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Carrot Soup

Carrot Soup © Andor (1)

Soups have always been popular in the winter months. The trend may have started because people were trying to make use of the aging crops, harvested before the frigid weather arrived. Hardly anyone is a farmer anymore, yet the trend persists. Having grown a fair amount of carrots in the garden this year, I have been trying to use as much as possible before they go bad. I knew I wanted to make soup, but did not want it to be like the carrot soups I’ve had before. Half way through making dinner, it was still unclear what the finished bowl would be. Carrots? Yep. Bacon? No way can that be left out. Arugula? Well I bought it, better try to use it up. Noodles? Never have I made a soup with noodles and that’s not changing now… Let the carrots be the noodles? Yes, a good choice. The lima beans were an after thought. They were actually being prepared for another dish, which didn’t happen. But, they add a lot and I’m not sure this soup would be as good without that extra element. This can be made as a vegetarian soup pretty easily as well.

Serves 4 to 6.

Supplies Needed: An 8 quart soup pot, a strainer and a second pot(4+ quarts). Potato peeler. Knife and cutting board. Fry pan.

Ingredients:

For the Stock/Broth:

4-8 large carrots, ends removed and chopped in half.(Enough carrots to fill the soup pot a bit more than half way, after everything else is in it already.)
A chicken carcas(like the picked over remnants of a rotisserie chicken), or a large breast, or thigh without removing any meat.
1 large onion, halved
2-4 fresh garlic cloves
2 long sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves

For the Finished Soup:

6 medium sized carrots(figure one per person), shredded with a potato peeler, so as to make thin, noodle-like strips
half a pound of bacon
1 cups worth of arugula
1.5 cups of lima beans
half tsp of chili powder blend, or cajun spice blend
salt and pepper to taste
thyme leaves for garnish

To Cook:

Put the halved carrots, chicken, onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme sprigs into Your pot. Adding enough water to submerge everything, plus a bit more. If Your pot is half full of ingredients, You’ll want to fill it three quarters full of water. You don’t want anything sticking out above the water… Bring this to a simmer and let it gently bubble for 4 or 5 hours, stirring occasionally. You’re done with this step when You can make mashed carrots with nothing more than a gentle touch. Let it cool a bit and strain the solids from the liquid. A 4 quart pot should be about the perfect size for the amount of liquid You have. Now is a good time to start frying the bacon in another pan. As You do that, bring the soup to a light boil and begin reducing it. Add the spices, salt and pepper and continue to boil until a third of the liquid has boiled off. Then, add the lima beans and continue to boil until they are cooked. Place the arugula and shredded carrots into bowls. Ladle in the soup and lima beans, the hot soup should be just enough to soften the thinly shredded carrots. Add the bacon and garnish with some thyme leaves. Time to eat!

Notes:

This can easily be made as a vegetarian soup. Simply replace the chicken bones with another veggie, or add more carrots. Then, skip adding bacon at the end…

If You’re using baby lima beans, You’ll want to add them a bit later. Because they are more tender and cook in less than half the time.

When reducing soup stock, the general rule of thumb is that You want to end up with half the amount of liquid You had after straining.

Roasting the bones in the oven/broiler before starting Your soup will help bring out the oils and flavor. Making for a slightly more robust end product. If You make this with a chicken breast, or thigh, a quick searing, at high heat in a fry pan will help accomplish the same thing. You don’t want to cook the meat, the intent is to help mature the final flavor.

Those who don’t like a bit of fattiness to their soup will want to make the stock a day before serving. Place it in the fridge over night and the fat will all solidify on top. Simply remove the fat layer and then proceed to reduce and finish the soup…

If You don’t think You’ll use all of it right away, remove some to freeze for later, before adding the lima beans and spices. Obviously, if doing so, You won’t need as much of the ingredients for the ‘finished soup.’

I served this with Port Chicken(recipe can be found on this blog) and peppercorn rice, the recipe for which is on this blog under one of My ‘cooking in the twilight hours’ posts. The meal was quite lovely! Except that I neglected to salt the soup, which My guests didn’t appreciate. Adding salt to the soup made all the difference…

Carrot Soup © Andor (2)


Cooking in the Twilight Hours

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Skating University Avenue

Skating Univerity Avenue

Skating on University Avenue © Andor (8)


An Evening on the Side of the Road, Bringing Back Great Memories

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (1)

This weekend is the Car Craft Nationals here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have been taking a LOT of car pictures lately, so I opted not to attend the gathering it’s self. Instead heading out with My buddy Ryan Clemens of Opposition Motors, to post up on the side of Snelling, just out side of the show. There was a very wide variety of vehicles out and about, mostly American made, spanning many decades, but there were some other cars out cruising too. It is nice to see classic and modern muscle cars, massive land boats from the 70’s and 80’s, low riders, high riding trucks, kit cars, sports cars and a whole lot more, out on the streets at once.

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (42)

This was like a throw back for Me. When I was Younger, University Avenue was the home of all things cruising. Every weekend there were thousands, upon thousands of cars and huge quantities of people out on the strip. We had one of the most robust car cultures in the world, on display, three days a week. Over the last ten to fifteen years, this scene has been broken up and dispersed, to the bain of an awful lot of local businesses. So many local and family owned restaurants and shops have gone out of business since the city started it’s campaign to end the cruising scene’s dominance of our weekend culture. Much of the blame lands on the shoulders of a large home for the elderly, building and expanding to become a sprawling complex, right on University, next door to the beating heart of this, now miniscule scene, Porky’s drive in. Naturally, the people at the Episcopal Homes complained heavily about the noise and abundance of people walking next to their building. Sadly, three or four years ago, Porky’s, the lone 50’s style eatery left in Saint Paul and home to some of the best all American eat’s around, went out of business. I really, REALLY miss having My double supreme burger, with that great “special sauce,” the city’s best pork cutlet sandwich, the best onion rings I’ve ever had and a thick, chunky strawberry malt, whenever I want. Now I, as well as every one else, will never get to eat their great food again. Below is a picture from their last year in business. That crowd, is nothing compared to what was around for decades in the past. The massive bland buildings in the rear, are two of the four newest buildings of said retirement home. I am all for giving our elders reasonable homes, with care takers to look after them as best they can, but why choose the busiest street in a bustling part of town? Can You guess who expanded in to the space left when Porky’s died?

Porky's Drive Thru in 2010 © Andor

I wish I had a better picture of this iconic eatery, but I don’t. In the end, all hope of the cruising scene on University being revived, was crushed by the construction of the recently completed light rail line, which runs right down the center of the street. The car culture is still visible, but since there is no place that everyone knows to go to, the numbers of cars out on the weekends are laughable. There is no where that You’ll find ten, or fifteen thousand people gathering, like in the past. So those of us who wish to re-live the sight seeing, less the food that’s not available anymore, must wait for two or three events per year. Back to the Fifties and Car Craft being the main draw. The local economy has been delt a pretty big negative impact overall. These hand full of gatherings do help a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that the miles of road occupied by smaller businesses are now lined by endless corporate chain stores. Funneling money out of the Twin Cities. The general lack of low riders and imports out at these events is a huge loss of variety too, but at least we still have something! I guess.


Anoka Classic Car Show


A Glance at the Biggest, Best Car Show in the Land


Rolling In Style

My Mercedes 2014 © Andor (1)

Ten years ago, I discovered this frame on eBay. I wanted a full suspension set up, but had pretty much given up on finding such a frame that wasn’t stupidly heavy for My purposes. I was looking for a light weight mountain bike frame to build up for riding the city streets. This beauty weighs in at 4.55 pounds, that is the frame, shock and the black seat mount together. It just doesn’t get any better than that, unless You want a rigid frame. It was made by a company called Amp Research, formerly Amplifier, in the late 90’s. Originally, these bikes came with disk brakes, the first bike ever with disk brakes in fact. Though that made for some complications in My build. Now, there are standard mounting points for brake calipers and rotors, but since this was before standards came to being, the only ones that work are the original Amp brakes. Unfortunately Amp Research is an engineering group, that dabbles in many different types of things and at the turn of the century, they ended their decade-long run making bicycles. Needless to say, finding all the hardware, without buying another one of their bikes, whole, was not an easy task. Over the next couple years, I actually bought two more variations of them. This one aquired on auction from a police department in Michigan.

Only the frame and fork were from that auction, along with a set of the old Amp disk brakes. These black and white bikes were originally made for the New York police department, amp added the rack to their standard issue Mercedes-branded bikes and sold them to cops around the nation. I love the front fork on this bike. A second generation Amp model, which has a mere two and a half inches of travel, but they are so smooth and absurdly light. This is a B3 series frame set. Which recieved all of the rest of it’s components, less the brakes and wheels, from My old specialized rock hopper. I bought the Vuelta wheels and a set of Shimano IS Hydraulic disk brakes once I figured out an adapter to be able to mount the now standard brakes. Which was a four year hassle that eventually led Me to sell this bike in frustration. The front worked just fine, but the rear brakes were mounted in a pretty shody way. At least I doubled My money on it.

My Other Mercedes 2010 © Andor(4)

Shortly after selling that bike, I found an Amp F3 front fork, with the carbon fiber pipes, from their last(B5) frame. I proceeded to replace the Girvin Cross-Link Elite that had been on My silver B4 frame for 5 years. This was a welcome change, since the old Girvin fork was nearly twice the weight. Oddly, the carbon fork is actually heavier than the older, all aluminum one. It does have a longer range of travel, but it is not as smooth as the elder fork was either. It does match the carbon rear end of My frame and the bike is much nicer to ride than it was with the cross-link on it. I must admit though, I liked the look with that girvin fork too.

Me and My Mercedes 2006 © Andor

I was happy to aquire My third Amp Research bike(not pictured) because it had the v-brake clamps. If I had not worked out a way to run them, I would have had to switch to some regular wheels and run the same lack lustre rear disk brake arrangement as on the police bike above. I really did not want to take the non-disk braking, carbon composite Spin Tri-Spokes off of this bike. They just look so great and if You haven’t connected the dots, just think, Mercedes-Benz logo, only they are the wheels. Yeah, I went there… Having rode this bike for 4 years with only front brakes, clamping on the mounts for the rear end was a nice feeling. So was the feeling of being able to stop really fast, without flying over the handlebars. Six years after getting the frame, the bike had reached what should be it’s final incarnation. I wish I could have fit a larger front gear, but the angle of the lower-rear fork will not allow more than the 48 tooth that’s on it. She rides like a champ, quite fast, easy to accelerate and it has a firm ride, but takes the edge off of those massive Minnesota pot holes.


Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (1)

I am in love with this soup! Layers of porky flavor make it a delight to devour. I originally intended to make a bacon and bak choi soup, but instead I used what was in My freezer. Thus stumbling upon this lovely combination. Baby lima beans add a great texture and are perfect for reducing the spicy impact on Your taste buds. Obviously, bacon adds to almost any meal, but by cooking it in different ways, bacon can take things to the next level. I have been playing with different methods of cooking it for quite some time. Treating a pack of standard, sliced bacon as a single piece of meat is the key to this dish.

Soup takes time to make. It is very easy, since You can ignore it most of the time, but it’s a long process. 3 hours of simmering on the stove seems to be the minimum for getting all of the flavor and nutrients out of the ingredients. Simmering for 4 to 6 hours before reducing has yielded the best soup stock for Me. Be sure not to reduce too far, the general rule is that You want to cook it down by half. You don’t want to end up with soup concentrate. Making this soup is a two part recipe. First, one must make the stock that provides the base flavors. Then, You fry Your bacon and finish the soup with spices. I tend to make stock half, to three quarters of a gallon at a time, since the largest pot in My kitchen is 8 quarts. Storing any that is not being used right away in the freezer for later. It will last about a month in the freezer, so You can save time and make the stock well before the day You intend actually to serve the soup.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (2)

Supplies Needed: TWO 8 quart stock pots(the second is for straining), a decent sized strainer and a skillet for frying.

~For the Stock~

Ingredients:

2lbs Ham Shanks, or the bone of a mostly eaten ham

3 large Carrots, cut in half, or thirds

2 large Onions, halved

half a bushel of Celery

half a bulb of Garlic

2 Bay Leaves

1.5 to 2 gallons of Water(as much as can be fit into the pot with the other ingredients)

Andor's Porky Soup Stock © Andor

To Cook:

Put all the above ingredients in a stock pot, adding as much water as possible(1.5 to 2 inches from the top of the pot). You don’t want to boil it, set the burner to whatever setting You need to keep it simmering. Continue simmering for 4 or more hours. Then, strain the ingredients from the liquid, pressing as much of the broth out of them as possible. Discard the solids(eat the meat, if there is any) and return the liquid to the stove. Now You want to bring it to a boil and continue until the soup has been reduced to about half of the post-straining quantity. You don’t want a full rolling boil, with a foamy top. A ‘low boiling’ is ideal, constant large bubbling is what You want to see. Once reduced, let cool and place in the fridge over night. When it’s nice and cold, remove the fat that has solidified on the top. Now proceed to the next part of the recipe, or put it in containers and freeze.

~Finishing the Soup~

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Cajun Spice blend

A 1.5 to 2 inch wide slice of the Bacon slab and half a cup or more of Baby Lima Beans per person

1 tsp freshly ground Peppercorns(multi-color medley is best for this)

Salt to taste

Slow Cooking Sliced Bacon © Andor

To Cook:

Over medium-low, or even low heat, start frying the bacon, spreading the pepper evenly on the top and bottom. It is best to slow cook, flipping every 5 to 10 minutes. You want to keep the temperature low, so You don’t burn the outsides before the center has been cooked. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. You may also have a hard time keeping the bacon from splitting apart, I suggest using a tongs for flipping, so You can hold each piece together as You maneuver them around. Once the bacon is ALMOST cooked through, heat Your soup stock on high. Once the soup starts to boil, add the baby lima beans, cajun spice and salt and reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally. At the same time, turn the burner for the bacon to medium-high and fry until the outer edges are nice and crispy(burnt is ok too), then remove from the pan, placing on a towel to pull out the excess grease. Make sure the beans are cooked to Your liking and turn off the burner. Ladle the soup and beans into bowls and place a chunk of bacon on top. Serve hot!

Notes:

I have only served this when also making other dishes. I’ve never tried it as a stand alone meal, it’s a great fit for multi-course dinners.

Cooking sliced bacon in this manor provides a unique texture, similar to tender un-sliced meat. Half pound slabs cook up quite well, but are hard to slice afterwords without breaking it all apart. I prefer Corn King brand bacon. You may laugh, or turn Your nose to the sky, but the brine and smoking process they use produces a superior tasting grease. I use bacon grease instead of cooking oil in most of My cooking, so such things matter to Me. Yes, I am telling You that a mass produced product of Iowan factory-made bacon is better than bacon from a quality butcher shop!

Baby lima beans are really tender inside. If You are substituting regular lima beans, You will want to boil/steam them with water and add to the soup when plating. Otherwise they will be tough and meaty in texture.

This soup is very barbecue friendly. I saved 15 bones from pork spare ribs that I had smoked, added them, burnt edges, sauce and all, instead of the ham. It was delicious! I was unsure about how the charred ends and the messy, sweet remnants of bbq sauce would affect the flavor, but it came out really good. The only burnt parts were maybe half an inch at the tip of each bone.  The soup lacked the hammy flavor and aroma, but was instead smelling like a barbequed bowl of goodness. I admit to also using one head of bak choi in place of the carrots that time too. The spice blend really helps this soup fit in to a barbecue menu as well. The spiciness just invites one to eat more sweet, savory, saucy ribs.

I have also found the broth, which is the soup after straining, but before reducing, is very good for sauces. 1 cup of broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger, some garlic and a splash of chili powder made for a delicious thick sauced stir-fry.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (3)


Spicy Garlic Chicken and Broccoli

Spicy Garlic Chicken and Broccoli © Andor

My cooking style has always been to throw a bunch of things I like together, then hope it’s delicious… That’s how I made this one 5 or 6 years ago. I’m not sure how I lost this recipe, which was the most popular on My old site. I recently found it on an antiquated external hard drive that I haven’t been using, so here We go. One of the great many flavor combinations I’ve stumbled upon over the years. A good blend of savory, sour and sweet, followed by a round of  heat! As with all Stir Fries, this is straight forward, fast and quite easy to make! Matched with a side of bread, noodles, or rice, this serves about 4 people.

Supplies Needed: A Wok or High Sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board. As well as a Large Bowl, Pot, or Pan to shuffle the cooked veggies onto while the meat cooks.

Ingredients:

2 or so lbs of Boneless Chicken, chopped
1 Bag of frozen Broccoli, thawed
6 to 8 large Garlic cloves, minced
1 Habanero Pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
2 or 3  tbsp Soy Sauce
1 and a half  tbsp of Lemon Juice
3-4 tbsp of Hoisin Sauce
1 tbsp Mild Chili Powder
1 tsp of Terragon flakes
half a tsp of Turmeric
2 tbsp of freshly crushed Black Pepper
1 tbsp of Sugar(optional)
and 1 or 2 tbsp of veggie/canola/peanut oil.

Prep and Cooking:

Using med-high heat, put half the oil in the pan and start frying the Carrots, once they’ve started to cook a bit, add the Onions, Turmeric, half the Pepper and a third of the Garlic, stir fry til the Carrots and Onions are about half way done, add the thawed bag of Broccoli. Stir fry until all 3 ingredients are done, then remove from the pan. You don’t need to clean the pan either.

Set burner to high heat. Pour the rest of the oil into the pan, adding the Chicken, Habanero and remaining Garlic. Stir it up a bit and add the Sugar and liquid ingredients. Stir it again and add the remaining seasonings. Stir fry until the meat is cooked through, turn off the burner. Put the veggies back into the pan with the meat and mix everything thoroughly. Enjoy!

Notes:

If You’re using fresh Broccoli, simply steam it and mix into the pan at the end…

Some stove tops will have high enough heat to make the liquids sauce down, which is good. Others will have liquid in the bottom when the chicken is done cooking, that’s fine too! It still tastes great! Just use bread, noodles or rice to soak it up!

Obviously, this works just fine without the Habanero Pepper, for those who can’t handle the burn.


Gallery

Attacking Oysters


Back to the 50’s

One of the largest car gatherings in the land. This car show has posted numbers of vehicles on display well over 14,000. Somehow managing this while restricting the age of the cars allowed to participate, only to those produced in 1964 or earlier. Every year, classic cars of all types, pour into the Minnesota state fair grounds. People line the road sides as car enthusiasts cruise the streets of Saint Paul. It’s without a doubt, My favorite of the large Minnesota get togethers. People gather from all across Middle-America, bringing their beloved heirlooms, dream machines, project cars and rust buckets. Families and friends hiking in the city, giving a boost to the local restaraunts, hotels, gas stations and bars, enjoying the spectacle that is automotive styling. A fine midwestern tradition.

Back to the 50's (1)


Cajun Spiced Chicken Stir-Fry

Many people tend to think stir-frying is just an asian thing. This, however, is simply not true. This particular recipe is My most recent stir-fry developement! A very basic flavor combination that goes well with most vegetables, pictured here with carrots, onions and broccoli, served on toasted whole grain bread. Albeit untried, I do beleive this would go well with pork or beef, amongst other things. Paired with rice, bread, or noodles, this recipe serves 2 ravenous teenagers, or 4 people.

Supplies Needed: A Wok or large, high sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board, Large Bowl, or Sealing Bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, sliced a quarter inch thick or thinner
2 Large Carrots, chopped into thin pieces
1 Onion, Chopped up too..
Half of a Bag of Frozen Chopped Broccoli, thawed
4 Tbsp – Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp – Worcestershire Sauce
2 or 3 Tbsp – Cajun Spice Blend
1 Tbsp – Minced Garlic(2 large cloves)
2 or 3 Tbsp – Pure Honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bacon Grease or Cookig Oil as needed

Prep and Cooking:

Mix the sherry, worcestershire, half the cajun spice and half a tablespoon or so of salt into a large zip-lock bag and drop the chopped up Chicken into it. Mix that up and let it marinate for 20+ minutes. Now is a good time to chop Your vegetables! Heat Your wok at medium-high heat, grease the pan and start stir-fying the chopped carrots with half the garlic, after the carrots start to soften a little, add the onion and broccoli, continue frying until the ingredients are cooked to Your liking. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken and all the contents of the marinade to the fry pan, also adding the rest of the garlic and any additional salt and pepper You want. Turn Your burner to high heat and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the liquids start thickening, then add the last tablespoon of the cajun spice, pour the veggies back into the pan, drizzle the honey over the top, turn off Your burner and mix it all together. Plate and serve!

Note: The amount of sherry listed is for the lower end stuff found in most big box grocery stores here in North America. If using a quality sherry from a winery or liquor store, try using half the amount stated.