Sunday, January 1, 2012

Steaming Bowlfuls

We're settling into winter's groove around here.  It hasn't been so bad; most of our days have been in the 40's, and we've actually had some 60 degree days in December.  While native New Englanders are a little disconcerted, you won't hear me complaining.  I can't garden, but walking the dogs isn't painful, and for that matter, neither is breathing outside.  Not a fan of the deep-breath-turning-moisture-in-my-lungs-to-icicles phenomenon...

I am, however, a fan of the long, slow cooking this season entails.  Earlier this week, on a visit with my brother's family, two of my nieces and I made turkey soup from their Christmas leftovers.  It was so lovely, I decided to make it again yesterday for me and Larry.  There's something about a steaming bowlful of broth and vegetables, with a little meat, that makes me happy.

Today's steaming bowlful is a version of Hoppin' John, in honor of the New Year.  I didn't have all of the ingredients to make the traditional version, but I cobbled together a respectable substitute.  I think that might be the best thing about soups and stews, really.  Don't have or like one ingredient?  Leave it out.  Have less of something the recipe calls for?  Add it with something complimentary.

The "recipes" below are approximations of the soup and the black-eyed peas I made--I didn't keep accurate measurements.  Feel free to make them your own!

Turkey Soup
serves 4

4-6 cups of turkey and/or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 cups chopped carrots, a little more than a 1/4 inch thick
1 cup chopped celery, or diced, peeled celeriac  (about one small)
1-1 1/2 cups chopped parsnips, same size as the carrots
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1-2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chopped, leftover cooked turkey
2 cups cooked short-cut noodles, optional

1.  Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the vegetables and herbs, and return to boil.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
2.  Stir in turkey, salt and pepper to taste, and heat through, about 5 minutes.
3.  If using noodles, portion in to bowls and ladle soup over top.

Hoppin' John
serves 4-6

3 slices bacon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup small diced carrot
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1-2 cups black-eyed peas, rinsed
4-6 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked rice or cornbread, for serving (optional)

1.  Cook bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until crisp.  Remove, leaving fat in pan.
2.  Add all vegetables and herbs to bacon fat, and cook until tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
3.  Add black-eyed peas and 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, and cook until beans are tender.  This will vary widely depending on how old the beans are; mine took about an hour or so.  Add additional water if the beans start to dry out; you want them to be a little soupy (better sauce for the rice!).
4.  When beans are almost tender to your liking, add salt and pepper to taste.  When done to your liking, ladle over rice, if using.  Cornbread is brilliant, too.

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