All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Sunday, April 27, 2014

creamy broccoli soup in the middle of upheaval

Here is one thing I've learned late in life ;  when life throws a curve ball, go into the kitchen.  Which is why I was making biscotti at midnight Thursday night and this chunky cream of broccoli soup at 10 last night.  I'm sure there were others, but I've forgotten when I made what, and not all came out perfectly.

A week ago my daughter and I were in Boston, on Easter Day, visiting my sister, her aunt, who was recovering from surgery.  We didn't see many bonnets, but the T trolleys were so jammed, the driver had to ask someone to step out so he could close the door.  I stared at feet:  running shoes, espadrille, sneakers, and even a few high heels.  Two men were holding plastic bags full of paper work, water bottle, a glimpse of numbers.  I wished them well the next day in the Boston marathon and did some thinking about a year ago.

On our way home, we stopped at a Panera :  me for soup, sandwich for my daughter.  I realized I hadn't really eaten all day, so that was the BEST soup  - the kind you dream about.  Of course, trying to replicate it was impossible, without that hunger I had on Sunday.  I tried a copycat recipe, but it called for cornstarch.  I followed the directions, cornstarch and all, but it wasn't the same, of course.

So back to my tried and true, made from scratch, creamy soup recipe.  Sometimes I add cream or half and half, and sometimes I just puree a chicken-stock based soup.  Here I added the half and half, then some grated cheese, but used potato for thickener, rather than cornstarch.  I first tried extra sharp white cheddar, then the yellow sharp cheddar, and liked the yellow cheddar better, actually, because it was a little smoother.

And the grandchildren?  Loving their new home in Minnesota!  I miss them a LOT, but what's important is that they're together and happy.

Creamy Broccoli Soup with cheddar

1 medium onion, sliced
1 peeled garlic clove, sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon mild olive oil
1 stalk sliced celery, leaves and all
a baby potato, or 1/2 cup diced red or white potato
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
2-3 cups broccoli, stems and tops, sliced in chunky pieces (I used a large crown of broccoli)
1 cup grated cheddar, white or yellow
1 cup half and half cream/milk
2 pinches ground nutmeg, or several scrapings
2 T. minced fresh dill
freshly cracked pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then add the oil garlic, and onion.  Cook on medium heat, stirring, until onion is soft.

Add the potato and chicken stock and water and cook on medium until potato is soft.

Add the broccoli chunks and cook until just soft, then turn down the heat and add the half and half or cream, the nutmeg and dill, and the cheese.  Stir constantly, and do not let it boil at any time.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, then take off heat.   Let sit a few minutes before using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender.

Serve with an additional sprinkle of cheese on top.

Here comes Spring!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Poached salmon with an herby Bercy sauce

Spring is here!  Most of the snow has melted, except for random patches here and there, the brook is racing (but not flooding), and the daffodils are showing buds.

And there was salmon at our local market.  I suddenly thought of a sauce I used to make when I worked in a restaurant long ago, which then became modified over the years:  rice vinegar instead of wine, since I rarely have wine around,  tarragon (no, you don't have to use it if you loathe it), and a creamy shallot and butter sauce to spoon over the poached salmon.  So it's not officially a Bercy sauce, but close enough to be cousins.

And how good?  The salmon was gone in a flash, the new potatoes and wilted spinach took perhaps ten minutes more .

Bercy sauce:

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup rice vinegar or a mild dill or tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley
2 pinches kosher salt - about 1/4 teaspoon

Simmer the shallots, lemon juice,  and herbs in the vinegar until the liquid is reduced by half.

Stir in:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Keep stirring over moderate heat until the sauce is creamy and somewhat thick.
Remove from heat.

Poached salmon:

A ten inch stainless steel skillet and lid
1-2 pounds of salmon , mine were medium thickness, with the skin on

Place the salmon in the skillet and pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of the salmon.

Place on moderate heat until water starts simmering, turn down heat and cover .
Poach for about ten minutes, remove from heat.

Use a spatula to remove individual servings to plates, then top with the sauce and serve. 

My dearest grandchildren are settling in to their new home in Minneapolis,  and there's a great silence and void around here - though yesterday I was able to Skype them , thanks to my computer-literate daughter.  What fun!    I even got a little tour of Izzie, Frankie and Noah's room, and watched them bounce on the beds.

Happy Spring!