Soup’s On Sundays / Broccoli & Cheese Chowder with Red Pepper and Bacon

•August 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I had no idea it would be so difficult to find a good broccoli and cheese soup recipe. Considering it’s the best seller at a bazillion restaurants, I was surprised to see so many online with low ratings, sans pictures and generally boring descriptions. That being said, I’m happy to report that yesterday’s concoction was very successful. The red pepper and bacon added color, flair and finesse to an already exceptional soup developing into an aesthetically beautiful dish full of smoked cheddar and broccoli flavor that walked a fine line between thick and voluptuous and perfectly satisfied the itch for savory comfort food. 

2 bunches of Broccoli
2 large Potatoes, skinned and chopped into 1 in. cubes
2 Red Peppers, chopped
1.5 large Onion, chopped
2 large Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Salt
1.5 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Dry Mustard
4 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
16 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6-8 people

Kitchen Utensils
Large Soup Pot
Cutting Board
Medium Pot
Large Slotted Spoon
Large Mixing Bowl of Ice Water
Plate with Paper Towel
Wooden Spoon

Let’s get started by heating the soup pot on Med-High heat and adding about 1/2 the package of bacon. You’ll want to crisp up the bacon really well here, so leave that be for a bit. Hopefully you’ve prepped all your veggies by this time, but preparing the broccoli is a little more intricate, so let’s do that now.

Start the second pot with about ~4 cups of water on High heat to hit boiling point. Chop the hard ends of the stems off and discard, leaving about 2 inches of stem and florets remaining. Cut the florets into about 1-inch pieces and add them to the pot of water when boiling. Chop the remaining stems of the broccoli and set aside. Boil broccoli florets for about 2-3 minutes, or until just tender. With the slotted spoon, remove them from the water and transfer to the large mixing bowl full of ice water. Keep the water you boiled the broccoli in to the side and let the florets soak.

Looking back to the bacon, is it crisp yet? Remove from the pot and transfer to the plate with the paper towel to soak up the extra grease. Reduce soup pot heat to medium and add the broccoli stems, garlic, onion, potato, red pepper and butter to the bacon grease that has accumulated in the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened.

Next, add cumin, salt, pepper and mustard. Mix in well and cook for an additional two minutes. Add flour and cook for another three minutes while stirring. Add the reserved broccoli water and lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot. Stirring occasionally, cook until the potatoes are tender – about 10-12 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and stir frequently, cooking until cheese has melted. Chop up the bacon into small pieces and mix into the soup.

Now comes one of the best parts. Time to taste! How’s it coming? Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Finally, add the florets (sans water) and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve with your favorite sourdough bread or baguette.

Yum. Cheesy.

Delicious red pepper, bacon, broccoli and cheese chowder.


Soup’s On Sundays / Irish Minestrone

•May 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

My original intent for this soup was to be a Potato, Bacon and Cabbage concoction of sorts. Instead, I ended up with something a bit more savory and a little nontraditional; hence the name: Irish Minestrone. Thick with potato, bacon, cabbage and tomato, be sure to save this soup for a chilly day and I promise it’ll hit the spot. Hearty, peppery and full of Irish flavors this quick-fix soup is simple and satisfying.

1/2 lbs Bacon
2 Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 box Chicken Stock
1/2 Cabbage head, chopped in thin slices
1 Bay Leaf
Salt & Pepper

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Kitchen Utensils
Cutting Board
Soup Pot
Can Opener
Large Spoon

This will be quick and painless. Start the bacon in the bottom of the soup pan and cook until crispy. Remove to paper towels and remove excess grease from the pot until you have just a thin layer on the bottom. Add your cubed potatoes, tomatoes, bay leaf and chicken stock and let boil until potatoes are tender. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to make sure your broth is the way you like it. When the potatoes are tender, add the cabbage slices and crumble the bacon into the soup. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so and then you’re ready to serve. That’s it. Super easy, right?

If you want to kick this soup up a notch, I’d recommend putting in tablespoon or two of Thai Chili Paste. It’s the same seasoning they use for Thom Yum soup and it’s delicious, would add a nice tangy heat to the flavor profile. I’m not sure that you’d still call it Irish Minestrone at that point, so maybe I’ll have to try that next time and come up with some clever. Bain sult as do bhéile!

Irish Minestrone with Soda Bread wedge

Irish Minestrone with Soda Bread wedge

Soup’s On Sundays / Smokey Pulled Pork BBQ Chili

•March 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

There’s no such thing as a perfect chili. The best chili recipes consider their audience, the weather, freshness of ingredients available, time from preparation to serving and accompanying menu items, just to name a few. And from my experience, it’s almost impossible to make the same chili twice. So my personal goal is, and has always been, to make each chili recipes progressively better each time I cook it. And so far, its worked out.

I made this chili three weeks ago for my roommates as a kind of experiment. We had a chili cook-off coming up at work and I had a title to defend. Although you may not know it by looking at me, I do know a thing or two about good chili. Growing up with a mom who could cook didn’t hurt, but I was also an official judge in the Texas Chili Cook-off Competition (Austin, 2007) and my partner and I won Best Overall Chili at our company’s chili cook-off last year. This year I wanted to get a little creative while staying true to the hearty, savory flavors we’ve all come to expect from a good chili. And thus, the Pulled Pork BBQ Chili was born! It’s thick, FULL of flavor, tastes like it could be a sandwich, has a spice that sneaks up on the roof of your mouth towards the end of your bite and it’s award-winning: Best Overall Chili 2012.

Can’t wait? Me neither. Let’s get to it.

1 small can Tomato Paste
1 can White Beans
1 can Kidney Beans
1 can Black Beans
1 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
1 can Diced Tomatoes
4 slices of Bacon
1/2 small can sliced Pickled Jalapenos, minced
2 medium Yellow Onions, diced
4 large Garlic Cloves, minced
2 medium Green Peppers, diced
1 medium Red Pepper, diced
3 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
3 tbsp Chipotle Red Pepper
1 tsp Sriracha
8 oz Chicken Stock
1 lb. Pulled Pork, chopped
2 1/2 cups BBQ Sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet and Spicy)
1/4 cup Zing Campfire Sauce (local Virginia ingredient, optional)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 6 hours+
Servings: 8-10

Kitchen Utensils
Crock Pot with Lid
Cutting Board
Sauce Pan
Can Opener
Large Spoon

Alright, I know there are a lot of ingredients up there, but I promise this is really easy. To get started, crack open all the canned items [beans, tomatoes, sauce, paste] and put them in the crock pot. Remember to drain the beans before you add them. Give it a stir and set your crock pot to 8 or 10 hours, letting things warm up while you tend to the vegetables.

Cook the slices of bacon in your sauce pan over Medium-High heat. I like my bacon a little crispier, so I let them hang out awhile longer. While that’s cooking, make sure you have your peppers, onion, jalapenos and garlic ready to sauté. When the bacon is done, transfer it to a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up the grease. You should be left with a sauce pan full of bacon grease… EXACTLY what you want. Add all the vegetables to the grease and stir. Next, add the cayenne pepper, chipotle red pepper and sriracha to the vegetables. This process will help soften the vegetables a bit, lock in the spices and great bacon flavor from the grease. Make sure you’re stirring frequently. While the vegetables are cooking, chop up the cooked bacon and add it to the crock pot. When the onions in the vegetable mixture start to become slightly translucent, transfer everything to the crock pot – grease and all. Stir together.

As far as the pulled pork goes, I bought mine from one of my favorite local restaurants. Just regular pulled pork, sans sauce. Before adding to the crock pot, I’d recommend chopping up the pork a bit finer so it’s easier to eat. After you’ve got it to your preferred size, add it to the crock pot followed by the chicken stock and mix well. Here’s where you will get a feel for the texture or thickness of the chili. If you want it to be a bit more watery (not my personal preference) add some more chicken stock. But remember, some of it will cook down as the crock pot does its thing.

Finally, add your favorite BBQ Sauce to the mixture and continue to stir. If you don’t have Campfire sauce near you, just add some extra BBQ, otherwise – this is the time to add it. Cover the crock pot with the lid and wait at least two hours before you taste it. Remember, you can always add more or less spice depending on your palate. Because most of the ingredients were pre-cooked, you’d be fine with leaving this chili in for only 6 hours, or up to 8 depending on how you like it. Give it a stir every now and again and as some add-ons, serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and fritos. Enjoy!

Award-winning Pulled Pork BBQ Chili served with a Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuit and garnished with sour cream and cheddar cheese.




Soup’s On Sundays / Crab Soup (Lite)

•February 13, 2012 • 1 Comment

Wow. To say its been awhile would be an understatement. I can’t even bring myself to look at the last time I posted… Well, I have to. At this point. … … April 18!! Oye. The worst part is is that I’ve still been making soups! Just haven’t gotten around to writing about it. Well, this is a good way to jump back into the game.

Although it’s the new year, I’ve been trying to eat healthier for awhile now and so today’s post, Crab Soup, is a healthier version of a classic crab chowder. Still has all the taste, but less of the heavy cream and cheese – hence the reason I’ve labeled this “Lite” in the title. After all is said and done, what you’ll end up with is a cross between a Maryland crab soup and a chowder: peppery, hearty, heavy on the vegetable and lots of crab taste.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started.

1 cup Flour
3 tbsp Butter
Cooking Spray (Olive Oil)
3 1/2 cups Carrots, chopped
2 cups Celery, chopped
1/2 cup Green Pepper, chopped
1/2 cup Red Pepper, chopped
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 cups Onion, chopped
15 oz Sweet Corn (2 cans)
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
3/4 tsp Paprika
3/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 tsp dried Thyme
24 oz Clam Juice
16 oz Whole Milk
1 cup Half & Half
16 oz Lump Crab Meat
2/3 cup Sherry
2 Potatoes, chopped and boiled
1 tsp Ginger

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8-10

Kitchen Utensils
Cutting Board
Large Soup Pot
Cast Iron Skillet
Soup Spoon

As I’ve said before, I like to have all my vegetables chopped up and ready to go before getting started. In this case, I chopped and boiled the potatoes to soften them beforehand, as well.

Carrots, Garlic, Onion, Red/Green Pepper and Celery

First thing we’re going to do is add the flour to the cast iron skillet and heat over Medium or a bit more whisking frequently until it has reached a nice brown color. It should take around 15 minutes. I included a picture because this was a technique I was unfamiliar with until today and thought you might be wondering what it’s supposed to look like, too. So here it is:

Flour after browning in a cast iron skillet.

Here's the color you're looking for on the flour after it's done browning.

After the flour has browned, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Next, add the butter to the bottom of the soup pot and follow it up with a thin layer of the cooking spray. Heat on medium high until melted and then add your vegetables – carrots through sweet corn in the ingredients list. Sauté until vegetables are tender. Then add the bay leaves, paprika, salt, pepper and thyme. I also added red pepper flakes to bring a little bit of heat to the final product, but if you’d rather leave them out, go right ahead.  Continue cooking for 1 minute. Next, sprinkle the browned flour over the vegetables, stirring frequently and continue doing so for 1 minute. This is going to create a great base for a thick, rich soup. Next, stir in the clam juice and bring it to a boil. Now reduce heat, and it shouldn’t take more than 5-8 minutes of simmering here to thicken up a bit. Just make sure you’re continually stirring to keep it from sticking underneath.

Finally, stir in the milk and half and half and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the crab meat, sherry and potatoes and give it a sprinkle of ginger as you mix in the final ingredients. Ensure that the soup is hot all the way through and then remove from the heat to let stand for a few minutes before serving. We served it with a garlic demi bread loaf, which was a delicious addition and a great way to sop up the vegetables and flavor.

Soup’s on Sundays / Mulligatawny

•April 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I knew going into this that Mulligatawny would be a big risk and consequently, I have secretly been dreading it since I purchased ingredients last Monday. You most likely haven’t heard of it before, but if you have, chances are it’s because you’re a Seinfeld fan… Mulligatawny is featured as Kramer’s favorite soup from the infamous Soup Nazi.

Literally translated, Mulligatawny means “pepper water” and is a curry-flavored soup from an Anglo-Indian origin [learned this today on Wikipedia, pretty cool, but the picture they have posted makes the soup look gross]. The first and only time I’ve tasted this soup was while working as a waitress at a private country club. Although skeptical at first, I found that bite after bite made me want more, even if I couldn’t necessarily make up my mind about liking it. In the end, I used this experience as a reference for both the flavor profile and texture I wanted out of this recipe: a golden-yellow color, thick puree in texture and strong curry and cumin flavors balanced by the tartness of apple.

4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 tsp Cumin
3/4 tsp ground Cloves
1 tbsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/4 cup unsalted Butter
3 stalks of Celery, with leaves, thinly sliced
2 large Onions, chopped
2 Carrots, diced
1 Leek, white part only, thinly sliced
10 cups of Chicken Stock (preferably homemade)
Salt & Pepper
2/3 cup Long Grain Rice
2 medium Apples (tart), peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup plain Yogurt
2 tbsps Lemon Juice
1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream, slightly warmed
Parsley (optional garnish)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time:
1 hour

Kitchen Utensils
Cutting board
Large soup pot
Soup spoon
Spoon with straining holes

Let’s get to it. First, melt the butter in the large soup pot on medium heat. Add garlic and spices and mix well. Give the flavors a few minutes to fuse, and then add about three cups of the chicken stock. Throw in the chopped celery, carrots, onion and leek and blend well. You’re going to want to let this simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Next, add the rest of the chicken stock [7 cups remaining] and have yourself a taste. Now’s your opportunity to add the salt and pepper, to taste. I threw in about a teaspoon of salt and maybe a 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Add rice. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Take your apples and yogurt and puree them in a blender. Add this mixture to the soup pot, whisk well and simmer for 10 minutes.

Alright, so there are two ways to do the next step. The best way would be to use a hand-held blender to puree the entire soup, vegetables and all. I, however, do not have a hand-held blender. So instead, I scooped out all remaining vegetables/rice with a straining spoon, put them in the blender, blended, and then returned them to the soup. Regardless of your method of choice, this is an important step to ensure the consistency of the soup is appropriate. If you don’t pay this particular attention, your tasters are going to get flecks of solid food in what should be a smooth, heavy set soup – which is typically a turn off as far as soup is concerned.

Almost done! Add the lemon juice. Whisk in heavy cream. Now’s your chance to taste and adjust your seasonings. Originally, I wasn’t crazy about the taste, but I found that the flavor of the soup changes quite dramatically the longer you leave it on the heat. I turned down the temperature to low-medium and gave it about 20-30 minutes to really settle in. The taste really matured into a cohesive blend of fall-esque spices and the soup thickened, as well. If at this point you still haven’t reached your desired consistency, try adding a thickening powder to the soup a little at a time. Here’s how mine turned out:

Garnish with parsely if you please.

In the end, my tastees described it as: “It tastes like Christmas,” and, “It reminds me of a pumpkin pie.”

Soup’s On Sundays / Classic French Onion

•April 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last week I decided to try my hand at French Onion after a suggestion from a friend [which are welcome and encouraged, so please throw ’em out there]. As a first attempt, I think I was at least able to meet my own expectations. What I was aiming for was a dark roast-colored broth, more onion flavor than salt, plenty of substance and a robust Swiss cheese flavor. And how it came out: hearty and full of onions, not over-salty and complimented with a plethora of Swiss and baguette.
6 large yellow onions (thinly sliced)
Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
8 cups of Beef Stock
2 Beef Bouillon cubes
1/2 cup dry White Wine
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 tsp. Thyme
Salt & Pepper
8 slices of toasted French Bread
1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time:
1 hr. 15 minutes
6-8 servings

Kitchen Utensils
Large soup pot w/ lid
Cutting board
Stirring spoon
Casserole Dish or Oven-Safe Bowls

Most logical place to start? The onions. [I don’t know about you, but I had to spend an extra 5 minutes at least waiting for my eyes to stop tearing after chopping all those onions. Thank goodness that’s over.] Cover the bottom of the large soup pot with a thin layer of olive oil and warm over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to heat up, add the onions and sauté until well-browned, but not burned. Have patience with this process, it may take anywhere from 30-40 minutes. In order to assist the carmelization process, add the sugar and mix well. Next up, add the garlic and continue to sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes.

So many onions!

Now it’s time for the stock, white wine, bay leaf and thyme. Cover with a lid and simmer for another 30 or so minutes, removing the bay leaf at about half way through this process. Taste it. Is it up to par? Here you have the option of adding salt and pepper, or for a richer broth, throwing in the two beef bouillon cubes. Or hey, perhaps both, depending on your taste buds.

Onto the bread and cheese. There are two ways you can do this: 1) individual serving bowls or 2) french onion soup casserole. Unfortunately, I do not have oven-safe bowls, so I had to use a casserole dish. [You’d think that since I have a food blog I’d have more cookware available, but alas, this is not the case.]

Preheat the oven at 375 degrees. Ladle the soup into the casserole dish [or oven-safe bowls, if you’re lucky enough to have them]. Using the toasted baguettes, cover the top of the casserole dish. Finally, sprinkle the Swiss Gruyere over the baguettes and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly brown.

Hot, melted and straight out of the oven.

Ladle into individual bowls and serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Soup’s On Sundays / Chicken Tortilla

•April 12, 2011 • 2 Comments

Surprisingly enough, Chicken Tortilla soup turned out to be one of my favorite adventures yet, and the outcome, absolutely delicious.

Let me start by saying that I’ve had my fair share of Chicken Tortilla soup. It’s one of my favorite things to order at Mexican restaurants, I’ve lived in Texas, explored the border and traveled to Mexico (not Cancun) more than once or twice. To date, my favorite version of Chicken Tortilla was had on the beaches of Nuevo Vallarta in 2008 in a building with no doors, open windows, cracks in the floor and ceiling, stray cats and dogs abound and no English to be heard within a 25-minute walk along the shore of the Pacific.

I would love to say that this recipe beat that, but I’d absolutely be lying. I will say, however, that for the quality of ingredients available, this is one of the best compositions of Chicken Tortilla that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting, let alone preparing. When all is said and done, what you’ll end up with is a filling, colorful, borderline too spicy and chili-esque Chicken Tortilla soup. And in case you needed another reason to try it: It’s ridiculously easy to make. Let’s get started.

1 Onion (chopped)
4 Garlic Cloves (minced)
Olive Oil
2 tsps Chili Powder
1 tsp Oregano
1 can (28 oz) Crushed Tomatoes
32 oz. Chicken Broth
1 can (8.5 oz) Whole Kernel Corn
1 can White Hominy
1 can (4 oz) Pickled Green Chile Peppers (chopped)
1 can (15 oz) Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro (chopped)
2.5 cups of Chicken (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 Limes (halved)
Crushed Tortilla Chips
Three Avocados (diced)
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour Cream (optional)

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time:
25 minutes
5-7 servings

Kitchen Utensils
Large soup pot
Cutting board
Measuring cups
Can opener
Mixing spoon

To start, cover the bottom of the large soup pot in a thin layer of olive oil and heat over medium-high. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft and almost transparent. Next, stir in the chili powder, oregano, crushed tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. If you taste it here, you’re going to feel a sense of doubt. It will mostly look like a tomato broth without a whole lot of flavor. This is normal. It’s gets better, I promise. Keep going.

Hominy, chicken, chiles and corn waiting for their turn to dive in.

Before adding the rest of the ingredients, I wanted to share a tip with you to make this process faster. You can save yourself a lot of time if you don’t have to prepare the chicken beforehand. If you want to grill up two chicken breasts and then cut them, that’s totally fine. Otherwise, consider buying a rotisserie-style chicken from your local grocery store. That way you’re not buying the processed pre-packaged/pre-cooked chicken, and you still get all the flavor without the additional effort. Oh, and you can also use the rest of the chicken to brew your own chicken stock – which is what I’ll be using for next week’s soup. But for now, let’s keep at it.

Now you’ll want to add the corn, hominy, chopped chiles, black beans, cilantro and diced chicken. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes. If you taste it now, you should be pleasantly surprised. The broth that you sampled earlier has completely transformed into a Mexican delight. But it’s missing one thing, for good measure and a spark of authenticity. Take those two halved limes and squeeze as much juice as you can get out of them into the soup. In my world, Chicken Tortilla soup isn’t complete without lime.

Beautiful soup, just wait until the avocados are added in!

Voila. It’s time to serve. Here’s the fun part. Get your assembly line of tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado and sour cream ready. First the chips, then the cheese, then a couple of avocado chunks and topped with a dab of sour cream.

Tengo hambre. Me encanta este sopa!