Sausage and Potato Soup

This is the epitome of a seasonal dish, and a real “pantry-buster”.  A traditional homestead would have veggies in the root cellar such as potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, etc. and cured and smoked meats such as ham and sausage.  So this dish is easy to put together.  Even if you don’t have some or all of the items, because they are seasonal, they are generally less expensive at the grocery.

wpid-img_20150204_094255815.jpgThe ingredients for this dish are simple, adjust amounts for how large a batch you’d like to make. Use potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and your favorite sausage. Peas and/or corn are good additions, as well. Use whatever you have. You may notice by now potatoes, garlic, etc., are looking a bit wilty. This is a sign it is time to use them up! These veggies are fine to use as long as they retain their fresh normal smell. Cut open your potatoes to be sure there are no spots in the middle.  Peel all the vegetables and cut into fairly uniform sized pieces.

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I like to cook this soup in stages. First, I like to cook the sausages, uncut. “Fry” them in the pot with just a touch of oil. This lets them develop their flavor to the fullest, the skins sealing in all the juices.  Once the sausage is sizzling and weeping, add the cut veggies and gently pour in just enough water to cover.  Or you can use any stock you may have saved.

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Cover and gently simmer the soup for at least an hour, until the vegetables sink, indicating they are fully cooked.  At this point, pull the sausages and slice them into bite-sized pieces. Return them to the pot, add a couple cups more liquid and return to simmer.

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Now you can decide if you want to make this soup creamy or brothy.  Either way, it’s time to add the rue.  Rue is the secret to thickening sauces and soups without lumps.  Rue is simply a paste formed from a mixture of lot liquid and flour.  Pull about a cup of HOT liquid from the soup into a smaller bowl or measuring cup. Stir in about 1/4 c flour, more depending on how big your batch of soup is.  Thoroughly combine the liquid and flour to form a thick paste. Then re-introduce the rue to the soup, stirring constantly until the rue disappears into the soup.  To reach full thickening potential, the soup must now be brought to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  It need only boil shortly to activate the rue.  Then let it back off and reduce to simmer. The soup should now fill about half your pot and be about twice as thick as you expect the finished product.  If it is not thick enough, repeat the process of pulling liquid and combining with flour, measuring by Tablespoons, until the desired thickness is reached.

From here, if a creamy soup is desired, it is time to add milk, cream or a mixture of the two.  If a brothy soup is desired, add more water or stock, filling the pot.  Simmer another hour, stirring occasionally, to marry all the flavors, and then the soup is ready to serve.

Follow these guidelines and be inspired by whatever you have in your pantry or root cellar to create a wonderful soup or stew to ward off the Winter chill.

To learn more about the energy-free tradition of root cellaring, I recommend this book, Root Cellaring by Nancy and Mike Bubel.

 

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Spanish Rice with Chorizo

As the chilly days of Winter have finally settled in, it is time to dig into the pantry in earnest, to enjoy finally and without guilt all that has been stored from last year’s harvest.

One of my favorite foods to warm up with on a cold day is chorizo.  This spicy, Spanish-style sausage can be made with pork or beef, and enjoyed fresh or smoked.  This sausage can be quite hot, and smoking seems to tone down the fiery hue just a hair.  Distinctly “taco” in flavor,  chorizo is the perfect way to add bright heat to a dish.  This sausage is usually presented in rope form, and thus can be grilled whole for a super-hot sandwich, or sliced and added to a casserole dish or soup/gumbo.  Sliced and cooked, the heat (which is trapped in the fat) can escape into the broth or sauce to deliver a slightly milder flavor.  Another great way to prepare it is to slice open and crumble the meat and serve with beans and greens or my favorite, Spanish Rice.

Spanish rice is a great dish to make when you want to dig into the Winter’s store.  The ingredients for this meal are ones that are common to find in the home preserver’s pantry.  Canned tomato sauce, onions, and garlic from the root cellar, sweet peppers and chorizo from the freezer and dried herbs are all fairly easy to put up and can all be used here.  If you don’t have any one of the items use what you have and supplement the rest from the shops.

Check at your farmer’s market or local foods store to find these items that perhaps someone else has put up!  Even in the height of the cold season, you are still likely to find for sale local onions and garlic, meats and probably even dried herbs.  Here in the Binghamton, NY area, is an awesome little local foods shoppe called Old Barn Hollow Market on the South Side.  It’s really exciting that I can get frozen tomato sauce and sweet peppers from our local area farms there!  (Visit http://www.oldbarnhollow.com for location and hours)

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All items for sale at Old Barn Hollow Market are from local farms.

Spanish Rice is a dish that can be as simple or as complicated as you like.  I don’t use a recipe, but have included one here to get acquainted with.  You can cook the ingredients ahead and then finish them in the oven, or throw everything into the casserole dish and bake.

I made my version by starting with a large casserole dish.  In it I drizzle:

~2 Tbs olive or other oil

Next I added:

1 1/2 cups diced sweet green or red pepper

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 Tbs garlic powder

For this recipe, I want my chorizo broken up, so I removed the casing from the ropes.  Now I can break it up and scatter it with the peppers and onions.  (If I were cooking the dish, I would brown the chorizo to a crumble in a pan.)

Sausage casings can be split and the meat pulled out and used for other dishes!

Sausage casings can be split and the meat pulled out and used for other dishes!

Next I added to the casserole:

2 cups uncooked rice of choice

2 cups tomato sauce or puree

2 cups water or stock of choice

~1/2 tsp salt, dash pepper

Cover the casserole with a lid or foil and bake at 375 *F for about 1 hour.

To cook the ingredients ahead, you would saute the peppers, onions and garlic and chorizo in olive oil until veggies are soft and the chorizo is “browned” (more red, really).  Then add the rice and liquids and cover, simmering for about 15mins, stirring a couple times and careful not to burn.  Then turn everything into a casserole dish and bake covered at 350*F for 30mins.

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Serve hot topped with shredded cheese, chopped chives or green onions and sour cream.

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Spanish Rice is but one dish to make with Chorizo, but it’s a great one to get to know this zesty and interesting ingredient.  Give it a try, then see what else you’re inspired to make.

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