Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

Country Ham and Potato Soup

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Fall calls out for hearty soups, and they don’t come much heartier than this one! I know, I know, “hearty” is a code word for fattening, but I served it to company so I didn’t have to sip it all myself.

My mother’s dear caregiver Pam gave me the recipe when she saw that I had leftover ham in the house, along with leeks and potatoes from our farm share.

Pam explained that she made the soup frequently when she cooked in the cafeteria at the local high school, where our friend Vicky worked as a baker.

One day Vicky tried the soup. She immediately asked, “Pam, will you marry me?”

It may not make you propose marriage—but it will certainly warm you up … and fill you up as well.

Pam’s Soup


3 cups diced potatoes
5 slices bacon
3 leeks (mostly white part), cleaned and diced
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart warmed chicken broth
2 cups chopped ham
pepper to taste
1 cup milk
cream to taste


In lightly salted water bring the potato pieces to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes for 10 minutes. Leave them in the water while you prepare the bacon.

In a heavy Dutch oven fry the bacon until it is crispy and brown. Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and set them aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, reserving the remaining fat as well.

Use the bacon fat in the pan to sauté the leek pieces until they soften.

Push the leeks to the side of the pan and add 2 to 3 additional tablespoons of bacon fat. Whisk the flour into this fat to make a roux. Whisk for at least a minute or two to let the fat and the flour combine.

Gradually stir in the chicken stock; then stir in the ham, the potatoes, and 1 cup of the potato water. (You may discard the remaining potato water now.)

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1/2 hour. Add the milk and a little cream to thin and lighten the soup.

Serve with the bacon (crumbled) as a garnish. Serves 6.

Flu Season Chicken Soup

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

This recipe comes from Loyce Cofer of Tyler, Texas, a loyal reader of this blog.
Loyce is 70 and lives in East Texas with Don, her husband of 51 years. I asked her about her life, and she replied that the pair had sometimes had to struggle to make ends meet. “We’ve managed with a lot of perseverance,” she added.
Loyce can’t cook or get out as much as she used to since she suffers from diabetes and neuropathy in her feet. She is also a seven-year survivor of breast cancer. Despite her aliments she is grateful for every drop of rain in her dry area and for the gifts of life, friends, faith, and family.
“My life as a stay-at-home mom was rewarding in a way as I loved our sons so much and strived to make it warm and welcoming,” she wrote. Obviously, this chicken soup—perfect for the cooler weather and the season of colds and flu –would contribute to the literal and figurative warmth of that home.
“I’m a recipe hound as you know and do love to cook with herbs and spices, even wine occasionally but not a gourmet,” Loyce told me. She sounds like a woman after my own heart. “I make this for my husband and myself since our sons live out of state but I would make it for friends that are feeling poorly.”
Loyce makes her soup with a tablespoon of Wyler’s chicken bouillon granules. I had the bones and leftover meat from a small chicken leftover in the house so I added them to the soup instead of the granules. If you don’t have leftover chicken, do try her method. (Of course, this coming week most of us will have leftover turkey.)
The recipe may be increased or decreased as needed. 

Here’s a tiny photo of Loyce with her husband Don taken during the spring flower display in Tyler, a town famous for its azalea trails.

Loyce’s Flu Season Emergency Chicken Soup (slightly adapted by Tinky)
1 chicken carcass with some leftover meat (or 1 tablespoon bouillon granules)
enough water to cover the chicken (plus a little to spare)
garlic to taste; Loyce used minced dried garlic, but I used 2 cloves of minced fresh garlic
1 onion, diced
2 medium diced carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, peeled of fiber and diced
parsley to taste and other herbs like thyme and rosemary (fresh or dry; I used fresh parsley but dried thyme and rosemary)
salt to taste
pepper corns to taste
Place all the ingredients in a stock pot and slowly bring them to a boil over medium heat with the pan covered. Watch the pot so it won’t boil over.
When the water comes to a boil reduce the heat and cook the soup, ALMOST covered, for 3 hours, adding water if needed.
Loyce skims the fat from the soup as she cooks. I’m not very good at this so I waited until it was done (see below).
Remove the ingredients from the pan and strain the stock away from the sold ingredients. Save the pieces of chicken (without skin), carrots, and (if you like) the onion and celery bits; mine had given their all so I discarded them.
If you haven’t skimmed the fat off, refrigerate the stock and other ingredients until the fat solidifies at the top of the stock pan. Remove the fat, add the saved bits of chicken and vegetable, and bring the soup to a boil again. Let it cool slightly before pouring it into bowls. 

Serves 4 to 6, depending on the size of your chicken pieces and the amount of water you added. Loyce likes to serve this with cornbread.

Ain’t Dat Sumpthin’!

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Spencer Williams Jr. as Andy Brown (Courtesy of Time/Life)


Thanks to Netflix I have recently been watching the television version of the classic radio program Amos ‘n’ Andy. This TV series lasted from 1951 to 1953 and stirred up considerable controversy.

It continues to raise questions about how African Americans (or indeed any ethnic group) should be portrayed on television.
Amos ‘n’ Andy had debuted on radio in 1928. The show was actually a remake of a program called Sam ‘n’ Henry, which went on the air in 1926.
Both radio shows were the brainchildren of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, white men who had met in 1920 while working for a traveling minstrel show.
Sam and Henry were working-class black men who, like many African Americans of the era, moved from the rural South to a northern city (in this case Chicago) to look for work.
When they were revamped as Amos and Andy for a rival station (the program quickly achieved network status), the protagonists had similar characters and backgrounds.
Amos Jones was hardworking and sincere. Andy Brown was good natured but lazy and easily led astray by a con artist or a beautiful woman. Neither was overly smart. The program regularly featured such mangled verbal expressions as “I’se regusted” and “Ain’t dat sumpthin’.”
In the late 1920s Amos ‘n’ Andy became hugely popular. It started out as a nightly ten-minute program performed Gosden and Correll alone. Other actors were added as the years went by. By the 1940s, the program ran once a week for half an hour and followed a typical situation-comedy format.
In addition to the title characters regulars included George Stevens, the Kingfish of Amos and Andy’s lodge, the Mystic Knights of the Sea; Kingfish’s shrewish wife Sapphire and Sapphire’s Mama; and a shady lawyer named Algonquin J. Calhoun.
Several characters were portrayed by black actors, although Correll continued to voice the part of Andy, and Gosden played both Amos and Kingfish.

When the program moved to CBS television in 1951 black actors were hired for all the major roles. Those roles continued to conform to a large extent to the characters created by Gosden and Correll.

This signed postcard of Gosden and Correll was recently for sale on ebay.

Andy had not changed greatly over the years, but Amos had become a wise, steady family man; he therefore narrated the television programs but didn’t participate much in the comedy. Center stage was enjoyed by the wily Kingfish.
Almost immediately the program attracted criticism. The NAACP in particular saw it as demeaning to African Americans and tried to organize a boycott.
The boycott didn’t succeed. Melvin Patrick Ely noted in his 1991 book The Adventures of Amos ‘n’ Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon (from which I gleaned much of the information in this essay) that many black Americans either enjoyed the program or deemed a comedy show the least of their worries in a still largely segregated society.
Nevertheless, the series remained a thorn in the side of CBS and was canceled at the end of its second season, although it lingered in syndication. The controversy made the networks reluctant to feature an all-black cast for years to come.
As I watched several episodes of the program recently I was pleasantly surprised.
Some of the storylines get a little tedious. One wonders how Andy can fall for Kingfish’s schemes week after week. Generally, however, the plots are clever and the acting first rate. 

Tim Moore as Kingfish (Courtesy of Time/Life)

The first thing that struck me about the series was how colorblind it appeared to my 21st-century eye. Amos, Andy, and their friends lived in an almost all-black community (supposedly Harlem) where race was never mentioned.
Andy and Kingfish drew criticism, perhaps justly, for perpetuating the image of the unemployed African American, and Lawyer Calhoun came in for particular scorn as just about the only black attorney visible on television.
Scores of bit players belied stereotypes, however, by speaking in standard English and giving Americans their first televised view of African Americans who weren’t servants or Pullman porters.
Amos, Andy, and Kingfish encountered professionals in all walks of life—realtors, police officers, storekeepers, and bankers—who just happened to be black.
I don’t know what I expected from the show. It was not this sense of being comfortable in one’s own ethnicity.
My favorite episode so far, “The Happy Stevens,” focuses on two of the strongest actors of the ensemble, rich-voiced Tim Moore as Kingfish and the graceful yet strong Ernestine Wade as his wife Sapphire.
The two are addicted to a radio program in which a white husband and wife engage in highfalutin “chit chat” about elegant doings in New York society. When Kingfish and Sapphire quarrel, they go to the radio studio to ask the couple’s advice—only to find that their idols are even more quarrelsome than they.
The Happy Harringtons get into such a knock-down-drag-out fight, in fact, that Kingfish and Sapphire are conscripted to do that morning’s radio program in their stead.
It’s a perfect domestic situation-comedy plot, cleverly written and acted. And it has very little to do with race.
I don’t want to dismiss the criticism of Amos ‘n’ Andy or to discount the NAACP’s position. It’s very possible that I didn’t see the racist stereotypes in the program because I wasn’t brought up on those stereotypes.
Other writers have traced the resemblance between characters in Amos ‘n’ Andy and standard figures in the minstrel tradition.
It’s hard not to note that Freeman Gosden’s first theatrical engagement was at a fundraiser for the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
And certainly Gosden’s reference in the clip below to Spencer Williams, who played Andy, as a “boy” sticks in one’s craw.
And yet ….
Henry Louis Gates Jr. may have best summed up the mixed message of Amos ‘n’ Andy in a 1989 New York Times essay.
“The performance of those great black actors … transformed racist stereotypes into authentic black humor,” Gates wrote. “The dilemma of ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy,’ however, was that these were the only images of blacks that Americans could see on TV.”

My dish today was inspired by a two-part episode of Amos ‘n’ Andy called “Getting Mama Married,” in which Sapphire’s Mama moves in with the her daughter and Kingfish. One of the ways in which the two women make Kingfish miserable is by criticizing his manners as he tries to pass peas at the dinner table.
The peas in question look much more substantial than standard green peas so I am inferring that Sapphire made a pot of black-eyed peas. Here is a recipe she might have used.
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
a small amount of extra virgin olive oil or bacon fat for sautéing
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 10-to-14 ounce can tomatoes with green chiles
2 ham hocks or 1 good-sized pig’s knuckle
extra smoked sausage, chopped and lightly sautéed (optional)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chili powder
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and sort the peas, and soak them in cold water. Ideally, they should soak overnight, but if a couple of hours will do if you’re in a rush! Drain them when they have finished soaking.
In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat the oil or bacon fat, and use it to sauté the onion, garlic, and celery over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, pork, stock, water, and seasonings.
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure it is well blended. Skim off as much of the bean scum as you can.
Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the mixture for at 1 to 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the peas are tender. (The best way to determine this is to taste them!)
Remove the ham hock or knuckle. Tear its meat into shreds and add the meat to the pot of peas, discarding the fat and bone.
Serve with rice. This is best served the day after it is made. Serves 8 to 10 generously.

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Irish Beef Stew

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Irish beef stew web

Top o’ the mornin’!
I know I published a recipe for beef stew EXTREMELY RECENTLY. We’ve been enjoying (if that’s the word) stew weather in the northeast a lot lately, however, so I’m posting another beef concoction for Saint Patrick’s Day.
The Irish stout in the recipe lends the dish a smoothness and a sweetness that suit this sentimental holiday.
My mother and I ate the stew three times for supper. We then chopped the beef and vegetables a bit more finely, added some beef stock and canned tomatoes, and enjoyed vegetable beef soup for a couple of additional meals.
As you smell the stew simmering on your stove you’ll find yourself singing “Danny Boy” (or maybe “Tinky Girl”).
Be sure to buy a little extra stout to sip on the side.
Next year, I hope to brine my own brisket for corned beef and cabbage. In the meantime, I highly recommend this recipe from the talented Michael Ruhlman.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you all………
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 pounds stew beef, cut into small pieces and dried with paper towels
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup Irish stout
4 cups beef stock
several sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 generous teaspoon dried)
several sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 generous teaspoon dried)
salt and pepper to taste
6 carrots, cut into chunks
1 pound fingerling potatoes plus a few more for good luck
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
chopped parsley as desired for garnish
In a Dutch oven warm a small amount of oil. Throw in the bay leaves and let them flavor the oil for a moment or two. Add the pieces of beef and cook them, stirring frequently, until they brown.
Remove and reserve the beef and bay leaves, and sauté the onion and garlic pieces for a few minutes. Toss the flour onto them and cook for another minute or two. Add the stout a bit at a time to absorb any gunk on the bottom of the pan; then stir in the stock, herbs, salt, and pepper.
Add the meat and vegetables and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the stew over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Your pot should be ALMOST covered. (If it looks as though it is losing too much of the liquid, cover it.)
If you would like your gravy a little thicker, just before serving take a bit of juice out of the pot and whisk in the cornstarch. Return the cornstarch mixture to the pot, bring the stew back to a boil, and boil for at least a minute. Sprinkle the parsley over the stew, and dish it up.
Serves 4 to 6.



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Cannellini Bean and Tomato Soup

Saturday, March 6th, 2010


Denise DiPaolo always wanted to run a business of her own that combined food and people. She waited a number of years and worked her way through a variety of jobs (including stints as a community organizer and an educator) before she finally opened the doors of the Ristorante DiPaolo in Turner’s Falls, Massachusetts.
Asked why she finally decided on an Italian restaurant, she said, “It represents who I am … It’s family. It’s the passion, the comfort, the drama, the challenge, and the fun all wrapped in one!”
The restaurant opened in March 2006 as a partnership between Denise and Chef Hilton Dottin.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Hilton went to restaurant school in New York and became an American citizen. He and Denise planned a menu that would draw on all regions of Italy, spiced up a little by Hilton Dottin’s Caribbean roots. Within a year the restaurant became a destination for food lovers in western Massachusetts.
On a fall afternoon I joined Hilton in the restaurant’s compact but well laid out kitchen to watch him prepare one of his specialties, cannellini bean soup. The soup as he prepares it takes a while to make, but it’s a substantial dish that warms the kitchen and creates mouth-watering odors.
On the day on which I visited, the chef happened to have a small winter squash on hand so he cooked its pulp in the bean water and pulverized it in a blender with a little broth after it softened, adding it eventually to the final product. He also added a few extra pieces of Prosciutto and uncooked bacon to the pancetta in the recipe for extra flavor.
He explained that he often varies a recipe, which he views as a guide. “When I follow a recipe in a book, I usually make it the way the book says, and then I add to it the next time,” he noted.
Watching Hilton chop, stir, and taste was inspiring. He stressed getting the freshest ingredients possible and looking for organic produce whenever possible.
Nevertheless, he admitted that economy and availability of foods force him to be practical in his shopping. If dried cannellini beans for this soup are hard to find, for example, he suggested substituting white navy beans.
Hilton didn’t need much help from me in the kitchen. I skinned a few tomatoes for him, but he managed to peel more than 20 in the time it took me to do three. I received some of the rewards of participation in the cooking process, however.
When I got home, my family told me that the soup “perfume” I had acquired in the kitchen of the restaurant was tantalizing—a mixture of garlic, vegetables, pancetta, and love. I also left with a little care package of the soup, which was everything soup should be. It tasted warm and hearty, complex yet perfectly blended. Best of all, Hilton shared his recipe with me.
We’re not in fall anymore, of course, so when I made it recently I used canned tomatoes. (Sorry, Hilton!) I also used canned beans because we had them in the house. I’m giving you the recipe as I prepared it because it was quick (no soaking of beans overnight) and ALMOST as tasty as the original version. If you want that one, do visit the Ristorante DiPaolo.
Buon appetito!
Hilton Dottin and Denise DiPaolo (Courtesy of the Ristorante DiPaolo)

Hilton Dottin and Denise DiPaolo (Courtesy of the Ristorante DiPaolo)

Cannellini Bean and Tomato Soup
2 cups canned tomatoes, drained but with the liquid reserved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus a little more for drizzling over the tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 can (14.5 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
5 cups chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil, and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. Roast them until they smell good—about 20 minutes.
In a 4-quart Dutch oven sauté the pancetta in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir constantly.
Add the cumin, oregano, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Sauté until the onion pieces become translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the roasted tomatoes and continue to sauté for 3 more minutes.
Add the beans and the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil. When it boils reduce the heat, cover the soup ALMOST completely, and simmer it for 20 minutes.
Serves 6.

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