Sunday, February 20, 2011

Soup That Hugs The Soul

Is there anything more comforting than indulging in a warm bowl of your favorite soup in the cold winter months?  Homemade soup is like a hug in a bowl.  It warms you.. fills you.  If you are anything like me, cooking and preparing soup is a recipe in itself for melting your cares away.

I am not a culinary expert and have never attempted a potato soup before.  I knew of a few techniques that would get me through this new dish.  My biggest fear when making the soup was how to make it thick.  If you know of a better way to thicken soup.. I would certainly welcome those suggestions. 

This soup will consequently set you back a couple hours.  I'd recommend making this soup ahead of time or just on a chilly Saturday night at home.  One of the best things about soup is that it doesn't even have to be for you.  Homemade soup is a great way to say "I hope you feel better" to a sick relative or even "thank you" to a helpful neighbor. 

Prep time = 35 minutes
Cook time = 1 hour

Potato & Cabbage Soup
- 5 cups of beef or chicken stock (I used bouillon cubes of beef stock for a bolder flavor)
- 3 lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and halved
- 1 cup of ham, diced (I just used thick cut lunch meat ham and fried it but you can certainly use bacon too)
- 3 TBSP of sea salt
- Half of a medium sweet onion, diced
- 1 cup of green cabbage, diced
- 1 TBSP of red wine vinegar
- 4 cups of milk (For a thicker creamier flavor.. use whole milk or heavy cream. I wanted to keep it heart healthy and used what I had on hand.. 2% milk)
- 1 TBSP of dried parsley (fresh parsley is fine but hard to come by in the cold winters)
- 1 TBSP of dried tarragon
- 1 TBSP of Italian Seasoning or Mural of Flavor from Penzey's
- 3 to 4 TBSP of butter
- 3 to 4 heaping TBSP of All-Purpose Flour
- Salt and Pepper to taste

There are a lot of steps in the soup making process.  Stay with me on this one!

Step 1:
Start by peeling and slicing the potatoes into halves or quarters.  Place into a large pot or kettle of water, add a couple TBSPs of sea salt and boil.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until fork tender.  In the meantime.. dice the cabbage, ham and onion.  In a medium non-stick skillet.. add the onions and ham (add a little olive oil or butter to prevent burning).  When the onions become translucent then add the cabbage and let it reduce.  Sprinkle the mixture with about a TBSP of red wine vinegar.  Reduce and set aside. 

Step 2:
When the potatoes are fork tender, drain in a colander and slice.  Do NOT rinse with water.  (The potatoes should be fork tender but not breaking apart - since they will be simmering in the soup for an hour.)  I sliced the potatoes into small, rustic chunks right in the colander. 

Step 3:
In a medium skillet or sauce pan, mix together a combination of butter and flour.  This is what I used to thicken the soup.  Once it's completely combined, add 2 cups of beef stock and stir slowly until it is thick.  The mixture that I created was about the same consistency as a can "cream of chicken soup".  Of course you could always use Cream of Chicken or Potato soup as the thickner.

Step 4:
In a large kettle or pot, add 3 more cups of beef stock, the thickening mixture, and 4 cups of milk or cream.  Stir until it becomes thick.  Bring to a boil.  While waiting for it to boil.. add the spices - tarragon, parsley, mural of flavor and (of course) salt and pepper.  After bringing to a boil, reduce to a low heat.  Add the remaining ingredients - potatoes, cabbage, ham, and onions.  Stir occasionally.  Simmer for about 1 hour.

Step 5:
Serve with a roll, biscuit or bread of your choice.  And, of course... Enjoy!!

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