Wednesday, January 27, 2010
WOW! How time does fly! It has been four years since I started this little blog during a spate of cabin fever late in the winter of 2006. I remember, the propane monitor in the living room was on the fritz...or perhaps we couldn't afford to run it at a level that actually kept us warm. So myself, my roommate, three dogs, and four cats were all holed up in the back bedroom, the only room that was sufficiently warmed by a faithful old fuel oil furnace. Actually, during a couple of dreadful winters, we moved into that room by January and didn't fully emerge until March or April! And when we did, we still had to rely on a system of strategically-placed space heaters, layered clothing, and sleeping bags draped over us just to stay alive! That is just one of many reasons why I feel so blessed to own my own home now where there is a kerosene monitor (old, but still doing her job well) and a large wood stove that can really crank out the heat. Ok, ok...I must admit that I managed to freeze the kitchen pipes within the first three days of living here (oops), but for the first time in nine years, we are cozy and WARM! PTL!!
Right at the moment, we may have global warming to thank, as it is weirdly, unseasonably warm. Two days ago, we actually had a spring-like flood watch (though spring doesn't truly come to us until April)! Even my friend, June, who is from New Orleans and is always cold admits that "51 degrees is spooky in January" in the North Country. Indeed, it's quite odd to start spring semester and look out my classroom window to see Lake Champlain...unfrozen! But we all know that winter is not yet done with us, and there will be plenty more cold before it's all over. So to keep us toasty on the inside, I offer a couple of hearty soup recipes for your approval.
The first one was a collaborative effort between my roomie and myself. While she was living in frigid Minnesota for more than a year, Cyd claims to have mastered the art of ham and navy bean soup. So I told her she needed to make some for me, but of course, I couldn't help meddling, as is my way. But in this case, too many cooks did NOT spoil the broth, but made an even tastier version!
Cyd's (and Gina's) Bean and Bacon Soup
1 lb. dried navy beans
8 cups vegetable stock
2 ham hocks
1 lb. bacon (I used something I found called "jowl bacon"), cut up
2 medium onions, chopped
4 large stalks celery, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 large carrots, sliced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar, optional (to balance the acidity)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cayenne
Place the beans, vegetable broth, and ham hocks in a stock pot. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. In the meantime, brown the bacon pieces, onion and celery in a skillet over medium heat. When the bacon is crisp and the onion and celery are soft and translucent, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Set aside.
When the beans have boiled for an hour, add the bacon, onion, celery and garlic mixture, the carrots, the canned tomatoes with their juice, the sugar (if using) and all of the herbs and spices. Continue to simmer until the beans are tender, probably about an hour. Remove ham hocks and bay leaves, then taste and correct seasoning before serving.
The second soup comes by way of my favorite Montreal bloggers at An Endless Banquet. I was drawn to this recipe because I'm not really fond of clams. This chowder calls for haddock or cod, and I used both, along with some bay scallops. (If I had had shrimp, I would have thrown half a pound of those in there, too!) Delicious stuff, and stick-to-your-ribs hearty! You might as well make a double batch, and then you'll have a homemade hot lunch all week long.
(Source: adapted from An Endless Banquet)
1 lb. haddock or cod fillets (or both!)
1/2 pound bay scallops
1 bay leaf
1/4 lb. bacon ends, or bacon, or salt pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, white part only, thoroughly rinsed, cleaned, and finely chopped
2-3 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon parsley, minced (I used 2 tablespoons dried)
2-3 sprigs thyme, leaves only, minced (I used about a teaspoon of dried)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used half-n-half)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning, optional
Bring three cups of lightly salted water to a boil (I used a box of seafood stock for additional flavor). Add the fish and scallops and the bay leaf, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish to a plate or cutting board, but keep the broth warm on a back burner.
Fry the bacon in a skillet it has rendered its fat and has begun to crisp. (I took my bacon all the way to crispy, then fished it out, cooled and crumbled it, and used it to garnish the chowder.) Add the onion and the leek and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent and the leek has become tender. Add the onion/leek mixture and the chopped potatoes to the fish broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the broth has thickened slightly.
Meanwhile, gently flake the fish fillets. When the potatoes are ready, turn the heat down to the lowest setting, add the fish, the parsley, the thyme, and the milk (or half-n-half) to the broth, and let the chowder steep for 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (Mine didn't have enough zip to suit me, so I added half a tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning, and that did the trick!)
Serve each bowl of chowder topped with crackers that have been broken into chunks, or with oyster crackers.
And I would completely remiss if I forgot to give a shout-out to my little buddy who shares the same birthday as my blog. This happy, tousled fellow is my PBGV, Grady. He is a champion show dog (in two countries!), but more importantly, he's just a sweet lug of a lapdog, and SIX years old today!