Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricanes and Hurricane Soup

The weather has been beating the east coast like a rug!
Water, water and wind, tornadoes....evacuations!  Even my poor mother had to leave her little home in New Jersey.  Thank God for dear cousins Joy and Tom....I'm sure she was kept safe and snug 'til the danger passed.
But even now, as the storm slowly leaves them, I wonder what will be left behind.

There's talk of massive flooding from Irene...a name usually synonymous with old songs and petticoats.  No dainty little feather, this one!  Hurricane Irene was big, even though not a powerful storm in its own right...she moved in and lumbered slowly up the coast, reeking havoc from beach town to city street.  Whooo!

And just a few days previous, the same area was hit with an earthquake.

Is somebody trying to tell us something?!?

Those of us not in the storm's path sat glued to the t.v., internet or other info service for news of storm intensity and peoples' safety.  Many have relatives who live in or the storm's path...wishing to be able to do more than watch, wait and pray.

Prayer is a powerful thing.  Many more lives could have been lost than have been reported so far....and while I'll not rule out planning, coordination and follow-through, I believe the bottom line is simple-even Mother Nature answers to a Higher Authority.

So for those folks who've been through Hurricane Irene, how about a nice big steamy bowl of something I'll call Hurricane Soup...a little bit of this and that, to warm the body, mind and soul. Our love, thoughts and prayers go to you all!

So-called to send a warm, homey, comforting bit of love to those in need of some right now.

Soup bones if you have them
Hurricane Soup
If not, clean and cut veggies and add the refuse along with bits of meat skin, bones, stuff you don't want in the final soup.  These will make your basic stock.

Heat a large soup pot, add some olive oil.  When it comes to fragrance, lower the heat to medium and add the refuse to the pot.  Stir it around periodically so it browns.  Things like onion tips, carrot ends, celery bottoms, broccoli stems and so on would do real nice.   Add some extra celery, onion and garlic too...and a bit of butter once everything gets going.

If you want meat, any ends, bones and bits that would be too tough for eating can still be used for flavor.

There's talk against using skin for stock these days....I think it's a personal option, and will say that it does add a great deal of flavor, especially browned like this.  But remember to remove the grease from the resultant stock!  Otherwise the entire top portion of your broth will be nothing but grease.

There are commercial stock separators around, kind of like a measuring cup with a spout that comes up from near the cup's base. These work fine. But if you don't have one, simply pour the stock in a clear or opaque bowl and refrigerate it for a while, maybe 20 minutes.  The grease will separate and float on top of the other liquid and you'll be able to skim it off, carefully, with a spoon.

If you do have soup bones-lucky you-they can be prepared by pan browning or oven browning. Both methods require attention so they don't burn.  There are good points to both methods...I like the oven browning, followed by an immersion into the veggie/meat stock that's been developing on the stove (yes, even with bones I like to have a stock pot base).  It just adds that extra something...a richness not possible via boiling alone.

If you do add the soup bones after oven-roasting, don't forget to add the pan drippings too! Maybe even find a bit of wine, apple cider or even just a bit of your broth and put it in the roasting pan.  Swirl it around with a spoon and get all those brown bits, all that gelatinous smooshiness in the corners and mix it into the liquid, then pour it into the stock pot too!  That's the defining difference between a flavorful soup and a watery soup.

While the stock is developing, cut up your remaining ingredients being mindful to keep meat and vegetables separate-from cutting board and knife to where you put them afterward! I use a red handled knife for meat and a black handled one for veggies-and of course two separate cutting boards and two separate bowls.
Remember: Cross contamination is dangerous!

Season and brown the meat you intend to add....brown it lightly and quickly in a skillet.  Remove the meat from the skillet and set aside.  Pour some wine, water, cider or some stock (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) into this pan and stir while it reduces.  When reduced by about 1/2, add this to the developing stock.

After the stock has been prepared and degreased, bones and refuse all removed, it's time to add the other ingredients.   Start with your "hard" veggies; those that are going to take some time cooking and won't get all watery in the process.   Carrots are a good candidate....rutabagas, turnips, potatoes....that sort of thing.
But remember, even these fellers can get over cooked, so pay attention.

As these hard veggies start giving up the ghost, you can add your mid-range veggies.  Things like onion, garlic, celery, string beans, broccoli bits, corn...including baby corns are good here.  They'll cook up as the hard veggies finish their process.

After that come the "old softies,"  you know the ones...zucchini, mushrooms, peeled crushed tomatoes (if you want)....whatever you want.  However the kitchen sink should have been thrown in with the "hard" veggies-porcelain, you know...takes a while to cook.

The final thing to add is the meat.  It should go in only long enough to cook for about five or ten minutes, no more.  Remember it's been cooked already!  AND you've been capturing it's flavor since the very beginning, so don't worry about the soup being watery or bland.

The last thing to do?  Taste and adjust the seasonings to your personal taste.
A little bread and butter, a little glass of wine....mmmmm!
Bound to take the chill away!