Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stock Tales and a Cheesy Ending

Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook's September 2011 challenge, "Stock to Soup to Consomme'." We were taught the meaning among the three dishes, how make a crystal clear consomme' if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

I was challenged - by time, by decisions about what to make, by not understanding what was required by the challenge (despite repeated readings), and by ending up missing a requirement. Other than that, everything went really well.

Making chicken stock is something I do regularly, although not often enough. I love the rich chicken flavor from homemade stock, something that simply is not available from commercial products. I do use boxed chicken stock sometimes because I don't always have homemade - I make a lot of soup! I find the brands which limit the ingredients to real food rather than a myriad of chemicals taste okay. Not as good as homemade, but still usable, especially if the soup has lots of other flavors.

I have used a variety of techniques in making stock: buying wings, backs, necks and using those; using the bones from roasted chicken if I have enough; using a whole chicken, removing the meat when it is done and returning the bones to the pot. They take varying amounts of time, but they all work. It can be a long process if you really want to reduce the stock to intensify the flavor. The stock I used for this challenge was one made from a whole bird.

Chicken stock made from whole chicken. 

The soup I chose was a cheese soup. Many cheese soups are very thick and I sometimes feel as if I'm eating fondue with a spoon - not that there is anything wrong with that! Normally, however, I want a soup that has texture but is not so thick it is almost hard to get out of the bowl. This soup is perfect in that respect. It is rich, but has a thinner soup texture.
The basic ingredients
All the veggies diced. The potatoes were cut in larger pieces.

The ingredients are pretty straightforward: mirepoix, russet potato, cheese, chicken stock, milk, Tabasco, and Worcestershire. The carrots, onion and celery are sauteed in unsalted butter. Flour is added and cooked for a couple minutes before adding the stock one cup at a time. The potato is added - I keep the pieces a bit big so the potato doesn't dissolve in the soup - and then the soup is simmered until the potato has softened. At this stage, you can puree the soup for a smooth texture; however, I never do because I prefer having the veggies identifiable and a little crunchy. At the end, when the potatoes are done, the milk, grated white cheddar, and seasonings are added and stirred until the cheese is melted - it doesn't take long. If I had been organized, I would have supplemented the soup with some kind of crusty bread or rolls, but life sometimes gets in the way.

The finished product!
And then there was this little distraction, as if my wandering mind wasn't enough.

The sunset while I was preparing the soup.

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