.
I roughly cut up some deboned chicken thighs and tossed them into the pot and let the chicken cook with the onions for a few minutes, then added all the mushrooms and let it all cook together for several minutes before adding chicken stock. I let the soup simmer until the chicken was done. I tempered about a cup of milk and added that in, and cooked the soup another couple minutes. There is nothing fancy about the way this soup is seasoned – thyme, salt and pepper. I didn’t want to overpower the mushrooms. A nice option is to add a few slices of smoked sausage.
What a great celebration of autumn.
I’ve noticed, looking at the stats for this blog, that quite a few people have been searching for ways to prepare lobster mushrooms. Here’s one way – the way I prepared them for dinner tonight in fact.
Lobster mushroom and sausage omelet
- lobster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- two or three eggs
- some tasty sausage (I used Goralska Polish sausage)
- grated awesome cheese
In a cast iron pan, sautee the mushrooms with a little vegetable oil on medium heat. Lobsters are very firm mushrooms that hold their texture. As well, they don’t shed water in the cooking process the way some other mushrooms do. After a few minutes in the pan, add some chopped up sausage and let it cook together. You want the sausage to start to crisp up and the mushrooms to start turning a nice golden colour. When this is ready, transfer to a non-stick pan. I know you’re going to say, aw c’mon, do I have to use two pans? The answer is yes. I like the way the mushrooms and the sausage cook up in a cast iron pan, but in the end you’re making an omelet and non-stick pans are great for omelets. So, you transfer the sausage and mushrooms to a non-stick pan. With the transfer, they’ll bring along enough oil for the omelet. Heat up the pan to the high side of medium. While that’s happening, beat up your eggs with a fork. Some people add a little splash of milk. You can do that if you want. I usually don’t. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture over the mushrooms and sausage and move the pan around to spread around the eggs. When the eggs are just about done, toss some of your awesome grated cheese on top (tonight I used an old gruyere). Let it melt on there for a moment, fold two sides of the omelet to the middle and serve it up, maybe with a spoon of good salsa and some fresh ground pepper and just a wee bit of salt. There are a million variations. If you have some fresh herbs, chop them into the egg mixture before pouring it onto the pan.
If you want something even simpler and still super-delicious, sautee the lobster mushrooms in your cast iron pan until they get nice and golden. Add salt and fresh ground pepper and maybe a wee bit of some ground hot chiles and spoon loads of the mushrooms onto toast. Just that simple.
You can tell it’s getting into fall when roasting veggies becomes a regular activity here on 27th Street.
I made this up as I went along today….
First, I grilled half a dozen cobs of corn on the bbq (yes, a charcoal one) along with some red shepherd’s peppers and a chunk of kielbasa (I used a 6 inch chunk of Goralska from Starsky’s sliced in half lengthwise). I let the corn brown some. I allow the skin of the peppers to blacken some and then I peel off most of the blackened bits later.
Then in the kitchen…
I started some onions cooking up in a Dutch oven with a little oil on the bottom and a pinch of salt and a good pinch of dried scotch bonnets. I chopped up two carrots and tossed them in the pot and I added in a couple cloves of garlic from the garden. Then I stripped the corn cobs and tossed in the kernels, and chopped up the peppers and tossed those in as well. I chopped up the kielbasa, except for one bite-sized piece which I sampled (strictly in the interest of science). I added two chopped up baking potatoes (I think the starchy potatoes rock in this soup), and chopped up and added a few plum tomatoes. I then added in lots of stock, a couple bay leafs, and chopped and tossed in loads of fresh basil from the garden.
I let the whole business simmer away for around an hour. An amazing soup!
(oh, almost forgot….I tempered some milk and added a little to each bowl before serving)
Since late fall, most Saturdays have been Soup Saturdays around here. I’ve been making all kinds of different hearty and delicious soups. Today’s soup was green pea. Here’s how I made it.
I had a piece of bbq bacon from Starsky’s so I sliced it up and fried it up until it started to crisp, then chopped it into little pieces and set it aside.
I chopped up some leeks (normally I would use an onion for this but I had some nice leeks so I thought I’d use them), some bok choy that I found in the fridge (I thought I ought to use it before it became a science project), a big carrot and a red shepherd’s pepper and started them cooking with a little vegetable oil in a Dutch oven. I added in a little salt and just a little dried cumin as the veggies sauteed. Meanwhile, I soaked some dried mushrooms in a bowl of water (use whatever dried mushrooms you have for this, whatever you like).
After 10 minutes or so, I added some stock and a splash of beer (I was drinking a Steam Whistle at the time). I chopped up the mushrooms and tossed them into the pot. Then I rinsed about a cup and a half of dried green split peas (the yellow ones work just as well….choose your colour) and tossed them in. Oh, and I also added in a couple bay leaves. These can be removed later.
I brought the soup up to a simmer, put the lid on, left the heat on low and went to practice the oil can banjo for an hour. At that point I added in the bacon and as well, I chopped up a piece of kielbassa and tossed that in too. Ten more minutes and the soup was ready. The only thing to do was to adjust the seasoning and add in some fresh ground pepper.
Some people like to puree their pea soup or partially puree it (separate out a portion of the soup, puree it and add it back in to the rest), but I thought the texture was just right and I was enjoying the bits of orange from the carrots and red from the pepper so I kept it as is.
We served the pea soup with fresh bread (also great with skillet corn bread – next time). Delicious.
You know it…I’m talking turkey pot pie, and Tuffy P made some tonight. Fantastic!
Tuffy P found a recipe for chestnut soup and suggested we have it tonight for dinner. I’ve never made chestnut soup before, but that didn’t stop me from more or less ignoring the recipe and making it up as I went along (my usual approach). Here’s how I did it.
The recipe suggested that if I cut two slits in an X shape in each chestnut then put them in a pot with cold water, then brought the water to a boil, the shells and skins would peel off no problem. That plan didn’t work very well at all. Maybe if I kept them in the boiling water a little longer it would have been more successful. Alternatively, maybe if I roasted the chestnuts for a while, I would be able to get them prepped easier. Suffice it to say that it was a time consuming task to get the chestnuts cleaned up, but I got the job done.
OK let’s see, what other prep did I do? I had some dried Italian porcini so I dropped a small handful into a bowl of water to reconstitute. Then I chopped a red onion, a big carrot, some garlic, a zucchini and quite a few cremini mushrooms. I poured a little really good olive oil into a heavy bottom pot and heated it up. The rest is easy….
I added the onions to the pot first, added a little salt, and after a minute added the garlic and then the carrots, and after another couple minutes, the chestnuts and the rest of the veggies. I had planned to add some fennel seeds, but I couldn’t find them in the pantry so instead, I used a little dried basil, and also a tiny amount of dried hot chile flakes. I let it all cook together for a few more minutes, then added about 1.5 litres of stock. By this time, the porcinis were soft so I tossed them in too. Then I bound together some sprigs of thyme with kitchen twine and tossed it in, put the lid on and let it simmer. I cooked it until the carrots were done, then used an immersion blender to puree the whole business.
We served the soup with some fresh chives chopped in and some insanely fresh pumpernickel we bought this afternoon. We added some fresh ground pepper at the table. This soup is astonishingly good.
Roasted Squash Soup. Perfect for a cool fall day.
Start by putting on some tunes. I selected an old fave CD called South Texas Polka Party, but you can feel free to select whatever music makes you happy.
Cut up and add to a roasting pan:
- loads of butternut squash
- a big red onion
- several ripe tomatoes
Add several whole cloves of garlic and a sprig of rosemary. Drizzle some olive oil over the whole business
Roast it for an hour in the oven.
Meanwhile…..dig up that two day old bread you’ve been meaning to toss out. Cut it into little squares. Splash some good olive oil into a cast iron pan (you can use any pan but I like making these in a cast iron pan) and heat the pan to medium. Add the bread along with some spices. Don’t tell anybody but I use my standard bbq rub spice mix for this. Be generous with the spices. Cook the croutons for 3 or 4 minutes, then set them aside in a bowl.
Take the roasted squash et al out of the oven and add it to a soup pot. Pull the rosemary leaves off the stem and discard the stem. Add some dried thyme and some stock. I didn’t measure any of this but today I used about 1 and a half good sized squash to about about 2 litres of stock. Cook it all together for a few minutes and using an immersion blender, blend until you achieve a nice smooth consistency.
When you serve the soup, set out a bowl of your super-tasty home-made croutons, a bowl of coarsely grated Gruyère cheese, and a bowl of Arno’s ground habaneros (or, since I have Arno’s habanero powder and you don’t, any hot chiles will do) so your guests can fire up the soup as much or as little as they like it.