Mid-Winter Recipes

So I'm always talking about how our stewing hens make a great soup, but I haven't yet shared many chicken soup recipes with you.  Now is a great time, while various illnesses are running rampant through schools, homes, and workplaces, to eat soup.  And I'm always mentioning soup stock, but if you've never made it and are wondering what the deal is I'll tell you about it.

Chicken Soup for mid-Winter Health

For the Stock:

One stewing hen
One large celeriac root, hairy part of the roots trimmed off and the remainder cut in 2 inch chunks
2 medium onions, quartered, skin, roots, and all
2 large carrots, cut in 2"chunks
1/2 bundle parsley, no need to chop
1 teaspoon salt

In a large soup pot, place the hen and vegetables and salt and enough water to cover everything.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, for four hours.  Strain through a colander.  Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and discard bones.
It's that simple!  You now have a rich and flavorful stock to use right now in the soup of your choice, or to freeze for later use.  Once you learn how simple it is you can substitute many vegetables and herbs using this very basic recipe.  If you prefer not to use chicken, a stock made from vegetables alone is still a very tasty option (you can add a dab of butter or oil to it for some extra richness if desired.), and it only needs to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

For the soup:

1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons sunflower oil

2 or three leeks, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 cup celeriac, diced (after peeling)
1 teaspoon each dried thyme and tarragon
4 cups chopped or sliced carrots
2/3 cup sliced gobo or burdock root (hopefully you stocked up on gobo from Wintergreen Farm last fall and have some in your 'fridge!)
3/4 cup white jasmine or basmati rice
10 cups stock/water
meat from the cooked stewing hen
1/2 bundle cutting celery, minced
3 cups chopped kale (stems also)
1 Tablespoon vinegar
Salt to taste

In a heavy soup pot, sautee the leeks in butter and oil (salt lightly), stirring occasionally, for several minutes, until the leeks are soft and translucent.  Add the celeriac and stir, cooking for several minutes.  Add herbs and stir again.  Stir in carrots and cook for several more minutes, then add gobo and do the same.  Stir in rice to coat with oil and seasonings and cook for a few minutes more.  Add cooked chicken, plus the stock (if you do not have enough stock for 10 cups, substitute enough water to complete).  Simmer (I've learned that soups taste better when they are not allowed to boil for long.) until the vegetables seem nicely tender and the rice is cooked (10-15 minutes).  Add the cutting celery and simmer for a few minutes.  Add the kale and cook a couple minutes more.  Add vinegar and salt to taste just before serving.

This recipe feeds five and yields a generous amount left-over to freeze for winter emergencies when you're feeling under the weather and need some good soup, quick. 
Of course, you can make a smaller recipe and freeze the leftover stock and chicken for another use.
This soup goes well with baked winter squash and a slaw of savoy cabbage, grated beet, and grated carrot.
If you've been reading these recipes for a while now and don't yet know how to make slaw, you'll just have to call and invite yourself over to dinner.  We'll fix you up right away.
Enjoy in good health.

Here are some great winter recipes ... though winter is fading as weather warms, seeds sprout, buds break, and chicks peep, we are still enjoying sweet roots from storage as well as tender, vibrant new growth from the plants which have bravely overwintered in the fields.

These three recipes come to us from our friend Ann, who lived and worked with us in 1996 ... gosh, that's twenty years ago now!
Ann quickly embraced cooking with farm ingredients and home food systems when she came here, and for years afterward she has sent us recipes she enjoyed as well as tales of other culinary adventures, like perfecting her method for making butter at home from fresh cream, or making gnocchi from scratch.

Hot Borscht

2 medium onions, diced
2 Tablespoons sunflower oil
2 cups shredded carrot
2 cups shredded beets
2 cups shredded potatoes
4 cups thinly-shredded cabbage
6 cups water
2 cups tomato puree or pulp(when tomato season hits like a hurricane next fall, remember to stock up and can or freeze plenty to go into winter sauces and soups!)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Sautee diced onions in a heavy soup pot containing heated oil until the onions are translucent.  Add each of the other shredded vegetables in turn, stirring and cooking each for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, bring the water and tomatoes to a boil.  Add liquid and salt to the veggies and simmer about 30 minutes, until the veggies are tender.  When the cooking is completed, add the lemon juice.  Traditionally served with a dollop of sour cream, or you can try yogurt or creme fraiche.

Serves 4 and goes well with baked winter squash, a mixed salad, or sauteed kale or rapini.

Potage Bonne Femme

2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon oil
1 1/2 cups sliced leeks
2 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 teaspoon tarragon
3 cups potatoes, diced
6 cups water or stock
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon honey
ground pepper, to taste
chopped parsley of cutting celery

Heat oil and butter in a 5 quart soup pot.  When melted, add leeks and carrot, stir to coat, and cook over gentle heat until hot and impregnated with fat.  Add tarragon and stir while cooking the leek and carrot.  You can scrub and dice the potatoes while the other veggies are cooking.  Add potatoes to the pot along with the water, salt, and honey.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. 
Puree soup in a blender or push through a food mill or coarse sieve depending on your preferred texture.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste and garnish with parsley or cutting celery.
Serves 4 and is great accompanied by a quiche or frittata, roast beets, and salad.

Potatoes au Gratin

This recipe is from Ann's Mom.

3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 Cups milk
5 medium to large potatoes, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
3 Cups grated cheese (sharp or medium cheddar works well)

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Stir in the flour, then slowly and gradually add the milk, stirring and cooking until a thin sauce results. 
Spoon some sauce into the bottom of a heavy baking dish (pyrex or cast iron works well).  Add a layer of sliced potatoes and most of the onions, and top with 2 1/2 cups grated cheese.  Layer in the remaining potatoes and onions.  Pour the remaining sauce over the top, and then the remaining cheese.  Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350.  Remove the cover and cook for 20 more minutes to brown the top.
Serves 4 and goes well with the borscht above and some nice greens ... braised or a salad.