Posts Tagged With: Soup

Year Round Recipes: Irish Onion Soup

Is there a more aromatically alluring allium than this?

Besides garlic, is there a more aromatically alluring allium than this?

With free time finally returning to my schedule, I decided to spend an afternoon finding a soul- and palate-satisfying recipe to replace the drab peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which have accompanied me to work over the past six months. And, despite the hot and sticky weather that’s been plaguing central PA recently, I found myself craving the sweet, historic tang of French onion soup. French onion has always been a favorite of mine, as it so exquisitely satisfies my love for root vegetables, melted cheese, and recipes designed by the ancient Greeks.

Although France didn’t quite exist when onion soups first debuted on the world stage, the use of fried/caramelized onions in soups eventually spread to the Anglo-Saxon and Gallic regions of pre-modern Europe, where they quickly became incorporated into the working-man’s repertoire of hearty, inexpensive sops. It’s important to note that a sop is far more than an apparent misspelling of “soup;” and, it is, in fact, an entirely different dish altogether! While the star attraction of a soup is the liquid and what’s incorporated into it, the whole point of a sop is the large hunk of (usually) crusty bread that gets plopped right in the center of a bowl of broth (which then “sops” up the soup!). The sop tradition carried through European time and space to eventually influence the great French chefs cuisiniers of the 17 century, who expertly combined their unmatched onion broths with large chunks of toasted French bread and inspired countless generations of future chefs to do the same.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m going on about French onion soup when we’re actually making Irish onion soup. And my answer to that is that we are, in fact, continuing the tradition of French onion, but with a slightly modern twist. Thanks to the ingenuity of The Beeroness, I’ve been inspired to try swapping out the white wine usually simmered into a classic French onion soup with a dark stout. Since the original onion soups of antiquity were concocted by the working class, this slight alteration seemed more fitting (and delicious!) than irreverent. So, let’s dig in!

Irish Onion Soup Recipe

 

Stout and onions: a surprisingly perfect combination.

Stout and onions: a surprisingly perfect combination.

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds of white onions (about 3 medium sized onions)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce bottle of stout
  • 2 cups stock (beef or vegetable)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • French bread or croutons
  • 1 cup of shredded or sliced cheese (Gruyère is traditional, but a wide variety of easily melted cheeses will work)

Directions

  1. Peel and slice your onions into thin, 1/4″ rings.
  2. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the onions, brown sugar, and salt. Mix well and let simmer for at least 50 minutes to 1 hour (trust me, the longer you let your onions cook, the sweeter and more caramelized they’ll be in the end). Stir onions every occasionally to ensure that they cook evenly without burning.
  3. When the onions have caramelized, stir in 1/2 cup of the stout and let simmer over medium heat until the beer dissipates and the pot is nearly dry.
  4. Pour in the remaining beer, stock, and black pepper. Return to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Turn on your oven’s broiler; ladle the soup into oven-safe crocks; and top each crock with some French bread and cheese.
  6. Place prepared crocks under the broiler just until the cheese has melted.
  7. Serve and enjoy a modern twist on some delicious history!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s kitchen excavation! I hope you’ll stop by next time as we dig into the breadier side of French cuisine!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Cooking, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year Recipes: Lucky Ham and Lentil Soup

From humanity’s first steps into civilization to our post-postmodern cultures, we have always been a people fascinated by time. Today, it seems a simple fact of life that we inhabit a planet suspended in a near-infinite vastness which orbits a flaming orb of molten fusion whose light and heat radiation grants us the day/night and seasonal cycles we take for granted. However, for our ancient ancestors, who were without a longstanding, scientific record of the nature of the cosmos, these cycles were anything but certain. As religion and faith wove into human existence, supernatural meaning was attributed to the shifting sun. For many cultures, the sun became a god or entity who was continually fighting for his survival. In the spring and summer months, the sun was the unbridled champion of the sky, ruling with long days and short nights; but, as winter approached, the sun began to falter and the night again grew strong. After the winter solstice passed, celebrations at the end of December (many on December 25th) shook the ancient world as the sun remained victorious for another cycle.

As modern people, we tend to look at our ancestor’s end-of-year beliefs as uninformed foolishness which have no place in our rational world. But, as the new year grows closer, we seem to, if only by accidental tradition, slip back into the superstitions and festivals of our ancestors in order to instill luck in the coming year. In many modern cultures, coins are given as gifts (or baked into breads) at New Year feasts as a way of bestowing the spirit of fortune on those we love. In some circles, cooked turkey or fowl fly the revelers towards a better year. Other cultures heartily disagree with this belief, as birds “scratch backwards” to find food, a sure sign of hard times for the new year. Instead, it is believed that pigs are the true guardians of good luck (whether real or pretend, like the marzipan pigs of Germany), as they “root forward” to better pastures. And finally, lentils of any variety (particularly black eyed peas in America’s southern states) are said to inspire good luck and fortune because of their round coin-like appearance, signifying the completion of the old year and the fortune of the next. Because my background lies in several of these traditions, I thought it only appropriate to share one of my family’s favorite soup recipes that’s as delicious as is it lucky!

Lucky Ham and Lentil Soup

Cold weather veggies: a perfect addition to a soup full of luck and flavor!

Cold weather veggies: a perfect addition to a soup full of luck and flavor!

Ingredients

  •  Leftover chopped ham and ham hock (this is a great way to use any leftover ham from Christmas!)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 chopped celery stalks
  • 4 chopped carrots
  • 4 medium potatoes, chopped (optional)
  • 1 pound of lentils/beans
  • 12 ounces of diced, canned tomatoes
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons ham soup base
  • 32-64 ounces of chicken stock (2 cartons)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Soak lentils in 2 quarts of water overnight to rehydrate. Drain thoroughly after the lentils have soaked.
  2. Mix ham soup base and hot water together and pour into a large stock pot. Add in the onion, celery, carrots, potatoes, lentils, tomatoes, and ham Muddle or smash some of the beans to fully release their flavor.
  3. Pour in 32 ounces of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and continue boiling for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to keep the soup from sticking to the pot. If the soup begins to look dry, gradually add in more of the chicken stock.
  4. After the soup has boiled for an hour, remove the ham bone and cut off any meat still attached. Chop this meat into small cubes and return to the pot.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 2 – 3 hours and occasionally sip to taste. You can also move the soup to a crock pot/slow cooker for this step.
  6. When the soup is at your preferred consistency, season to taste and enjoy a bowl of lucky lentil soup!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! Be sure to stop back in on Tuesday for another recipe unearthed specifically for the New Year!

Happy holidays and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Cooking, History, Odds and Ends, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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