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Monday, March 25, 2013

Birthday Blizzard Soup

One reason to have Corinna's birthday party a week late was to avoid fighting St. Patrick's Day. Between parades and parties and binge drinking in bars, so many people make plans on St. Pat's that don't coincide with stopping by our house for a food orgy.

Little did we know we were planning the party for the aftermath of a freak spring blizzard.

But we'd bought food for entertaining, we'd cleared our calendar, so we went ahead and hoped people would brave the roads. The roads didn't look to be as bad as they were last snow storm, anyway.

Turnout was low single digits, of course, meaning I'd made roughly a gallon of soup for each guest in attendance. And meaning after party prep, there was time for napping with puppies.

I'm not complaining, this is the kind of thing where I cook for leftovers anyway. Fill up the Gladwares and stick 'em in the freezer. Especially good for lunches to take to work.

I made a vat of chili, nothing out of the ordinary for me except maybe a restrained hand with the cayenne. Last time I made chili for Corinna's party, I casually put two tablespoons of 'cayenne' in a batch about half size. Military grade pepper spray might have packed more of a kick than that batch of chili, but it'd be a close call. This cayenne wasn't ordinary, it was something Corinna had gotten over at City Market, maybe from the spice vendor, but I think it was from the African market. It's more than likely powdered Bhut Jolokia, possibly something milder like habanero. A teaspoon in roughly four gallons made for a fairly intense heat level.

For anyone who wanted truly intense heat, we did have some Osceola Ghost Pepper cheese on the cheese platter. Corinna made flags of Thai peppers I grew in the garden on toothpicks to serve as a sort of warning label. Our neighbor from up the street came by and she's the only person I've seen just casually eat the cheese in stride. In times past, when I've hit the hot stuff hard and frequently, I might have developed about half the tolerance she seemed to have for capsicum. I think she would have liked my chili from two years ago just fine.

For the other soup I made a huge batch of mushroom soup. Not 'cream of' mushroom soup, mind you just mushroom soup. The mushrooms they'd had at city market were top notch, so I had grabbed three pounds of them. Since there seems to be a shortage of non-cream mushroom soup recipes online, here's mine:

Mushroom Soup 

3 lbs mushrooms (I had button, baby bella's would work as well)
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 stalks celery, minced
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 bell peppers, diced (I had yellow, but whatever color suits you)
3 quarts chicken broth
1 quart Rhine wine (or whatever cheap white wine you have or like, my measurement was approximate, just holding a box of Franzia open over the pot)
rosemary to taste
thyme to taste
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
cornstarch to thicken to desired consistency (note, I used too much—about four ounces—and had to dilute until I spread into two pans). The idea is to give the soup some body, my target being about the viscosity of egg drop soup.

SauteƩ celery, peppers and onions in the oil until translucent, add garlic, broth Thicken with corn starch whisked into solution in the water and add remaining water. Add mushrooms, simmer for at least an hour.

The mushrooms will reduce in volume considerably, so don't freak if they basically fill the pot like a stiff stew at first. At first taste, the broth was kind of insipid, but after about an hour, the mushroom flavor had really permeated the broth along with the acidity of the wine and really made a nice flavor. Garnishing with fresh parsley would be a nice touch, and it goes great with Rose Mati rice (or any other flavorful whole grain rice I'm sure).

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