Friday, January 25, 2013

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

The perfect comfort soup for any day
A creamy delight and ultimate comfort food: Creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup!

1.  Onion - diced.
2.  Garlic - a couple of cloves.
3.  Celery - diced.
4.  Butter - half a stick  - this soup will feed four.  For more, well, increase the ingredients accordingly.
5.  2 tbsp. of Extra Virgin Olive oil.
6.  1/4 cup of flour
7.  Half and half or for a rich and creamier experience use Heavy Cream. (2 cups)
8.  Spices: fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, dried oregano, dried bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
9.  Chicken stock -  32 oz.
10.  Chicken - white meat is preferred, but that is totally subjective. - Roast it or grill it, just make sure it is cooked and shredded or cubed.
10.  Carrots - metzo luna or half moon or shredded.
11.  Gnocchi - home made or store bought.
12.  Baby portabella or crimini mushrooms - purely optional, but I like the body and flavor that it adds.
13.  Baby spinach or kale - I prefer spinach.

Half of the soup is all about the roux or what is known as the Bachemel or white sauce.  In a pot, coat it with a generous helping of Extra Virgin Olive oil and half stick of butter.  Add the diced onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Sweat the veggies in the oil and butter mixture.  Add the fresh thyme and rosemary, season with salt and pepper.  Add the 1/4 cup of flour.  The flour and butter/oil combination is going to turn into something like a paste.  Be careful not to burn the flour.  Add the half & half (or heavy cream) very slowly and delicately stirring the pot in intervals as you are pouring in the cream little by little.  This loosens up the paste and prevents lumps from forming and giving time for the cream and roux to marry.  Add the chicken and the chicken stock and the dried bay leaves.  Turn up the heat to bring the soup into a boil, then simmer it down.  Add the gnocchi, mushrooms and the last item should be the spinach or kale (this should be placed in the pot about five minutes before serving for a robust green presentation and texture.  Add a dash of nutmeg to compliment the spinach, but not too much and if you don't have any, don't worry about it.

Eat with:
1.  Parmesan cheese.
2.  Italian bread or a bruchetta.
3.  I like to add cayenne and fresh Jalapenos for a kick.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili

a perfect winter surprise: Chipotle Black Bean Chili
Sounds complicated but it isn't.  Extremely flavorful and satisfying.  Another bonus is that you can adjust the heat according to taste (cut back on the chili powder, for instance).  Here is my little twist onto a basic and delicious pot of chili.

1.  Bacon - cut it up into small pieces.
2.  Onion - diced.
3.  Red, Yellow and Orange peppers - seeded and diced.
4.  Garlic - 2 cloves or according to taste.
5.  Spices - 2 tbsp. of chili powder; 1.5 tbsp. of chipotle chili powder; 2 tbsp. of cummin, a dash of cayenne, and tsp. of dried oregano, and a pinch of paprika, salt and pepper and two or three bay leaves. (You can always adjust the spices according to taste).
6.  1 lb. of ground beef (your choice, I like the 85% for the fat and flavor, but it's purely subjective).
7.  1 lb. of ground pork (or ground turkey) - adds body to the chili but not the fat. - I personally like ground pork better than ground turkey, but either way works.
8.  2 cups of beef broth.
9.  2 medium cans of black beans - drained. - btw, I just really like black beans, by all means if you like Red Kidney beans or  a combination or whatever other beans there are, help yourself, it's your chili.
10.  1 large can of crushed tomatoes.
11.  1 large can of diced tomatoes.

First, turn the heat on medium/low and place the bacon pieces in first to render the fat out of them and get them crispy for texture.  The bacon fat will be useful for flavor and for cooking the onions and peppers.  No oil necessary as it will come from the bacon and beef.  Stir in the diced onion, garlic, & peppers.  Sweat them out.  Add the spices (no. 5) to flavor the onions and peppers.  Then, add the meat and stir and cook the meat through.  Add the 2 cups of beef stock to add flavor and moisture to the mix.  Add the drained black beans, which then you will need to "fold" the beans into the pot so you don't bruise and beat up the beans. Add the cans of crushed and diced tomatoes.  Allow all these flavors and spices to marry (just let it simmer, low and slow).

Eat with:
1.  A bowl with rice at the bottom of the bowl.
2.  Sour cream on top.
3.  Grated cheese or onions for garnish.
4.  A good Italian or French bread in the oven for soaking up all that chili goodness. (Corn bread, too).
5.  Next day: Chili dogs!