Chicken Poach

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There are times when it’s easy to purchase a rotisserie chicken, cut up the meat, and use it in soup, a salad, or in enchiladas. Sure, it saves time, but I’ve never purchased one that wasn’t overcooked. Delis have different temperature guidelines than I do.

Roasting your own chicken is simple, and I don’t think there’s anything much more wonderful than serving a just-roasted chicken.

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However, there are two benefits to poaching a chicken. One is the lovely tender meat, and the second is the wonderful poaching liquid. And there are so many different ways to create a flavorful broth besides the basic onion, carrot, and celery. So I take my chicken poaching quite seriously!

Poaching a chicken takes a few hours from start to finish, but it’s not all active work. I recommend that you have a plan for the poached chicken. You can use the meat in a bastilla, pictured at the top, in soups, stews, crêpes and enchiladas, a byriana, a curry – the possibilities are endless.

Then I would also recommend that you have a plan for the remaining chicken broth. It can be used for cooking legumes and grains, as a base for soups and stews, or reduced and even frozen for future use.

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Chicken Poach

1 whole chicken
3-4 carrots, cleaned, halved
3-4 stalks celery, cleaned, chopped coarsely
A few ripe tomatoes, halved (optional)
Bunch of parsley*
1 large onion, quartered
Garlic cloves, halved
Whole peppercorns
Bay leaves

Remove the plastic bag of innards from the chicken. Then rinse the chicken and place the chicken in a large and deep pot. I prefer a pasta cooker because you can remove the chicken and vegetables without further straining the broth.

If your husband isn’t watching, add the innards to the pot. If he’s eyeing you, save the innards for the dogs.

Add the remaining ingredients, adjusting for your tastes.

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If you are not using a pasta cooker, you can use a muslin bag for your seasonings.

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Add water to cover the chicken. Place the pot on the stove, bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. I like to poach a chicken for about 1 1/2 hours; you can’t overcook the chicken but you want to maintain the volume of water.

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For additional ingredients, consider fresh herbs like sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Or use whole cumin and coriander seeds. It all depends what you want the remaining broth to taste like. These additions have little effect on the chicken’s flavor, but significantly flavor the broth.

Once the chicken is poached, remove the lid and let the pot rest until the chicken can be handled safely. If you’re using a pasta cooker, gently remove the insert and let the broth drain. Save the broth! Never discard it.

Carefully place the chicken on a cutting board to further cool.

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If everything was cooked in one pot, remove the muslin bag and let the broth cool. Taste the broth and reduce it if the flavor needs to concentrate. It can also be salted at this point if desired.

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Remove the meat from the bones. It will be delicate light and dark meat.

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From this small-sized chicken, I ended up with 1 pound 4 ounces of meat.
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If you want to enhance your broth, place the chicken bones in the broth and simmer for a while. Another thing that I’ve done is to blend the cooled broth along with the carrots, celery, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. The parsley is optional. That way, the broth is already more soupy, and the vegetables don’t go to waste.

Enjoy your poached chicken and home-made chicken broth!

* If you will be using the chicken broth for a Southwestern or Mexican dish, I suggest substituting cilantro for parsley.

Risotto with Bacon and Peas

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When I prepare meat, it’s usually for my husband.  I don’t dislike meat, I just prefer avocados, and fish.  I even eat tofu.  On a special occasion I will certainly enjoy a good filet with my guy, but it’s just too heavy for me.

So this lovely spring risotto with peas and a little bacon is a perfect meal for me.  For my husband it’s a side dish!

But however you eat it, it’s  a great risotto.  Make sure you use a really good bacon.
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Risotto with Bacon and Peas

8 ounces bacon, diced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Heavy cream
8 ounces frozen petite peas, thawed
5-6 ounces grated Parmesan

Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet.

When it’s cooked, spoon it out of the bacon grease using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the hot grease into a pot to make the risotto. Add the shallots and sauté them in the bacon grease until soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice until every grain is coated with the grease. Stir for about a minute.

Then add a big splash of wine and stir the rice until the wine is absorbed. Then proceed with adding a little of the broth at a time, always stirring until it gets absorbed by the rice.

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After adding all of the stock, add a little cream a few times and stir well.

After about 30 minutes, the risotto should be cooked and stop absorbing liquid. At this point stir in the peas, bacon and Parmesan. Stir gently to combine and let heat through.

 

Serve immediately. You can always serve extra Parmesan as well.

I used no seasoning in this risotto to let the flavors shine. But you should taste it for salt and pepper definitely.

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I added a tarragon sprig from my plant that has fortunately returned to my garden this spring.

If you want seasoning, I would recommend nutmeg or white pepper. Or both!
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Now doesn’t this look like a perfect spring meal?! With a little white wine of course!

Paprika Risotto

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Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make because, like polenta, it can be made so many different ways depending what you put into it. Basically, it’s a rice dish, but made with a special starchy rice that creates a creaminess when cooked the proper way.

Today I wanted to make a risotto using a favorite ingredient of mine called paprika cream. I learned about it from a Hungarian friend and I’m addicted to it. And yes, it is a short cut, but it’s a fabulous one. This is a high-quality product that is extremely versatile. It’s available in a jar made by Univer, but I’ve also used a brand that comes in a tube.


Sure, you can roast your own red Hungarian peppers, peel them, and purée them, but why not use this pre-made product? Especially because you can use a teaspoon, a tablespoon, or much more, depending on what you’re making.

Today I’m making risotto with the paprika creme which will provide the flavor. The flavor is bigger and better by using this product than simply using a sweet or spicy Hungarian ground paprika.

You can serve grilled shrimp or scallops with it or just about any favorite protein. My husband prefers a meat-heavy meal, so for him the risotto will be more like a side dish, along with pork tenderloin.


If you need a tutorial on making risotto, I have posted on Dried Mushroom Risotto, a Zucchini Risotto, and a Thai-Inspired Risotto, all of which have more details about the risotto-making process.

Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s difficult. I’ve even taught children how to make risotto! There is a little elbow grease involved, but it’s well worth it.

The only “rule” about preparing risotto is to have all of your ingredients ready by the stove because you cannot leave the kitchen while making risotto, and you don’t want to get distracted. The whole process takes up to 40 minutes.
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Here’s what I did:

Paprika Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil, or fat of choice
2 shallots, diced
1 cup of arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
Approximately 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 heaping tablespoons of paprika creme, or to taste
Grated Parmesan, optional

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. I actually used a little fat from the pan in which I roasted the pork tenderloins. Don’t ever throw that fat away!!!
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When the oil is hot, add the shallots and sauté for a few minutes. A little caramelization is good. Then stir in the rice, and sauté the rice, stirring occasionally, for about a minute. All of the rice grains should be shiny.


Then pour in the wine. If the pan is at the right temperature, the wine should sizzle a little. If it just sits there, you need to turn up the heat. Stir the rice with the wine until the wine is almost all evaporated.

Then begin adding chicken broth, about 1/4 – 1/3 cups at a time, stir, and continue doing this. When the liquid is almost completely incorporated, the rice should almost be sticking to the pan, but it won’t, cause you’re there at the stove adding a little more liquid. 

Before you’ve used all of the broth, stir in the paprika cream until it’s well incorporated.


You’ll know when your risotto is about done because it will begin to stop absorbing the liquid, and should have a nice creamy consistency.  If the rice is still absorbing the broth, it’s okay to add a little more broth or even water as necessary, even if you’ve already used the 2 1/2 cups of broth.  The rice has to cook (see note).
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You can stir in the Parmesan, but I prefer to sprinkle it on top of the risotto.

Serve immediately.

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If you want a creamier risotto, you can substitute some of the broth with heavy cream.


note: According to the Italians, the rice grains in risotto are cooked until they are al dente – which means there is just a little bit of bite to them. Personally, I don’t mind my risotto slightly beyond that point. Hopefully my Italian ancestors aren’t rolling over in their graves because of my preference!

Now, think about all of the lovely variations of risotto you can make throughout the year…

Spring: lemon risotto with spicy grilled shrimp, or risotto with asparagus

Summer: risotto with corn and chipotle, or tomato risotto with spicy scallops and fresh basil

Fall: pumpkin risotto with feta cheese, or Brussels sprouts risotto topped with grilled sausages

Winter: cheddar risotto topped with braised short ribs, or wild mushroom risotto served with pork loin

Pot au Feu

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Pot au Feu is a hearty vegetable dish that I grew up eating. In spite of its simplicity and peasant origins, I loved the smell of the bacon-rich broth, and the flavor of the tender-cooked vegetables.

Pot au feu, simply translated to “caldron of fire,” was a way to use what you raised, and what grew locally. For my mother, with her French upbringing, it meant a little meat and seasonal vegetables.

My mother recently sent me some Black Forest bacon amongst cheese and other gourmet goodies for my birthday. She knows what I love! And I just knew that I was going to use the bacon in a Pot au Feu. It’s the best way to honor it.

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So here’s what I did, but you can switch up the vegetables however you like, depending on what you like, and the season. Enjoy!

Pot au Feu

Olive oil
Bacon
Onion, coarsely chopped
Potatoes, cleaned
Carrots, cleaned
Cabbage, in chunks
Frozen peas, thawed
Parsley or fresh thyme

Begin by dicing the strips of bacon.
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Place it in a braising pan with raised sides, large enough to accommodate the vegetables. I added a little olive oil in the braising pan because this bacon wasn’t fatty.
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Cook the bacon over medium-high heat. Then stir in the onions, and lower the heat a little.


Cook the bacon and onions for about 5 minutes, then add the potatoes.
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Add enough chicken broth just to partially cover the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan slightly, and cook them for about ten minutes.

Add the carrots, and cook for about five minutes, depending on their size.
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Tuck the cabbage into the broth, and add a little more broth as necessary.
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Braise the vegetables, with the lid partially covered, turning them occasionally. Add the peas towards the end of the cooking time.
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The pot au feu is done when all the vegetables are cooked though.
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You can remove the bulk of the vegetables and bacon to a serving bowl, and then reduce the broth in the braising pan.
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Then pour the remaining broth over the vegetables and serve. I forgot to do this, even though I did reduce the broth, so the vegetables aren’t “glistening” as they should be! Ah, food blogging!
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As you can imagine, these simply braised vegetables are delicious as a side to just about every protein. Even though this vegetable dish is hearty, I think it works in the spring as well as in the fall or winter.

Sprinkle them with chopped parsley, if desired, or with fresh thyme leaves.
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note: Like I mentioned, the vegetables can definitely be varied depending on the season, or what’s available. Butternut squash, leeks, sweet potatoes, turnips, green beans, even spinach or spring onions can be used. Just cook the densest vegetables first, so that in the end every element is perfectly cooked!

Black Beans

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Everyone knows I’m enamored with beans. But there is just something about black beans that I really love. Perhaps the striking color?

Before my children were on their own, I made sure they knew how to cook beans from scratch. For one thing, beans are healthy. But they’re also extremely inexpensive, especially given the number of meals 1 pound of dried beans can provide when cooked.

Today I’m cooking beans to show how easy it is. You can eat them as is, as a side dish. But you can also turn the beans into a bean salad, a bean soup, or even refried beans – all of which will be in future posts. Plus, you can also add your cooked beans to any stew, soup, or pasta. So versatile!!!

Black beans are common in Latin American cuisines, and you’ll find them also in West African cuisines. So they’re not just for Southwestern and Mexican purposes.

All dried beans must be hydrated with water before cooking. That’s the only “rule.” In the old days, you also had to inspect the beans for stones and grit, but I haven’t had to inspect beans for years, fortunately.

Beans can be soaked in cold water overnight. But if you are in a hurry, add hot water, and the beans will be ready for cooking in two hours.


When you’re ready to start cooking, pour the soaked beans in a colander and rinse them well.

So following is my recipe for a pot of beans. Many other ingredients and also seasonings could be added, but I’m keeping the beans plain, because I am going to use them in different dishes.
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Black Beans

1 pound dried black beans, soaked, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
Broth, your choice of chicken, beef, or vegetable
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Have your beans set aside in a colander.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.

Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes, without much browning. Add the garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds, then pour in the beans.


Add broth just to cover the beans. Add the bay leaf.
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Bring the beans to a boil, then cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer the beans for about 45 minutes. I typically remove the pot from the heat, but leave the lid on to allow the beans to absorb any more liquid they need to absorb. Black beans stay whole; you won’t discover a pot of bean mash after an hour.
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If you don’t want much liquid with your beans, remove the lid and allow some of the broth to evaporate. Keep in mind, however, that you can use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked beans from the pot, avoiding the liquid. That way, you can utilize the bean broth for other purposes, like baking bean soup, for example.

Taste the beans for salt and pepper. And that’s it!

Now you can eat them as is, as a side dish. I served mine alongside a spicy pork chop, and topped the beans with some peppers and chives. Simple.

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As you can tell, the beans are fully cooked, but keep their shape.
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They have such a wonderful, meaty flavor. I really love them simply flavored. But of course, you can season beans however you wish. (see note below)

note: If you just want to make your pot of black beans more involved and flavorful, here is a list of other ingredients you can use in the above recipe:
Celery
Bell peppers, red or green
Fresh chile peppers
Adobo paste
Chipotle peppers
Canned tomatoes
Parsley
Cilantro
Seasonings like chili powder, curry powder, or a combination of Mexican seasonings such as cumin, coriander, and oregano.

Dried Mushroom Risotto

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I think my husband could live on risotto alone. Well, steak and risotto. So I make risotto often, creating different varieties to keep life interesting. It’s the kind of cooking I like to do, in any case, like when I made a Thai-inspired risotto a while back. My Italian ancestors are probably rolling in their graves, but one doesn’t always have to make only “authentic” dishes authentically!

Most people have sautéed mushrooms for pasta, or to top steaks. But have you ever used dried mushrooms? They used to be harder to find, but nowadays you can get just about any variety of mushroom in a dried form at most grocery stores. Italian, French, and so forth.

If you haven’t used them, I urge you strongly to try them once. It’s simply a matter of soaking them in hot water to hydrate them, then toss them into soups, pastas, gratins, you name it. They have a unique flavor, one that’s much different from the fresh counterpart.

Quite often I mix Italian and Chinese mushrooms together; the provenance of the mushroom doesn’t matter. Chinese mushrooms aren’t just for Chinese food, unless you get into the fungus, like cloud ears. Those would be more specific to Chinese dishes. My opinion.

Sometimes I mix different mushrooms together in a dish and have no idea what kind they are, because I was too dumb to save the packaging, like these. Chanterelles, maybe?
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Other times, with Chinese packaging, there’s no English translation. But in this case, I know these are Shitakes.
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So today I’m making a risotto with a mixture of the two above dried mushrooms. It’s still cold outside where I live, so I was inspired to make this risotto. It’s not something I would make during the spring and summer months. I’m seasonally responsible when I cook!

To prepare the dried mushrooms, place them in a larger bowl and add hot water to cover. To keep the mushrooms submerged, I place a smaller bowl on top and weigh it down with a can or an apple. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes; they can’t overhydrate.

Here’s the risotto I made today with the dried mushrooms. It’s just a general recipe. If you want more of a tutorial, check out some of my other risottos, like zucchini risotto.
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Dried Mushroom Risotto

1 ounce of your choice of dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if you prefer)
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
1/4 cup white wine
Juice from mushrooms (see below)
Broth
3 ounces Parmesan, optional
Salt
Black or white pepper, to taste

To begin, heat the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for a few minutes. Then stir in the rice. Stir it for about a minute, so that all of the rice grains are coated with the butter.

Begin adding liquid to the rice, about 1/4 – 1/3 cup at a time, and stir until it disappears. I like to start with the wine for some reason.

Meanwhile, remove the mushrooms from the liquid and place them on a cutting board. Chop the mushrooms, feeling for any hard pieces and discarding them.

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Using a fine sieve, strain the mushroom “liquor” to remove any grit. You will be using this liquid in the risotto.

Continue adding liquid to the risotto, using the mushroom liquor, followed by broth.
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Keep stirring, and you will see the rice continue to absorb liquid. When you can tell that you’re close to the end of cooking time, add the chopped mushrooms and grated Parmesan, if you’re using it. Stir gently to combine. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.

Some people like to add more butter and sometimes heavy cream to risotto, but the rice itself gets so creamy that to me it’s not necessary.
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As far as toppings, you can use fresh parsley or chives. I chose a bit of fresh thyme.

This risotto is fabulous as is, but would also be lovely with poultry or beef.
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Easy Creamy Vegetable Soup

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So many people I know don’t make soups because they think it’s difficult. Hopefully after reading this post, many of you will run to the kitchen, with the most minimum of ingredients, and try out this recipe. All you need is a favorite vegetable that you want to turn into a luscious, creamy soup.

Back when I was feeding my young children, it seemed that they would always eat soup over a vegetable. Even if it was the same vegetable! So I made a lot of soups.
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You don’t have to limit yourself to the soup as is. You can always sprinkle on different cheeses, add a dollop of sour cream, add grilled chicken, Polish or Italian sausage, or ham. Then it becomes a meal!

What I love is that there are so many different ways of making a basic soup like the one I’m making today.

For example, the vegetable choices*:
Butternut Squash
Pumpkin
Acorn Squash
Carrot
Parsnip
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Zucchini
Sweet potato
And so forth.

Next, the aromatics:
Onion
Garlic
Ginger
Leeks
Shallots
Celery
Bell peppers

The creaminess:
Heavy cream
1/2 and 1/2
evaporated milk
sour cream
creme fraiche
goat’s milk
almond milk
soy milk
hemp milk
coconut milk
and so forth.

There are many seasonings that can be added to home-made soups as well, but I want to keep this vegetable soup simple. Once you figure out how easy it is, you’ll be excited and motivated to get creative with flavors from your refrigerator and pantry! (I’m talking curry powder, pesto, chipotle peppers, Thai curry paste, etc.)

So here’s my basic recipe, and I hope you make it your own!

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 heads broccoli, approximately 2 pounds after trimming
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
Chicken or vegetable broth
6 ounces evaporated milk, or less
Butter, optional
Salt
White pepper, optional
Cheese, optional

Rinse the broccoli, then coarsely chop it. Place it in a stock pot. Add the onion and garlic.
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Pour in your broth until it comes about halfway up the layer of vegetables.

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Bring the broth to a boil, then cover the pot and let things simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you’re worried you have a lot of extra broth, leave off the lid, or have it offset to allow steam to escape.


Let the mixture cool.
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This is also the time I had a tab of butter, about 1 or 2 tablespoons, a little salt, and a little white pepper. The butter adds a richness to the soup, but it can be omitted, of course.

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Place the vegetables in the jar of your blender using a slotted spoon. Pour a little bit of broth into the blender, just to get it blending.


Then add the evaporated milk until you have the consistency you like.

I do it this way, because if you add all of the broth first, the soup might end up to watery, On the other hand, if soup is too thick, then you still have broth to add. Of course, it all depends how thick you like your soups.

I like my vegetable soups thick and creamy. Thin, watery soups are not my thing.

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At this point, if you’d like to make a cheesy cream to top the soup, mix together a good goat or sheep’s cheese with a tablespoon or so of evaporated milk or cream, and blend until smooth.


If you make a cheesy cream, I hope you’re more creative than I am at making an appealing-looking presentation!
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Alternatively, just crumble the cheese on top of the soup; I used Valbreso. Children would love grated cheddar on this soup.

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You could also top the soup with a few croutons.
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There! Now you’ve made a creamy vegetable soup! See how easy it is?

* Any vegetable can be made into a soup, however, some won’t work quite as well. For example, a cucumber is a very watery vegetable and it’s typically not served warm. It is good in a gazpacho, however, which is a cold soup of sorts. Eggplant would work as a soup, but the color wouldn’t be very pretty. if that doesn’t bother you, then use eggplant. Also, I wouldn’t mix a green vegetable with an orange vegetable. If you’ve ever played with paints, you know that orange and green do not make a pretty color! Soup making is a lot about common sense!

Red Wine Reduction

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A reduction is just that – a volume of liquid that is reduced by evaporation. The wonderful thing is that when a liquid, like wine, is reduced, it almost becomes like a syrup. So when you choose to make a reduction, you don’t need any flour like when you make a gravy. Reductions are velvety smooth.

I wanted to make a reduction to serve with the beef Wellington I made for a special dinner. With a reduction, there are so many choices, but I’ll share what I chose to do, plus mention some alternatives as well.

Red Wine Reduction

Skillet in which the 2 beef filets were seared, with leftover olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Beef broth, about 2 cups
Red wine, about 1 cup
1 teaspoon beef demi-glace

Heat up the skillet over medium heat. Add the butter to the oil in the skillet. Begin by sautéing the onions until they’re soft, about 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook them while stirring for almost a minute.

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Pour in the broth and wine. Let the liquid come to a boil, then turn down the heat so that the liquid just barely boils. I recommend that you keep a close eye on this process because you don’t want to lose the goodness that’s in the skillet by accident.
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After about 45 minutes or so, this is what’s left in the skillet. Magic!
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Add the demi-glace and stir it into the warm reduction. Remove the skillet from the stove and pour the reduction into a small serving bowl. The reduction can be reheated later in the microwave if you need to wait to use it.

There are a few options, like I mentioned. First, I had to choose between serving the reduction as is, or puréeing it. It would be a little thicker puréed, but still silky smooth, but I decided to leave it as is; I didn’t mind the texture.

Taste the reduction before you serve it, to make sure it’s to your liking. If you ever want a reduction made with red wine seasoned beyond salt and pepper, some dried thyme is lovely in it.

There are other options with the liquids used in reductions. Regarding the broth, home-made is best, but I unfortunately had none on hand. I thought about reducing the purchased broth by itself first, since they’re terribly watery, but I decided it would be fine added along with the wine. And it turned out fine since I probably lost about 3 cups of liquid during the reduction process.

Regarding alcohol, you can also use Madeira or dry sherry or Marsala in reductions. Even a little cognac adds some zing. You won’t get that explosive alcoholic flavor after the liquid reduces, so don’t worry about that. And if you don’t want a dark-colored reduction like I did for the beef, you could also choose a lighter-colored chicken stock and white wine instead. It will still make a richly flavored reduction.

Like I mentioned, I served this reduction along with the beef Wellington. I didn’t want to drizzle the sauce on the top of the pretty pastry, so I just placed some directly on the dinner plate. As the plate is also brown, it’s a bit hard to see! The reduction almost looks watery in the photograph, but it was fairly thick, actually.

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Other ingredients can be used for the aromatics as well. Shallots, for one thing, and garlic is always optional. You could also add celery and carrot dice to this sauce as well. I’ve sometimes included a sun-dried tomato as well, one that’s stored in oil, not the dry kind, to add some flavor and texture to a reduction that is puréed.

note: When I first started making the reduction, I had it in my mind that I would be blending it up at the end, but I changed my mind. I would have preferred to have more finely chopped both the onions and garlic beforehand. But in the recipe I’ve listed finely-chopped onions, and diced garlic, which is what I should have done. That’s probably why the onion and garlic pieces look bigger – they are!

Pho

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I’m positive that most all of you food lovers out there in the blogosphere have enjoyed pho, that quintessentially Vietnamese soup that’s equally messy and delicious. Especially those of you who live in larger cities, where there tend to be a delicious variety of ethnic restaurants.

Myself, I never indulged in pho until just recently, when my daughter took me to a well known Vietnamese restaurant that she and her husband frequent in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And I was thoroughly satisfied after my very long and patient wait.

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The soup is a flavorful broth with noodles, beef slices, and bean sprouts, although there are other versions, including a vegetarian pho, available at this restaurant as well. But then here comes the fun part. You get to add Sriracha, hoisin sauce, cilantro, basil, lime juice and sliced jalapenos.

It would be so fun to have a pho party some time, just set up a bar of fun pho ingredients. But the only negative is how messy it is to eat. So maybe I won’t do it. Scratch that idea.

However, I did want to make pho at home from scratch, since I can’t go to any restaurant where I live and order it. I based my recipe that I’m posting here on one I found online from Food and Wine.

Pho Broth

Beef short ribs* and pork neck bones, about 6 pounds total
Oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4″ piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
6 cloves
4 allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
Rock sugar – I used a few brown sugar cubes

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First place all of the meat and bones in a large pot. Add water to cover by at least 1″.
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Bring the meat and bones to a boil.

Meanwhile, add a little oil to a skillet, and sauté the onion and ginger until there’s a little color on them.
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Place the cloves, allspice, cinnamon, fennel seeds and bay leaves in a muslin bag, or a piece of tied up cheesecloth and set aside.

After the meat and bones have reached a boil, pour the water off. You may have to wait until things cool down a bit so you don’t get a meat and bone facial over your sink. They will look like this.
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Then cover the meat and bones with water again, add the onion and ginger, the bag of spices, and the sugar cubes.
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Bring the pot to a boil again, then cover and simmer for at least 2 1/2 hours. Let cool.

Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the whole thing into the colander. Place the bowl of broth in the refrigerator overnight.
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You will be left with a lot of bones.
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Remove any good meat from the beef short ribs, place the meat in a sealable plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight.

The next thing to do is make a spicy oil to add to the pho:

Heat 1/4 cup of plain, tasteless oil in a small pan on the stove over low heat. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes, a tablespoon of sesame seeds, and a pinch of salt. Just let the ingredients “warm” in the oil for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and store the pan in the refrigerator.

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The next day, remove the fat from the broth, and then pour it back into a pot to heat on the stove. Taste the broth and add salt if you think it needs it.

Get the spicy sesame oil out of the refrigerator and strain it into a small bowl. Save the goodies to throw into a stir fry.

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Meanwhile, get out your other ingredients:

Limes
Cilantro
Bean sprouts
Cooked noodles
Sriracha
Hoisin sauce
Meat from short ribs
Jalapeno slices

To serve the pho, start by ladling the hot broth into a large bowl. Add some noodles and bean sprouts. Add some beef, and then sprinkle on the jalapenos, cilantro, and basil. Squeeze some lime into the pho as well. And then season everything by adding Sriracha and hoisin sauce, to taste. But you’re not done. Then add some of the spicy sesame oil on the top.
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Pho is typically eaten with a porcelain spoon in combination with chop sticks, but I don’t own one of those spoons.

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verdict: I’m glad I made this once. This pho was really remarkable. The broth was fabulous and flavorful. But I think the spicy sesame oil was the biggest hit of all. Making pho from scratch isn’t much work – it’s just time consuming. And then I found this:

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* The recipe called for oxtails, which I can’t get here.

Beef Stock

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Do you ever end up with a lot of beef bones? Maybe after de-boning a large roast? If you hate to waste food like I do, try this simple way to make beef stock using bones! It’s so simple, and yet a smart way to take advantage of leftover bones.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Start by putting all of your trimmed bones in a large roasting pan. Globs of trimmed fat are fine as well. Some people believe in salting and peppering the bones and bits, but I just leave mine plain. After you’ve collected the stock, you can taste and season. That way, you also don’t end up with too salty of a stock.

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Roast the bones for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375 degrees and continue roasting for another hour.

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Remove the pan from the oven and place it over 1 or two burners on the stove. Let the pan cool for a while, then add some filtered water to it.

Turn on the heat until the broth just boils, then turn it down to a low simmer. You could add other ingredients at this point, and seasonings like bay leaves, but I like to just leave it alone and keep it simple. Bones and water. And some fat.

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After about two hours, and occasionally turning the bones, you’re left with a beautiful broth like this.

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Let the mixture cool somewhat, then place everything through a colander over a large bowl and drain well. And there you have it.

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Refrigerate the broth overnight, then remove the fat layer before proceeding with a recipe.

I happened to use this broth when I made chili, and it was delicious!

note: This could be called either a stock or a broth. There are more involved home-made stocks, like those that also include vegetables, but personally I like just using the bones. Then I get the meaty beef flavor into my soup or stew via the stock/broth, and then add the aromatics at that time I’m preparing the soup or stew recipe. It’s just a personal choice.