Sunday, August 23, 2015

North Woods Bean Soup



















I found this soup in an old Cooking Light magazine and have been enjoying it lately.  It's light enough for summer, but hearty and warming enough for autumn and winter.  Now normally I don't go in for "lite" cooking, as you can tell from reading this blog, but this is one case where a relatively light recipe actually has some flavor.  So, I guess even the Eat'n Man can eat light once in a while.

Now, I don't know what is particularly 'North Woods' about North Woods Bean Soup, but I like the name.  It brings to mind many pleasant excursions I've made into the North Woods of Maine and New England, and there's something ever so pleasant when your food has you thinking pleasant thoughts before you've even tasted it.


The North Woods of Maine.  Inviting?  Yes!


North Woods Bean Soup

1 Cup Carrots, Cut into Quarter Inch Pieces
1 Cup Chopped Onion
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
7 Ounces Turkey Kielbasa, Halved and cut into 1/2-Inch Pieces
4 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Teaspoon Italian 2easoning
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 16 Oz Cans Great Northern beans
4 Oz Fresh Spinach Leaves

This dish uses Turkey Kielbasa as its protein.



You can replace it with a nice, hearty, smoked beef sausage, but the soup won't be as light.  I like it both ways, but the smoke flavor is definitely a plus.  And remember, you could smoke that turkey kielbasa yourself and keep it light but flavorful.

Dice your carrots,



And your onion and mince the garlic.  Add them all to a good sized stock pot.

Slice the kielbasa in half length-wise, then cut these into half inch pieces.



Add them to the pot.

Sauté over medium heat for a few minutes.



Add the Italian seasoning and black pepper.



Now, normally I don't go in for premixed seasonings, preferring instead to mix my own on the spot, but this dish is simple, and premixed seasonings were made for stuff like this.  They don't get used much in my kitchen, but this is one instance where they do.

Sauté this for a minute or two, then add your chicken stock.



Now, this is one place I departed from the Cooking Light Recipe.  They call for fat free, low sodium chicken broth.  Now, regular chicken broth is pretty low fat anyway, but I like the salt, and I'd end up adding it to the soup anyway, so I just get regular chicken stock.  One advantage of the salt free broth, though, is that you can control the amount of salt, so if you want to go that route, knockyaselfout!

Add the great northern beans.



What makes these beans northern?  I don't know.  Same as with the soup recipe (North Woods, remember?)  Maybe it's the great northern beans that make this soup northern?  In any case, they are lovely beans.



Let this simmer for 20 minutes for so, then remove two cupfuls, making sure to get plenty of the beans.  Process these two cups of soup in a food processor until a thick pasty liquid forms.  Add this back to the soup.  Stir until it is nice and thickened.  Add the spinach and cook just long enough for the spinach to wilt.

Serve immediately, maybe with some crusty bread or similar.



Until Next Time,

See you in the Woods...

Chris






Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup




















For the past few years, August has been soup month here at An Eat'n Man.  Why?  Who knows?  Perhaps it's because come August, we're so hot here in Texas that a big honkin' Five-Dollar-Fill-Up of a meal just puts us off, and something light is in order.  Or perhaps it's that Augustus Caesar, founder of Rome and namesake for the month of August, was a big lover of soup.  (actually, I can't back that up with paperwork)  Maybe it just happened.  I got nothin.'  Perhaps, just as they say at the end of crappy 1950s Sci-Fi movies, there are some things man just was not meant to know.

Well, one thing I do know is that this Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup is light and tasty and perfect for a hot August night.  Give it a go.



Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Large Onion, Diced
2-3 Stalks Fresh Lemongrass, Sliced Thin
3 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Tumeric
1/4 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
12 Cups (96 oz) Chicken Stock
1 Fresh Green Chile, Chopped, (or 1 can (4 oz) mild green chiles)
2 Tablespoons Thai Fish Sauce
2 Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Breasts
2 Cups Unsweetened Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons (Plus More for Garnish) Fresh Cilantro, Chopped


Dice the onion,



Then the lemongrass.



Sauté both in the oil until they are soft and beginning to turn golden.



Add the crushed garlic cloves and simmer for another two minutes.  Add the cumin, tumeric and lime juice and simmer another minute.  Add the chicken stock.



Bring to a boil, then reduce to a good simmer.  Add the chiles.



Note, use a chopped fresh chile if you have it.  I didn't, so I fell back on my pantry goods and used some canned green chiles.



Add the fish sauce at this point as well.

Add the chicken breasts.



Note--astute readers of this blog may note that in the previous post I sort of ragged on the idea of boiling chicken.  Well, that hols true, except when you are making soup.  See, boiling the bird leeches flavor from it--when you're done you've got a bland bird and all the flavor is left in your boiling medium.  Of course if you are making soup, that's not an issue, because your boiling medium is staying with the bird.  Also, the way we are doing things here, not only is the chicken's flavor preserved in the boiling stock, but the flavors of all the things we are boiling the chicken with are sort of imbued into the chicken by reverse-osmosis or magic or whatnot.  It's a double barrel win-win for flavor, folks.  Oh, one thing more.  Make sure to use bone in, skin on chicken breasts.  Lots of flavor in dem bones and skin that you will extract.  You can discard the bones and skin later on.

Boil the whole concoction until the chicken is cooked and tender, 35 minutes or so.

Remove the chicken breasts.



Let cool slightly (or wear food prep gloves) and then shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.



Add the shredded chicken back to the soup, then chop the cilantro



and add it to the soup.



Finally add your coconut milk.  Simmer 10 minutes for, stirring frequently until the coconut milk is combined through and the soup has returned to a simmer.

Serve immediately with a little extra cilantro for those that wish it.



Until next time,


Chris






Sunday, July 26, 2015

Smoked Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells


























Here’s a simple yet tasty dish that utilizes one of the most versatile of all smoked foods, smoked chicken. 

Unlike pork and beef, chicken doesn’t really have a long history as a smoked food.  Historically, it was boiled, but at some point in the early Twentieth Century, someone got the bright idea to throw a chicken into a smoker, and the results were fantastic.  Unlike tough cuts like beef brisket and pork shoulder, which need a lot of low and slow cooking to become tender, chicken is natively tender, unless of course you overcook it.  It’s also very moist and porous, which means it takes on smoke flavor readily, and doesn’t need a long time to cook.  I usually buy lots of chicken when it is on sale, smoke it, and freeze the pieces for later cookery.  You can find more info on my yard bird smoking technique here.

Anywho, for this dish, I’m utilizing some of the smoked chicken I’ve pulled from the freezer and thawed.  You could of course make this dish with chicken you’ve cooked any old way (hopefully not boiled, though), but I think the smoke flavor combined with the cream cheese and other ingredients really makes this dish sing. 


Smoked Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells

2 Cups Smoked Chicken, Diced
6 Oz Mushrooms, Sliced
1 Medium Onion, Diced
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 or so Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Package (8 oz) Cream Cheese
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan cheese
1 Cup Freshly Grated Asiago cheese
1/2 Cup Prepared Pesto
Salt and Pepper to taste
12 or so Jumbo Pasta Shells, Cooked Just Under Al Dente
Parsley, for garnish

Start water boiling for your pasta shells.  Preheat Oven to 350˚F.  Sauté mushrooms and onion 



until cooked and just start to turn golden.  



Add minced garlic and cook one minute more. 

Meanwhile, tend to that chicken breast.  



This recipe uses a breast that I’ve presmoked.  You can use whatever you like, but the smoke flavor really makes the dish.  Dice the fully smoked breast up into small pieces. 



Add the chicken and the cooked mushrooms and onions to a food processor.  Pulse a couple times to chop everything up.  Add to this the cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, 3/4 Cup of the Asiago and the Prepared Pesto.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  



Pulse a few times until everything is mixed up, but don’t do too much, or you’ll end up with a paste.  We still want some small chunks of chicken and mushroom in there. 



Cook your pasta shells until they are firm but not cooked through.  This will help them hold their shape and stay together while you stuff them.  They will finish cooking in the oven. 

Stuff the shells with a tablespoon or two of the mixture.  



Place the shells in a greased casserole dish.  



Cover with foil.  



Bake 30 Minutes at 350˚F, then remove foil and dust the shells with the remaining Parmesan and Asiago.  Increase temp to 450˚F and bake another few minutes, until cheese topping melts and starts to turn golden brown.  



Remove from oven and serve. 



These go great by themselves or you can drizzle some red sauce over them, or serve with a side salad, or whatever.  This one’s all about simplicity. 

Until next time,


Chris

  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Carbonade of Beef



























This rich beef stew is a traditional Belgian dish that you'll find on the hob at most decent pubs around Brussels and similar towns.  It's a great complement to the hundreds of different Belgian beers one is wont to imbibe when traveling through Europe's unofficial capitol.  Yes, Belgium is a beer mecca even more than Germany or the Czech Republic.  I've been to some pubs in Belgium offering in excess of 700 distinct beers.

With so much liquid refreshment to try, you'll probably want to put a little something on your stomach.  This dish works quite well, particularly since its made with some of said beer.


Carbonade of Beef

1-2 Pounds Beef, Cubed (Chuck or Round)
1/4 Cup Flour
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Large Onion, Diced
4-5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Bottle Dark Beer (Belgian Style Oud Bruin or Flanders Red, if possible)
2 Cups Beef Stock
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
A Few Sprigs Thyme
Bay Leaf


Use a nice quality piece of beef.  I'm using eye of round today as it is nice and lean yet still pretty flavorful.  Cube it up,



Then toss the cubes of beef in flour.  Melt the butter in a good-sized Dutch oven and sauté the beef cubes until nicely browned.



Reserve the beef



and add the diced onion to the butter/beef drippings in the pot and cook until translucent and somewhat caramelized, perhaps fifteen minutes or so over medium heat.



Add garlic about five minutes before the onions are done.

When the onions are perfect, add the beer



and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen browned bits.  As I mentioned above, this beef stew should really have a proper Belgian beer like an oud bruin or Flanders Red to make it authentic.  Today I was fresh out of Belgian beer, so I subbed the next best dark beer I could find, a Guinness.



This is okay, but really, don't be like me and instead plan ahead and find a decent liquor store and get a proper Belgian beer.

Anyhoo, add the beef stock and brown sugar.





Return the beef to the pot.



Next, add the vinegar.



Yes, I know I called for Red Wine vinegar in the ingredients list, but I was fresh out of that too, so I subbed Balsamic.  I'm really bastardizing this today, eh?

Add the fresh thyme and bay leaf.



Cover the pot with its lid and place in a 350˚F oven and let it cook away for at least an hour and half, two if possible.  Check the pot from time to time to make sure there is still some liquid in it.  Add more beef stock if it is running low.  Remove the bay leaf and thyme when dish is finished.

Serve this dish simply, with some good crusty bread or maybe some butter noodles, as we've done here.



And don't forget that beer to wash it down with!

Until next time,

Cheers!

Chris