Pete’s Recipes: Pete’s Kitchen Sink Soups

On Sunday I made one of my favorite repurposed meals: mac & cheese using the rinds from a cheese plate earlier in the day.  It was supposed to be my post for this week, since the prosciutto & pea mac and the mushroom mac both came out awesome.  But, cooking while the Pats – Ravens game came down to the wire had me distracted and I forgot to take pictures after the initial shots of the roux.  Oops.  Who wants to learn about Pete’s Soups?!?!?!

I have three go-to soups; Mushroom Barley (sometimes with chicken), Hambone Soup, and Roast Vegetable.  The mushroom barley one is almost always the exact same set of ingredients, and that’s a little boring, so lets save that one for another time if need be.  Instead, let’s focus on the other two “clear all the sh*t out of your fridge in one pot” soups: hambone and roast vegetable.  Let’s start with the…

Hambone Soup

Here’s what you’ll need:

Generally a group of ingredients that are leftover from a family gathering. Plus, that extra mini ham at the bottom left was heavily discounted post holidays. "ADB" may have to be phased out in favor of "Pete's Heavily Discounted Meat Blog"

In words:
1 hambone (+additional cubed ham depending on amount left on hambone)
1lb package of dried beans (chef’s choice, I like the mixed bean bag)
3 ribs celery chopped
4-5 peeled carrots chopped
1 medium onion chopped
4-5 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 4oz can tomato paste
Bay leaf
Olive oil, salt & pepper

Soak the beans overnight the night before you plan to cook the soup.  Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, removing any stones or loose bean skins shortly before cooking.

Preheat oven to 300F.  In a large dutch oven (or similar heavy pot), heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion, carrot, garlic, and celery seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook until onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes, before stirring in tomato paste.

This is the start of just about every soup I make and pretty much anything braised. Tomato paste is underrated

After cooking together for a few minutes, add in the hambone (+additional ham if necessary), the drained and rinsed beans, and a bay leaf.

That hambone was plenty meaty but I like this soup extra meaty. Plus, you expected me to pass on a discounted product that is prominently linked to obesity?!?!

Add in 8-10 cups of water, or enough to amply cover all ingredients and bring up to a simmer on the stove top.

I usually throw a bouillon cube or two in here, just because it seems like a lot of water to add. Use of bouillon cubes seems like the type of thing that would get me ripped on if I ever tried to hang out with foodies

Put cover on the dutch oven and place in the 300F preheated oven to cook for 4 hours.  After which, you should have something that looks like this.

A little thin looking, but we're not done yet

Fish the hambone out of the pot with a pair of tongs and place any meat remaining on the bone back in the pot.  Pour in 2-4 ounces of dry sherry (to taste) and simmer, uncovered, for another 30-45 minutes stirring regularly until the liquid has reduced by 1/4 to 1/3.

That's more like it, rich and creamy looking. I know that doesn't sound appealing with a ham-based soup but the starch from the beans is what provides both qualities

Ladle into bowls, and you have a hearty, filling stew that easily stands up as a full meal.

So filling and delicious. I am unapologetically greedy when the Perines offer their hambones to everyone after large family meals

Up next,

Roast Vegetable Soup

This one is truly a kitchen sink soup.  Think of it as a way to utilize all the vegetables in your fridge that you never got around to cooking during the week.  If anyone else has that problem.

The requirements are that you need some combination of celery, onion, carrot, and garlic as a base, a starchy vegetable, and a carton or two of chicken broth.  I usually make it with butternut squash as the starch, but I’ve also used potato, and recently included apples and ginger.  In those cases you mix all vegetables, season, roast, then dump into a pot with the broth to simmer, then blend.  That simple.  Here’s what you’ll need for an alternate version with black beans (plus a little more detail on each of those steps):

3 cans black beans
1 large onion quartered
5 ribs celery cut in large pieces
6 peeled carrots cut in large pieces
4-5 peeled garlic cloves
32-48 ounces of chicken broth
1/2 4oz can of tomato paste
1 lime
1 bunch cilantro
Cayenne pepper
Olive oil, salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450F.  Place all vegetables, except the beans, in a large bowl and stir in tomato paste, cayenne and cumin powder to taste, salt & pepper, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix until all vegetables are well coated with seasonings.

If you don't have tomato paste, ketchup can work in a pinch. Just don't tell anyone, no one wants to know ketchup is prominently involved in their soup

Pour contents onto a nonstick baking sheet and place on top rack of a preheated 450F oven.

Yes, I forgot to take my pizza stone out of the oven. If Kristi asks, tell her it helps regulate the temperature in the oven, since that's the BS I spew when she asks

After 10-12 minutes, switch to a low broil for an additional 3-5 minutes (with the oven door slightly ajar) to add a little char to some of the veggies.

Again, this can be the base of any number of delicious grub options

Dump the contents of the pan into a large pot along with the three cans of rinsed beans, juice from the lime, chopped cilantro to taste (I happily add a whole bunch worth of leaves), and cover with chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.

That color comes from the beans and the charred vegetables. I need to make this again soon

Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, covered.  The vegetables should be easily soft to the touch of a knife or fork. Using a ladle, transfer the vegetables and liquid to a blender in waves, emptying into a large bowl once blended.

Something about the blender makes it nearly impossible to take an in-focus picture. Wish my profile had the same problem

Puree by pulsing and letting rest a few times with the vent cap open slightly to let steam escape.  The goal is a thick looking liquid, kind of like a bean and vegetable smoothie.

Spicy bean smoothie. Delicious but on an empty stomach it can be the equivalent of drinking a cup of burned gas station coffee

Despite not having any cream or milk, there is a deceptive silkiness to any roast vegetable soup made like this and blended well.  The only downside of the bean version is the occasional textural contrast of the bean skins.  Otherwise, it’s got all the right flavors with the cilantro, lime, and bean complimenting each other well and some nice spicy heat from the cayenne and black pepper.

And that’s that.  Anyone want to come over for roast goat head and homemade tortillas this Sunday???  I’m having a lot of trouble finding a taker for that offer.  Facebook me y’all!

Weird Crap I Cook: Oxtail Stew

On the camping trip that featured the hogs head barbacoa, my friend Conor brought along a couple pounds of oxtail from our JP supermarket.  We browned them in a pot with some spices and a quartered onion, covered with water, and set the pot on the edge of the fire to simmer.  A few minutes later our friend Marshall got back to the campsite, dumped out the water, stuck the oxtails in a pan on the center of the fire, and covered them with a pound of sliced bacon (unseparated) and a block of ice.  I’d describe the experience as similar to watching someone make food while they are sleepwalking, but with more violent rage and foul language from me.  Anyway, the oxtails burned, we shifted our attention to the hogs head, and Conor and I agreed to make another attempt at oxtail soup sometime soon.

Two weeks ago we held our annual fantasy football draft and for the first time in the eight year history of our league, the draft was not held in a hotel room at a casino.  The downside was that only 5 members of the league convened in Boston with the rest online elsewhere.  The upside was that there was a kitchen to make food instead of having to eat crappy central connecticut pizza.  Sounded like a perfect chance to take another crack at oxtail stew.

I have lost 30+ minutes, multiple times, looking at and poking products in the meat section at Hi Lo Foods

Oxtail is just the tail of a cow, skinned and chopped into sections.  Hard cartilage/bone runs down the center of the tail with muscle, segmented by cartilage and surrounded by a thin membrane, running up the sides.  Its an extremely popular food item in the Caribbean, mainly in stew form.  Most recently it got a little media coverage when Elvis Dumervil of the Denver Broncos claimed he lost 15 pounds in the offseason just by no longer eating oxtail. Back to the cooking.

I started off the stew, in a homage to my oldest friend (and enemy) Marshall, with a half slab of chopped bacon that I browned in the stew pot.

I was cooking this in Buschy's apartment which meant I needed to start with some comforting smells to up the chances he might actually try a few bites of the finished product

While the bacon cooked I trimmed excess fat and cartilage off the oxtail pieces.

It was tough to tell how far to go with the trimming, so I left on anything that didn't appear to be fat

Once the bacon was cooked I removed it from the pot and reserved it.  I then browned the oxtail pieces in the remaining bacon grease.

Seasoned with salt and pepper and quickly browned on both sides. Had to cook them in three waves due to space

Super Zooommm!!!!!!

While the meat browned, I got to work on prepping the base of every stew: carrots, onions, and celery.   When I asked my wife to grab me a couple “good sized” carrots at Hi Lo, here is what she got for me.

"YOU MEAN THERES CAR'TS OUT THERE THIS BIIG?" Little Anaconda/Ice Cube reference. What?

With a bit more effort than usual, I got through the process of chopping the carrots and then the celery and onion.

That pile represents one half of one of the carrots. Reeeeeeediculous

The last batch of the browned oxtail was removed from the pot and put to the side until the base of the stew was ready for them.

Its tough to reject the idea of eating oxtail once you've seen and smelled this plate

Once the onions were translucent I added a few big pinches of fresh thyme.

This picture could be from many different past and future posts

At this point in went a few smashed garlic cloves, a couple bay leaves, chicken stock, and red wine.  Once I was sure everything had deglazed off the bottom of the pot, I let the liquid simmer for a few minutes, added the oxtail, covered and cooked for four hours.

Once again, I make a hearty stew on an 85 degree night. Still, looks delicious

During the four hours of stewing I cut the remainder of the carrots into sticks and roasted them.  I also engaged in some fantasy football panic, an online mock draft, and 1,500 calories of Shuman’s buffalo chicken dip. When I checked the stew, the meat was fork tender which was what I was looking for according to the oxtail research I’d done online.  There was also a little time pressure with the draft starting in thirty minutes.

I removed the fully cooked oxtails and set them to the side.

Thanks to Buschy for taking pictures in between swallowing back vomit. He is about as adventurous with food as a breast feeding infant

Because the mirepoix had basically cooked down to mush, I poured the remaining liquid through a strainer and pressed the solids down to make sure I got all of the juice back.  Once the liquid settled I skimmed off excess fat and returned the liquid to the stove.

The remaining liquid. At this point Tim would have walked in and insulted the stew, then me, then the clothes that I was wearing, and then punched me. I was glad he was probably 6 hours into his ride home from Little Compton

Bacon and roasted carrots went in first…

Both had a few burned pieces, but I guiltily really like that flavor

…then chopped scallion and boiled red potatoes…

I hate wasting food, and those red potatoes are admittedly leftovers. But I would have just cut and boiled fresh potatoes then added them, so I don't think it changed the stew much

…plus the oxtail to make this completely awful looking pot of food:

I let this simmer together for fifteen minutes or so

And then… I turned the heat off because the draft was starting.  Probably for the best; in my experience soups and chilis are always better after they have rested for a bit.  After two sweaty and technology error-laden hours of auction drafting, I decided to turn the heat back on the stew.  My first bowl:

Once I had the bowl sitting next to my computer, I fully understood how effing stupid I was to make a stew for an online auction draft. I blame it for any stupid picks I made in the draft. And any typos in this post

The flavor of the stew was awesome; we went through a loaf of painfully hard bread just dipping it in the liquid. The problem was that the  Caribbean recipes I saw made a clear point not to cook past fork tender since the meat will fall off the bone.  So I did that without questioning it.  But it really sucked pausing while eating spoonfuls of stew to gnaw the meat off of the oxtail.  If I had taken the time to think about it, I would have just cooked it an extra hour or two to make the meat fall off the bones.  Oh well, looks like there will be a third round.

And Con, you still owe me for the oxtails based on our bowling bet.

Next week, the only time I have ever cooked something out of anger towards the animal.