Staying Toasty with Potato, Leek, and Green Onion Soup

Monday night, Florida got below freezing. Palm trees had frost, pink lawn flamingos were stowed in garages,  and bikinis were put away. And this girl? This girl was clinging to a massive mug of potato, leek, and green onion soup.

Oh, how I love soup. Oh, how I love cleaning out the veggie drawer. Oh, how I love the warmth that radiates from the stovetop as I hover above my giant, red, enameled cast iron pot.

If you love warmth and delicious soup, and I know you do, read on…

Ingredients (use organic whenever possible):

  • 1 large leek, sliced and cleaned
  • 3 large green onions, sliced
  • 5 medium Idaho potatoes, washed and cut in 1″ cubes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat (omit if your vegetarian, and just add one extra tablespoon of butter)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (omit if you’re gluten-free)
  • 3 1/2 cups 2% milk (or use what you have on hand, but I don’t recommend skim)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Melt the butter and, if you choose, bacon fat in a heavy pot over medium-low heat.

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Sautee the leeks and green onions for about 3-4 minutes until softened.

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Add the flour and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes.

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Add the milk, cream, salt, and pepper, and stir. Bring contents to a simmer.

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Add the cubed potatoes and paprika. Give it a good stir, bring to a simmer over low heat, and put on the lid.

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Cook for about 15 minutes and check the potatoes. They should be fork tender.

At this point, strain out about half of the potatoes and leeks and out in a separate bowl.

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Using a traditional blender, food processor, or immersion blender, purée the contents still in the pot.

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Add the potatoes back to the pot, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Also, I’m sorry about not having a gorgeous photo of the finished soup in a pristine bowl. I was hungry, and I ate. It was so worth it. 🙂

Fall Comfort Food: Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo

Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo

The farmer’s market is currently packed with fall favorites. This is prime roasting season and, much like people go bonkers for pumpkin everything as soon as October hits, my heart goes pitter patter for butternut squash in November! Last Saturday, I did a double take at the most gorgeous butternut babies perfectly arranged on a rustically rickety wooden table and nearly tripped over my own feet to get there. Without flinching, I threw money down on the table, snatched my squash baby, and headed for my car in a dreamlike state considering all the culinary possibilities. The squash was my oyster. Thank goodness I opted for the autopilot option.

Then it hit me: roasted butternut squash alfredo! Cheesy, creamy, squashy, yummy…

My friend, Celeste, is a butternut aficionado and was our dinner guest. (She’s pretty much our guest every time she’s in town. We love her.)  And, short of me smacking her hand every time she tried to steal a piece of hot squash from the oven, she awarded this dish the Celeste Seal of Approval.

So, for this super flexible recipe, you’ll need:

  • 2-3 pound fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • Canola oil
  • 5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic 2% milk (you could use whole, too)
  • 2 cups, preferably homemade, organic chicken stock or broth (see my stock recipe here)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • A splash’s worth of organic cream or half and half
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh grated nutmeg (optional)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cubed butternut squash with a tablespoon of canola oil, a nice pinch of sea salt, cracked black pepper to taste, and a smidge of fresh grated nutmeg if you so choose. (I didn’t have any in my pantry, so I didn’t include it this time.) Line an oven-safe vessel with parchment paper and lay out the squash in a single layer.

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Roast the squash for about 30 minutes until it starts browning. Caramelization is your friend.

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Next, get out a nice heavy pot; I prefer to use enameled cast iron. (Actually, I always prefer these.) It’s time to make a roux! This is just a fancy way of saying to melt the 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and vigorously whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour until you get a smooth paste. (For my gluten-free friends, try white rice flour.) This is what will begin to thicken the sauce. Cook this roux for 3-4 minutes while whisking constantly.

Now add the cup of milk and 2 cups of chicken stock (For my vegetarian friends, use veggie stock). Keep whisking and bring this all to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. It should slightly thicken. Add more liquid (more stock or water would be fine) if it’s too pasty.

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Now it’s time to add the roasted butternut squash. You should have about 5-6 cups, give or take, of the roasted veggie. It doesn’t have to be exact. Be gentle! I don’t want you splashing hot liquid all over yourself and saying I told you to do it.

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Hopefully, you have an immersion blender handy because this’ll make your life really easy. If not, a large food processor or blender would work just fine. (Truth be told, I like to do as few dishes as possible.)

Turn the heat to low, and blend the contents of the pot until nice and smooth.

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This took me about 2 minutes. (Look, a rare glimpse of me cooking! You thought it was all a clever ruse, didn’t you?)

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Next add two small handfuls, about a cup’s worth, of fresh grated parmesan cheese and a healthy splash of half and half or cream. I usually have half and half on hand for coffee, so I used this. Like I said, this recipe is super flexible. Bring this back to a gentle simmer for 2-3 minutes, and give it a taste. I added cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt to mine.

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Serve this roasted butternut alfredo over your favorite pasta, but I do recommend a tube-shaped pasta like rigatoni, ziti, or penne. The sauce finds its way to the hollow center and, for sauce gluttons like myself, this is the only way to roll.

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Happy stretchy pants season, everyone! I’m so happy Fall is finally here.

It’s Comfort Food Time: Rustic, Organic, and Spicy Chicken Cacciatore

20131001-095000.jpgIt’s finally October. Comfort food is screaming my name. I want potatoes, crust, gravy and/or egg noodles with everything…for about a week until I want a salad again. But, for now, break out the deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot because it’s time for (drumroll, please) Chicken Cacciatore!

This is one of those dishes that’s rustic and forgiving. The tomatoey, herby, gravy is just perfect. (Did I mention you’ll only need one pot?) I took the basic components and steps of this classic braised Hunter’s Chicken, and made it my own. I’m picky; I admit it.

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 organic skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 8 ounce package of organic button mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 organic jalapeños, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups organic all-purpose flour (skip this ingredient for gluten-free)
  • Sea Salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Dried thyme
  • 1 28-ounce can of peeled plain organic whole Roma tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Fresh chives
  • Canola oil

Method:

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

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Dredge lightly in flour. (Skip this if you’re gluten-free.)

In a heavy-bottomed, large skillet, add about two tablespoons of canola oil and turn heat to medium-high. Once the oil comes to temperature, place the chicken skin side down in the pan.

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Turn each piece over after 3-4 minutes. The skin should be golden brown.

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Let cook for another 3-4 minutes and transfer the chicken to a separate plate.

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Using the same skillet, without wiping out all of the good stuff, add the onions, garlic, jalapeños, and mushrooms. Also add a few cracks of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt.

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Sauté for about 5 minutes while stirring often. The veggies should just start to brown. Add the thyme. I add about 1.5 teaspoons, but you could add more or less depending on what you like.

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Add the tomatoes you’ve lovingly crushed with your bare hands. Give it a good stir. (Side note: I got this all over my dress, so crush with care.)

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Let this come to a simmer and turn the heat down to medium. Let simmer for about five minutes with the lid on, and then add the browned chicken.

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I like to spoon the sauce over the top at this point.

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Let the chicken braise on low with the lid on for another 8-10 minutes. I know this may seem like a lot of time, but the chicken will come to nearly fall from the bone and the flour will thicken the sauce. (For gluten-free folks, you could add a bit of cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce at this point.) Don’t cut this short. Believe me, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your patience.

I like to serve one chicken thigh with a ton of gravy and veg over buttered egg noodles and then garnish with fresh chives.

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If you’re gluten-free, you could serve this with whipped potatoes or gluten-free noodles. It’d be just as good!

Happy October, everyone!