"Two are Better than One!" ~Ecclesiastes 4:9

Friday, March 12, 2010

This is what should be for dinner...

With the yucky weather we have been having (rain, tornados, high winds, cold fronts) it was time for a good comfort food. I was watching Emeril live when I saw this recipe for soup and couldn't help but go to the grocery store in the yucky rain to get the ingredients. When you see the ingredient list you will find this shocking, but garlic was not on my grocery list; we seem to stockpile garlic here, and go through it quickly! This dinner was a hit, and I think the general concept would be great to make it into squash, potato, or pumpkin soup! I think I would just cut way back on the garlic, and include another veggie during the saute phase of the recipe. Like my title states, you should rework your menu so that this is what's for dinner tonight!

I started with my Le Creuset dutch oven, and heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the pan on the stove. Once heated, I added 1 1/2 cups of quick diced sweet onions, a pinch of red pepper flakes, about 15 cloves of whole garlic (1/3 cup), and 3 bay leaves. I'm sure you are probably supposed to use fresh bay leaves, but I decided to cut back on the cost and used the dried bay leaves I had at home already. If you do this, make sure you pull them out after the soup has simmered. I then added several turns of ground pepper, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt. The salt helps with the cooking of the onion and garlic, be sure you season these base ingredients now instead of later when the soup is complete. I sauteed this mixture until the garlic and onions had a nice toasty brown caramel color, about 7 minutes. Make sure you don't over-cook at this point -- garlic becomes very bitter when this happens, and since they are the main ingredient you really want to avoid this!

Notice all of the yumminess on the bottom of my pot? That will be deglazed with stock to incorporate it into the soup. The recipe calls for 2 quarts of chicken or beef broth, but I did a mixture and it was great. In fact, I think all beef would be too rich of a flavor, and all chicken would be too bland. But, use what you have - I am a huge believer in using what is already in the fridge or pantry instead of buying new. So, once you have completed sauteeing your onion and garlic mixture add your choice of stock to the pot. Follow the stock with you guessed it, more garlic! This time, add 1 tablespoon of miced garlic. I went ahead and just pressed a few small cloves into the stock. Then, the recipe says to add 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped thyme and basil leaves. Again, I had lots of basil at the house and no thyme. I had a hard time justifying a two dollar purchase of fresh thyme for one little teaspoon, so I used dried and ground thyme out of the jar. And, to be completely honest, I used probably triple the amount of basil that was called for. We love fresh basil, and it looked like such a small amount in the pot so I added more! Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat and cover the pot. This will simmer for 40 minutes.

Use the time the soup is simmering to prep a few things for the next steps in the soup. I went ahead and made the croutons to go on top. The soup will later require either french or italian bread. I used italian since it was on sale, and used some of the additional to make my croutons. I used a small skillet, and heated 4 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom. Then, I added about a cup of the bread that I had diced into small cubes. I just watched the bread, and frequently stirred until the bread was golden brown and toasted.

When the bread is done, pour it out onto paper towels to drain. Go ahead and season them immediately with pinches of garlic powder, paprika, ground pepper, and salt. Put aside until you are ready to plate.

At this point, I went ahead and grated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and diced an additional 2 cups of the italian bread. Had I been thinking, this would have been a great time to open a bottle of white wine to compliment the soup...but why not start enjoying it now while you wait for the soup to finish simmering!

After finishing a glass of wine, and 40 minutes of simmering, increase the heat. Whisk in the bread and a half cup of heavy cream. I used half and half because, you guessed it, that's what we had! It was great even without all the fat, so don't be afraid to cut back on the calories. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes, until the bread has basically disintegrated. Then, add the parmesan cheese, and remove from the heat. I used my immersion blender (which I love!) to puree the soup at this point, but if you don't have one stick it in the blender!

I used our shallow soup bowls and put a little over a cup of the soup in the bottom of the bowl. I grated a little bit more of the parmesan cheese onto the soup, and added a heaping amount of croutons. This soup is so rich and savory! We had it as an entree, but I think it would be great with a simple arugula salad or even as a side to a yummy sandwich. Hope this is for dinner at your house tonight, and if not... make it soon!

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