It’s time for soup.
It’s warm, hearty, substantive, and the stuff of limitless variation. Any combination of ingredients you can dream of, can be made into a soup. And any soup, with an addition or subtraction, can become a brand new equation. If my restless soul could be a dish, perhaps it would be soup, ready to take stock and be reinvented. Come to think of it, I think that perhaps chicken stock is the culinary equivalent to the soul…the essence of flavor that can be dropped in to any dish and impart life and depth.
That’s why I’m starting this simple soup recipe with a plea to your soul. Make your own stock. It will make you feel good when you open your freezer and see this…
or when you take some leftover carcasses and wings and backs and scraps of carrots, onions and leeks that you’ve been collecting in the freezer…
and throw them in the oven and forget about them for about an hour and get this….
…and then throw it all in a pot, cover it with water and go watch TV for a couple of hours, then come back into a dark kitchen with just the halo of the hood light showing you this:
You’ll feel all warm inside when you strain out the gorgeous golden liquid you created using stuff you’d otherwise throw out, all while catching up on your DVR’d shows.
Now…with that gorgeous stock and a little of any kind of sausage quickly browned in a pan…
…and a nice fluffy bunch of escarole…
…and one or two other things, you can have this glorious soup in less that 20 minutes…
…and be eating it from a big generous bowl, punctuated by sighs of comfort and satisfaction, shortly thereafter.
This glorious, simple, rich, delicious soup was adapted from a endlessly useful book I received as a birthday present from my son, Max and his girlfriend, Theresa. Twenty by Michael Ruhlman
( I love Michael Ruhlman!) is one of the resources I use when putting together teaching curriculums and menus for my classes. It’s full of teaching moments, practical tips and shortcuts. All twenty of these techniques are used by pros, most of which I learned in culinary school, but are made incredibly accessible for the home cook here. The recipes work and they are simply delicious. Even if you don’t make your own stock!Sausage and Escarole Soup
1 large onion, cut into small dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Canola or some other neutral vegetable oil, as needed
4-5 cups Easy Chicken Stock (see below)
1 lb any kind of sausage you prefer (Italian, kielbasa, chicken sausage, lamb sausage, pork..), browned in a pan or roasted for 10 minutes, then cut into chunks
1/2 lb escarole, cut crosswise into ribbons
2 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or if you don’t have, use soy sauce…and then get some Red Boat Fish Sauce
soon! It’s UMAMI +++)
2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar, or as needed
Cayenne pepper (optional to taste)
1 baguette, whole or split, toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
In a large saucepan/stockpot sautee onions in just enough vegetable oil to coat them. Season with a healthy pinch of salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes without browning…just “sweat” them. Add the garlic and cook for another minute without browning or burning. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the sausage, greens, tomatoes, fish sauce and lemon juice and cook just until the greens are wilted. Tast and adjust the seasonings with lemon, salt, or fish sauce, and some cayenne….if you think it needs it. Brush the toasted baguette with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Serve the soup with the baguette (optional).
Anytime you eat roasted chicken, whole or rotisserie’d or in pieces, save the bones/carcass/back/wings in a zipper bag and put it in the freezer. I save onion, carrot and leek scraps too. When you have the equivalent of about 2 chickens worth of bones, pull it out and put it into a soup pot with any vegetable scraps. If you don’t have scraps, or don’t have a lot of scraps, add 1-2 whole carrots, 1 large onion, 2 stalks of celery and a clove or two of garlic to the chicken bones. Cover it all with enough water to reach about 2 inches shy of the top of the pot. Bring to a boil, uncovers and then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially covered with a lid or loosely covered with foil for about two hours. Strain through a colander to get rid of the bones and veggies and then strain again through a fine sieve to remove smaller impurities.
If you don’t have any old scraps or carcasses, you can make stock with fresh wings, about a dozen to a pot of stock, or ask your butcher to save you some fresh chicken backs. You can roast them, as I did, (pictured above) for a darker, richer stock with a roasted flavor, or just use the bones raw in the water and follow the same procedure (boil, then simmer with vegetables, etc).