Sunday, September 16, 2012

Early Autumn Soup

Today was rainy, and there's been a bit of a chill in the air (says the man in the middle of Texas), so we decided to make soup. Once again, in order to show that I'm a little more sensitive to the dietary habits of those who try to avoid animal products, I will offer substitutions throughout this recipe (mostly at the beginning in order to spare you the horrors of cooking meat caught on camera). Those substitutions will be typed in italics, so you can pick them out of the line-up.

To start off this recipe, you're going to need the following:

1 bottle of red wine
1/2 pound of rice
1 quart of beef or vegetable broth
2 pounds of small roasting potatoes, cut into chunks
2 heads of garlic
3 large fresh poblano peppers (avoid the dried ones for the sake of this recipe)
4-6 spicy chicken sausages (cut into bite-sized pieces) or spiced, firm tofu (sauteed)
1/2 pound of stew meat or squash, peppers, mushrooms, cut into chunks
1 yellow onion
A bunch of your favorite herbs and spices, added to taste (I suggest Worcestershire sauce, onion/garlic powder, a little bit of salt (or seasoned salt)
1 can of salsa ranchero (or you can add chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chile colorado, or anything else to give it a bit more of a kick)

The first step is to pre-heat your broiler. While it's warming up, remove the stem and seeds from the poblano peppers. Scalp the heads of garlic. Place peppers and garlic heads on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Shove the baking sheet in the oven until the peppers begin to blister (about 10 minutes). Remove the baking sheet, turn the peppers over, brush everything with olive oil (again) and place then back under the broiler.

Note: You can take this time to chop the potatoes, sausage and other items, or to saute the tofu. It's a good use of time.

Now lets get the pot going on the stove. I recommend a 3-5 gallon pot. Add the broth and pour in half of the bottle of wine (which leaves the cook with a nice bonus), and bring everything to a boil. Next, add the rice, potatoes, and any other vegetables you're using that will need thorough cooking in order to become soft.
This is what it should look like for the next 30 minutes or so.
After about half an hour, test the rice, potatoes and other things to be sure they are tender and thoroughly cooked, and bring the heat down to a low simmer.

Remember the poblano peppers and garlic? Remove the individual cloves and throw them into your food processor with the peppers and the large onion. you want everything finely chopped, but you don't want to make a puree. 

There is no escape!
Once you've run these once whole ingredients through the food processor, add them to your simmering pot, along with the contents of the can of salsa ranchero/chile colorado/your red Mexican sauce of choice. Now add the sausage (or fried tofu).

Now the vegetarians and vegans can rest their eyes for a bit. As a matter of fact, they can just let the pot cook - stirring it every once in a while until all of the flavors have melded properly, and then enjoy.

For the rest of us, we are going to be using our remaining ingredient: stew meat.

For this, you want to make sure it's seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder onion, powder - basically, whatever flavors you think would be a nice addition to the soup. Now pan-fry the meat until it's medium rare (remember it's getting thrown into the pot, where it will cook even more so don't over-do it the first time around).
Can you tell we love using our pans?

Now dump the contents of the pan into the pot, and stir everything together. Check up on it every 10 minutes or so until you see something like this:

Now you're ready to curl up with a movie, book, loved one, or simply steal away with a bowl for yourself so you can enjoy the colder weather in comfort. You could also share with good friends - I guess - but some things are just too good to share. That's why you get pictures and a recipe, while I enjoy the real thing.

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