Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pea Soup and Pigs in Blankets - Hearty Winter Fare!

Darrell wrote down his recipe for pea soup for a friend who purchased a picnic ham from us. Thought I'd share the instructions here:

Darrell's Pea Soup

Pigs in Blankets made with some of our
Berkshire Breakfast Sausage links and pastry crust
make a great accompaniment to pea soup!

I’ve never written the recipe for pea soup down before, I’ve always just made it.  Unlike most pea soups, I like some whole dried peas as well as split peas.  When I make it, the batches are in increments of pounds.  A 1 pound batch has a pound of whole peas and a pound of split peas, a 2 pound batch would have 2 pounds of each, etc.  Because I have a 25 quart stock pot and a love of pea soup, I can make up to a 5 pound batch but I need to have a good bit of ham and at least 2 ham bones (from previously baked hams) for a batch that size.  Pea soup also freezes well; a few quarts of pea soup in the freezer are one of the requirements for making it through the winter.
Making the soup
The whole peas need to be soaked overnight.  Pick them over, taking out the any bad ones or any pea-sized pebbles that may have made it into the bag.  Put them into a pot and cover with a couple inches of water.  You can’t have too much water; you can have too little.  Let stand overnight.
The next day, drain the peas and cover with fresh water.  If you have an abundance of chicken stock on hand, use that instead – it builds a whole new flavor layer in your peas.  You should have at least an inch of liquid above your peas.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour or less, depending on how firm you’d like the peas in the soup.  Keep an eye on them and add more water/stock if necessary.
Meanwhile, for each pound of peas, take a medium sized onion and 2 or 3 large stalks of celery.  Dice the onion and celery.  Sweat the onions in a suitable amount of olive oil, cooking oil or butter (depending on your preference) and when they’ve started cooking a bit, add the celery  Cook until the celery is just getting tender.  To this, add as much salt, pepper, and dried thyme as you’d like for the batch of soup.  By adding the spices to the celery and onions, you’re getting them incorporated into the fat which will carry them throughout the soup a little better.  I use about a teaspoon of salt, ¾ teaspoon of pepper, and about ¾ teaspoon of thyme.  Sometimes I use a bit of dried oregano.
Put this mixture into your soup pot (different than the pot in which you’re cooking the whole peas), along with the split peas (no need to soak these), 2 quarts of water or chicken stock per pound of peas, then add a couple cups of chopped carrots, the ham (along with the bone if you have it), 1 bay leaf per pound of peas, and the cooked, drained, whole peas.  Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until it’s suitably done.  The split peas should pretty much turn into a puree and the whole peas will retain most of their structural integrity, depending on how long you cooked them.  I like to leave them a bit al dente during their boil so that they retain their shape and have a little tooth to them.  As the soup approaches doneness, taste it and adjust seasonings to your preference.  Take out the bone and strip any residual meat from the bone (it has probably fallen off) and take out the bay leaves.
At this point it is ready to serve.  Being Dutch, I think the perfect accompaniment is a couple of good Pigs in a Blanket (Dutch Soul Food).  For the truly decadent, you can finish the soup by stirring a dollop of cream into it in the bowl.  It doesn’t need it but worse things have been done to Pea Soup.
Some people also like a couple of potatoes in the pea soup, I don’t.  You can also substitute any good pork sausage for the ham.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Craziness and Goodness!

Well, this post is only a little over a week late - we've had so much going on, haven't had time to recap some new Thanksgiving goodies! Between out-of-town family around all weekend and a Holiday Market I went to with some of my cards and calendars, it was pretty hectic.

Photo: Charles Masters
On Thursday, with one side of the family, we brought the Fall Harvest Salad again, as it was greatly acclaimed and completely devoured last year. Then, as a potato dish, Darrell had found this Mashed Potato Casserole recipe which is so simple and SOOO good - the crusty parmesan/panko topping really made it wonderful, and the cream cheese instead of milk rendered it ultra creamy. My one change was to use Redskin potatoes, as that's what we had on hand.

I made the potato casserole Thursday morning while he worked on the dessert, which was a berry/apple crisp (cranberries and blueberries) with an oatmeal crisp topping, which was served with a home-made ice cream that he created. He had previously made Dolce de Leche from a gallon of fresh milk, made an apple cider reduction with cooked apples in it, and stirred all that goodness through some of his cooked custard French Vanilla ice cream. It was amazing!

Darrell also somehow whipped out a batch of Parker House rolls to take along - the entire kitchen workspace was covered in pots, pans, supplies and food in progress. I actually had to assemble the potato casserole on the kitchen table, darting into the kitchen to put the pot of potatoes on the stove to cook and then getting them drained, while dodging Darrell working on breads and desserts at the same time. Somehow we managed to not have any disasters or major squabbles!

I also made a corn pudding the night before, while getting the salad basics ready, from a recipe my friend Joan had shared:

Corn Pudding Recipe from Joan
2 cups corn
2T flour
1/2 tsp Salt
3T butter
3 eggs
2T sugar
1 3/4 cups Milk
Joan said, "I blend everything but the corn in the blender, then mix in corn and dump in casserole, bake at 325 for 45 minutes. You can also add dried parsley, dried onions, etc., according to your taste."

I (Conni) did not use the blender, but mixed the butter (melted) and the dry ingredients into a roux in a bowl, to which I slowly added and blended the milk, then added the eggs (which, looking back, could have been beaten well before hand, but didn't really matter). Then the corn (frozen corn from our summer garden - so sweet!); and I decided to use a half teaspoon of herbs de provence as a seasoning, before putting it into the baking dish. It was so custardy-creamy with all that sweet corn goodness, and the herbs de provence really added a nice touch.

Additionally, to this Thursday feast, we brought a Butternut Squash casserole - roasted squash, mashed to smoothness with a potato masher with butter, salt, and brown sugar, topped with pecans that had been oven-toasted in a little butter/brown sugar mix. The crispy sweet pecans were a great counterpoint to the creamy mashed squash. This is a great make-ahead dish, too, like the corn pudding. There's only so much craziness our little kitchen will stand on Thanksgiving morning!

Apparently this Thanksgiving we were all into "creamy", as this describes the potatoes, the squash, the corn pudding AND the ice cream dessert!

Then on Friday, with the other half of the family, we did a good-sized turkey, stuffed with Darrell's great sausage and sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, garden corn, and pumpkin and mince pies for dessert (with ice cream on the side!). We also had home-made fresh cranberry relish made with oranges and Granny Smith apples, and some home-made apple sauce. The leftover turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy went into the Turkey Pot Pies to stock in the freezer for easy winter dinners - so simple to put one in the oven before braving a blizzard to do the chores, returning to have it nearly finished, crusty and piping hot!

Pot Pies are now safely in the freezer, as I cooked down the carcass for broth, blended all that good pot pie gravy with the broth, potatoes, leftover stuffing and a quart of our home-canned chicken stock. Then I cooked the last of my garden carrots (the lovely, earthy smell of fresh carrots not long out of the ground is so sweet and tantalizing!), cut up the turkey, added some of our frozen corn and some store-bought frozen peas.