It turns out that my bulk mashing post is one the more popular posts on this here blog. It kind of makes me feel better about myself knowing that there are others out there that cannot resist the bargain bag of ‘taters even when we know darn well that we cannot eat the whole thing before it goes over to the dark side.

But this time it wasn’t my fault – it was totally my Mom’s fault. You see, just after the holidays they pull up stakes and relocate to warmer climes which leaves me as the beneficiary of the “cleaning out of the perishables”. Not that I am complaining, free food – especially a staple – is always welcome in my home. And yet I found myself, once again, staring at the lumpy proliferation of tasty tubers in my pantry.

Which sat in my pantry.

And sat.

Until I said CRAP I gotta do something with those ‘taters. So I did, about a month ago (what you thought I had magic ‘taters that lasted from the end of December until February? – no chance, not with our humidity), but I waited to let y’all know until I had fully tested my plan. Because I don’t want to pass on any crappy advice, I have standards you know?

Like mashed potatoes - only you are supposed to eat a whole bowl.

The Initial Spud Soup Starter

The Hardware: A big honkin’ pot, immersion blender, ladle and quart freezer bags

The Software: A metric butt-tonne of russet potatoes and enough stock to cover, plus whatever spices you like.

Take your ‘taters, peel then chop them into chunks – toss them into your big honkin’ pot. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the spuds. If you are a vegetarian type person, I am sure that a vegetable stock would work. Cook the ‘taters until they can be easily poked through with a skewer and turn off heat. Now here is where we get crazy.

Don’t drain them.

Take your handy-dandy immersion blender and puree the tar out of those ‘taters. What you will end up with is something much to runny to be mashed potatoes but much too thick to be actual soup. I call this “soup starter”. You can season at this point – until you like the taste, but be careful with the black pepper. Black pepper intensifies even in the freezer. You can always add more seasoning later – but it is tough to fish it out. I added salt, a little bit of pepper and some garlic powder. Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened if I had cooked some garlic cloves with the ‘taters? Next time maybe.

The important thing here – do not add any dairy. No milk, no butter, no cream cheese, no sour cream, no cheese. These things do not freeze terribly well in a team environment. They like to go their own way, to seperate themselves. Bust out your ladle and fill up as many quart freezer bags as you can manage. Try to get as much air out of them as possible and lay them flat on a tray. Make sure you label & date them and then chuck them into the freezer. Freezing flat makes it easier to store the bags after freezing and makes the food thinner and more widely distributed; therefore easier to thaw.

The Spud Soup

This is why it took a month for me to post this – I wanted to make sure it worked. I had significant concerns about the texture of the soup after the freezing. Luckily I was able to thaw and revive our patient with little quality loss. Score one for Cryogenics!

Pull out a freezer bag of your soup starter and microwave it on very low until you can mush it around enough to decant into a large saucepan. Once the soup is in the saucepan – heat on low, stirring and mushing frequently until everything is thawed (or almost thawed, if you are like me an have no patience it will still work). Thin the soup to slightly thicker than desired consistency with stock (of whichever persuasion floats your boat).

If you are a vegan and used vegetarian stock – well, I cannot help you much beyond this point – it is going to get ugly for you so you might want to stop. The next things you want to add to bring your soup to it’s final luscious consistency are those prima-donnas who eschewed the freezer, milk and butter – the dairy divas. Add as much as you want – I won’t tell.

Season to taste, I like salt and a good bit of pepper, plus some more garlic and a wee bit of nutmeg. You follow your bliss. In the above picture you might notice some lumps – I actually dumped in some frozen corn because really, can you ever have too much starch?

Toppings can be applied with wild abandon. Personally, I cannot conceive of potato soup without bacon and cheese. While we were eating I mentioned to the hubby that some caramelized onions would have been delicious piled on top. If I had had a can of French’s onions handy – I can guarantee you they would have made an appearance.

What do you think would go well on top?

I make no claims to authenticity for this dish. It was thrown together from things out of my pantry, and I must say it was very tasty. I had dinner early and when the hubby came home late to eat his I was sorely tempted to have a second bowl. Pantry meals are essential to anyone’s repertoire, and sometimes you rely on some pre-packaged items to cut down on time.

Of course you could use a can of diced tomatoes – or even chop up a tomato or two. Then you could add a can of diced chilies – or roast and dice your own fresh chilies. I am sure it would add significantly to the flavor. But I, being a good southern girl, always have a couple of cans of Rotel in the pantry and it gives me the tomatoes, chilies and some additional spices in one convenient package. Turn your nose up if you will – but it makes life easier for me.

I totally forgot to put the cheese on - you can imagine it yourself.

Easy Mexican Chicken Soup

The Hardware: large saucepan, spoon, can opener.

The Software:
1 Onion
2 t Chopped Garlic
1 can Rotel (I used mild because I am a wussy – use whatever you can handle)
2 T Lizano Sauce
2 C Shredded Chicken (had it in the ‘fridge, you could use rotisserie if that’s your thang)
2 pinches Oregano (dried)
2 pinches Cumin
1 T Lime Juice
1 Qt Chicken Stock (I used home-made, you do whatever you want)
1 C Frozen Corn
3 T Masa
pinches of Salt, Pepper and Granulated garlic to taste
2 C cooked rice or a couple of handfuls of  tortilla strips

Slice onions into half rounds and saute in a large saucepan in a couple of tablespoons of oil until the onions are soft. When they start getting brownish add the garlic and saute for about a minute – don’ t let the garlic burn. Add the Rotel, Lizano & chicken and stir around a bit, bring to a simmer. Add stock, lime juice, oregano & cumin and bring back up to almost a simmer. Then sprinkle in the Masa and curse when it forms dumpling-like globules.

Seek and destroy Masa globules by squashing them against the wall of the saucepan with the back of your spoon. Or you could be smart and measure out the Masa into a small bowl and add some of the not-yet-hot stock to it to form one of them there fancy pants “slurries”  before you add it to the pot.

Bring everything up to a simmer and then add the corn. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing sticks and scorches. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper & granulated garlic until you are happy. If you are using rice, divide it between your bowls and then serve the soup over top. If you are using tortilla strips put the soup in first and then top with crunchies.

It doesn’t hurt to sprinkle some cheese on top. But really – can’t you say that about just about anything?

Potential Hacks:

This could easily go vegetarian. Replace the chicken stock with veg stock and replace the chicken with a can or two of beans, poofy violia – vegetarian. Actually, the beans would be good as an add on if you wanted to bulk it up more. Skip the cheese and dairy and I believe this would be vegan – but I have limited understanding of vegantology.

If you do not have Masa hanging around (and I am guessing that is a goodly number of people) then you can just crumble up some tortilla chips and let them simmer in the soup. They will disintegrate and serve the same thickening purpose. You know what tortilla chips are made out of? Masa.

This came out a bit spicier than I really cared for, cause I am a wuss, so I wanted to add some sour cream to dial back the heat. But I didn’t have any sour cream. Whipped cream cheese, however, was in my ‘fridge. So I made some little canels out of the cream cheese and, after being stirred in well, it worked fine. Sour cream would have been better.

And of course, there is the Lizano. You really should just keep it in your ‘fridge. It is a wonderful thing. It is delicious in eggs. It can turn regular rice into instant Mexican rice. Stir it into a drained can of beans and you suddenly have super tasty beans. Dribble it onto your tacos or burritos. It is a fantastic ingredient that really has no substitute. If I have not convinced you to seek it out – then you are just going to have to crank up all of the seasonings. Add more cumin, oregano and garlic. Add a little chili powder, but be careful you do not turn the soup into chili.

Update! So I have been watching my stats to see what is bringing people to my site and apparently I have been attracting people who, like me, cannot spell Avgolemono correctly. Heh. So I thought I would add this and see if I can catch people who can actually spell. And just for kicks lets say “Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup”. HaHA take that Google analytics. 7/30/09

Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Post

In the recent months I have seen numerous posts in the food-blogoverse singing the praises of homemade stock, and I couldn’t agree more. It is an awesome thing to have around, and the feeling of satisfaction I get from making something delicious out of stuff that is pretty much garbage is wonderful. But, I am not going to tell you how to make stock.

Many people have done it much better than I have. For my most recent stock making endeavor I made use of advice from Michael Ruhlman. I didn’t try his oven method, I think that might work for a big manly man like him who doesn’t have a problem moving around a large stock pot full of very hot liquid, but I did avoid allowing any bubbles. I brought the stock up to 180 – 185 degrees and then reduced the flame to low so it would stay there for … oh … 5 hours or so.

Also from his tips, I didn’t put the veggies in until the last couple of hours of cooking. This didn’t seem to effect the flavor and it made the straining much easier because the veg didn’t disintegrate. Speaking of straining, in the past I have tried the flour sack cloth and the cheese cloth and they both end up being a pain in the butt. But one thing that I always have laying around the kitchen is coffee filters. They fit perfectly in my hand strainer and allow me to strain the stock only once. So there, I do have a secret for you. Another little secret that I have is that I like using coriander seeds in my stock. But I do not like straining out all of the seeds and stuff, so I cram it all into a tea ball that I have and let that dangle off of the edge of the pot. Because who has those fancy pants sachets hanging around?

Most of the stock that I make goes nigh on directly into the deep freeze, but I always like to make something a little special to use it when it is fresh. And I never have enough freezer boxes to freeze it all. What can you make that really showcases the flavor of your newly minted stock?

Golden, Liquid Love

Golden, Liquid Love

If you have some dumplings hanging out in the freezer now would be the perfect time to make chicken and dumplings. But I sent my last batch away with the Hubby so he could have some home cooking away from home. So instead I made Avoglemeno Soup, also known as Greek Lemon Soup in Joy of Cooking.

Avoglemeno Soup: adapted from Joy of Cooking

The Hardware:
Saucepan, liquid measure or small bowl.

The Software:
3 C Chicken Broth
3/4 C Cooked Rice or raw Orzo
2 Eggs
2 – 3 T Lemon Juice

1) Put broth in saucepan and add rice or orzo. If using rice, you just need to get it to a simmer, if orzo – cook until tender. If you are using orzo you will probably need to use more stock because some of it will boil off.

2) Make sure you stock tastes good, I like to add some granulated garlic at the beginning to give it time to bloom. I think it makes it tasty, also consider adjusting with salt and pepper to your taste.

3) Put lemon juice into liquid measure (or the small bowl, but something with a spout is really better for this). Break in the eggs and beat with a spoon until a consistent color.

4) Turn the heat off of the soup and stir swiftly. Pour the egg/lemon mixture in a thin, steady stream and try not to hit the stream with your spoon (DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS RAY). Continue pouring until it is all in and the soup has gone all opaque and stuff. Serve and devour.

Hacks:

You can add lots of nummy stuff to this soup. Some people add greens (spinach and the like) and I have been known to put diced carrots in, so that I can pretend that I am eating vegetables. If I am feeling like a thicker soup I have been known to add a third egg. But I love the eggy goodness. Once I even added meatballs – but I guess that makes it some sort of bastardized Italian weddingglemeno soup.

So, what is your favorite thing that shows off your mad Stock making skillz?

Freezing cold that is.

Apparently my thoughts are presently fixated on freezing stuff, so I thought I would share some other oddities that I have lurking in the smaller half of my ‘fridge.

You try to take a better picture of a bag of frozen dumplings, I dare you.

You try to take a better picture of a bag of frozen dumplings, I dare you.

These are dumplings, not those poufy, Bisquick style drop dumplings but the flat kind. I have decided I prefer these to the big fluffy kind that you eat and they sit in your stomach and bully any of the food that you eat later. They make it sit in the nosebleed section of your stomach and crowd your esophagus and then you get the acid reflux. And I don’t like the acid reflux.

But I like chicken and dumplings, and turkey and dumplings, and meatballs and dumplings (what? I had some leftover meatballs!) These little guys are kind of like the noodles in your chicken noodle soup on steroids. So much so that I think the next time I make them I am going to cut them into long, skinny rectangles instead of square-oid shapes.

I try to always have homemade chicken stock on hand, but if I don’t I like “Better Then Bullion” just fine. Bring some stock up to heat, grate in some carrots and chuck in some shredded chicken and you have yummy soup. And if you have these dumplings in the freezer you have Souper Soup.

Flat but Tasty Dumplings

1 C AP Flour
1/4 C Milk
1/4 C Water

Salt, Pepper and Granulated Garlic to taste I use 1/4 t each of Salt & Granulated Garlic and a goodly amount of pepper.

1) Combine flour and spices in a bowl and whisk together. Add liquids and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together enough to turn out onto a floured surface. Knead gently, adding flour until you can handle it fairly well. This is a soft dough but you want to get rid of the stickiness.

2) Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. On a well floured surface, roll out rested dough until it is the thickness of a knife blade. You will most likely need to add more flour to make it workable. Using a pizza cutter, cut into rough polygonal shapes (the original recipe said 2 inch squares but who the heck am I kidding? And I thought 2 inches was too big anyway).

3) If you are making the soup right now, save enough for the number of servings that you need. Remove the rest (or all if you aren’t making soup) to a flat plate or cookie sheet covered with waxed or parchment paper. Check to make sure the plate/sheet that you are using will fit into your freezer. Don’t ask me why I feel the need to give you that tip, I just do.

4) Make sure that the dumplings do not overlap and freeze them for several hours or overnight. Once frozen, peel off of paper and place in freezer bag – squishing out as much air as you can. These can be thrown directly into simmering soup. Fresh dumplings take about 10 minutes at the boil, frozen a bit longer – just stop when they are done. This recipe can be doubled easily and it makes a ton of dumplings.