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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)

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Stir Fry: Harvest Special

I didn’t grow a ton of veggies in the garden this year. I did have a substantial carrot patch, a mix of Touchon and Purple Dragons. I also had a pair of Fairy Tale eggplants, some Pablano peppers and a good amount of Tatsoi bak choi. Needless to say, all of these things came to meet one another in My wok. With a few additions, a very nice meal was spawned. There is just nothing better than garden fresh food! Here is what I did for the first meal after harvest. Paired with rice, noodles, or bread, this recipe serves two ravenous teenagers, or four average appetites.

Garden Fresh Stir Fry © Andor

Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board. Wok, or large, high sided fry pan. Large bowl, or zip-lock bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
3-4 large carrots, chopped into pieces no more than a quarter inch thick
4 small eggplants, sliced about a quarter inch thick(Kamo eggplants are best for frying)
1 large onion, chopped to Your liking
2 pablano peppers, diced
1 head of bak choi, stems removed(about 30, 3-4 inch leaves)
a quarter cup of dry sherry
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
salt and pepper to taste
bacon grease(I love bacon grease!), or Your choice of cooking oil.

Prep and Cooking:

Mix the sherry, lemon juice, hoisin and pablano peppers in a large bowl, or zip-lock bag. Add the pork and let marinate for at least 30 minutes(over night is best). Over medium-high heat, stir fry the carrots until they reach Your desired texture and remove from pan. Then stir fry the eggplants with black pepper and a pinch of salt and set aside as well. Now start cooking the onions, when they start to turn translucent, turn the heat to high and add the pork and liquid mixture. Stir fry on high until the meat is done cooking, then reduce heat to medium and stir in the bak choi. Then, turn off the burner and mix everything together. Plate and serve!

Notes:

Obviously, nearly any meat will work with this recipe.

Pablano peppers are really mild, this is not a spicy dish…

If using mock duck, marinate for no more than 5 minutes. Add the liquid marinade to the onions and let it thicken a little, before adding the mock duck to the fry pan.

Running short on time? Skip the marinating part, simply put the liquids and peppers in the pan when You go to cook the meat. It will still taste great, but the meat won’t be quite as flavorful.

Most varieties of eggplant will cook VERY fast and fall apart, becoming mush. Which is why I suggest Kamo eggplants, which hold their texture very well compared to every other variety. If using another kind of eggplant, You must pay close attention to the texture, once You can dent it with Your finger, remove from the pan immediately. Some eggplants are very moist inside, laying them on a dry towel or napkin after slicing(before cooking) can dry them a bit and thus help keep them from disintegrating as You cook.

You can use the bak choi stems if You like. Chop them up like onions and fry until tender after You cook the eggplant.

Cooking each ingredient separately helps mix up the flavors that hit Your tongue. You can indeed cook the carrots and onions together, then add the eggplant and meat. Stir frying till everything is done, but You end up with a more uniform flavor, which is good, but lacks the depth of each ingredient. You also have more control over the texture of each thing when cooking them solo…

I admit to using too much bacon fat in making this one. You may have noticed by the glossy nature in the photo… It was delicious though!


Cooking in the Twilight Hours

Cooking in the Twilight Hours © Andor

I often find Myself cooking between two and four in the morning. Not sure why, but this is when the proliferation of stir-fried creations tends to happen. In this case, a very simple set of ingredients lead to yet another delicious meal. Chicken in a salty caramel sauce, lightly fried veggies, caramelized onions and peppercorn rice. The chicken is a bit of a rip on a Vietnamese style Ga Kho, or as most of us call it, hot and spicy chicken. I simply omitted the fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger instead using seasoned salt. The rice was quite nice. It’s subtle, like sushi rice, until You bite on a peppercorn. If You use white pepper, it will be quite spicy. Other varieties emit a mild peppery flavor, but most of the bite dissipates while cooking. The onions took Me three hours to get to that amazingly sweet, gooey texture. If You skip that part however, this meal can be prepared and cooked in thirty to fourty-five minutes. Even faster if You make the chicken in one pan and the veggies in another.

For starters, chop up 2 medium to large onions and cook over low heat until caramalized and set aside. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot when You start, they will be dramatically reduced as You cook. This can take hours, but it is so worth it.

In Your rice cooker, or pot, add 1 cup of rice and 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, mix until the pepper is evenly dispersed. Then add 1.5 cups of water and 1 tsp of rice vinegar. Mix thoroughly and cook until the rice has reached Your desired texture.

While the rice is cooking, thinly slice a medium sized carrot and fry over medium heat to Your liking and remove from the pan. Then, stir fry 1 cup of brocolli with 1 cloves worth of minced garlic and a splash of soy sauce. Once finished, remove from the pan and wipe it clean.

Now, over high heat, stir fry 2 chopped up chicken thighs with 1 tsp rice vinegar, half a tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt and 2 tbsp(or more!) of brown sugar. Cook until You have a thick brown caramel glaze and You are done. Enjoy!

 


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)


Double Pork Fried Rice

Andor's Double Pork Fried Rice © Andor   One of humanity’s most varied edibles. After a decade or more of experimenting and constantly trying different things, I have settled on a flavor arrangement closer to americanized asian restaurant versions of this classic home-style favorite. The sweet soy sauce, or alternately kecap manis, combined with rice vinegar and soy sauce is the winning formula at a great many asian restaurants here in North America. For Me, Simply add eggs, sweet peas and bacon, everything else is optional. The following recipe is my dressed up version which is very much a stand alone meal. Adding chili powder for increased depth to the rice it’s self, while also including carrots and onions, along with savory marinated pork. By cooking these things separately and mixing them together only at the end, You get a wonderful burst of the different ingredient’s flavors in every bite. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6+ as a side dish.

Supplies Needed: Large Wok or Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board

Ingredients:

2 cups of White Rice, steamed or boiled(slightly undercooked, or day old rice is best)
1 pound or so of Pork, Your choice of cut, chopped into half inch pieces(or smaller)
4 Eggs
One third of a pound of Bacon, sliced into pieces a quarter inch wide
3 medium sized Carrots, sliced thinly
1 large Onion, chopped as well..
Half of a bag of Frozen Sweet Peas
4 tbsp of Soy Sauce
4 tbsp of Sweet Soy Sauce or Honey, or 1+ tbsp of Sugar)
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
1 or 2 fresh Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of Chili Powder Blend
1 packet of Chinese Barbeque(Char Siu, Red Pork) Seasoning
Cooking Oil as needed

Prep and Cooking:

You will need to marinate the pork in the chinese seasoning for 30 minutes or more before cooking, over night in the fridge is best. Once it has soaked in the flavors, remove from the marinade and stir fry on high heat until fully cooked. I preffer a bit of charring on My red pork. Remove from the pan and set it aside for now. Rinse out the pan before continuing.

Over medium heat, scramble the eggs. Once cooked, remove, wipe any extra residue from the pan, then stir fry the bacon to Your liking and remove from the pan. There should be plenty of bacon grease now. You can poor off the excess, or just leave it all in. Stir fry the carrots until they start to soften, then add the onion and cook until the desired texture is reached. Remove from pan. Next, put the cooked rice into the pan, adding all of the remaining seasonings. Stir until everything is evenly mixed in, add the frozen peas and stir until they have thawed. Turn off the burner mix everything You have cooked together in the pan and serve.

Notes:

Things go much faster using a skillet and a wok at the same time. Cooking the bacon, then veggies, followed by the rice in the wok and the eggs and then meat in another pan. Mixing it all into the wok at the end.