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Friday, February 21, 2014

Kitchen Sink Soup

As the name would suggest, or at least vaguely hint at?  (I think the proper usage is supposed to be something like 'everything but the kitchen sink' to indicate massive and indiscriminate quantities of a variety of things...) this is a soup that I made with pretty much everything I had on hand.  So... NOT a soup that I made in my kitchen sink.  So maybe this is NOT 'as the name would suggest' at all.

What I "had on hand" was mostly a schwack of root vegetables that were starting to get a little too dry and old for 'fresh' uses.  When this happens in large quantities, I automatically turn to things like soups and stews.

I always envisioned our proverbial 'ancestors of old' using really gnarly and (positively disgusting by our well-fed standards today) misfit vegetables in their cooking.  I mean, I think that's how things like soups and stews kind of rose to such celebrity back then... you could throw in the shittiest cut of the ass-end of a strange unidentifiable animal your grandpappy ran over with his wagon, and then pad it with all the dusty crap that is starting to make your storeroom smell a little funky.  Boil it all up in a giant cauldron for hours or days, not only to soften and tenderize all those gross things, but ostensibly to also kill anything that might have been living (thriving probably) on this sorry jetsam.  Hot and filling, however, this sludge was probably received enthusiastically to our starving and poorly-put-upon ancestors.


Nowadays, stews and soups are holdovers sure, but can be fresh and tasty and even healthy and good for you.  And when I say that my veggies were getting a little too dry and old for 'fresh' uses, I'm sure that they would have passed as 'excellent' quality a hundred years ago.  :)  Oh how they would think we are spoiled.

Now, something which has always been interesting to me (and which, if I'm to be honest, has always kind of confounded me) is the fact that many vegetable soups are in fact made with beef stock.  Isn't that messed up?

When I make vegetable soups I use vegetable stock.  It just seems like a no-brainer to me.  But whatever.

This soup, though, is not a vegetable soup.  ;)

This is a beef soup with vegetables.  Basically, if you added beef (and some thickener) it would be beef stew.

So, don't get all up in my bidness over that.  I am right there with you on non-vegan vegetable soup.


Anyway, here are a couple of shots of everything I put in there:

As you can see, we've got a lot of onion and green onion, a shallot, a whole bunch of garlic, some tomatoes and some carrots.

This is not meant to be suggestive in any way; this was simply all I had that needed getting rid of.  My own particular 'sorry jetsam'.  If I had had more root vegetables, or perhaps some celery, those would be in there as well.

So the first (and definitely most time consuming) thing to do is to prep all these veggies.  Because I was going to purée pretty much everything in the blender, I could get away with only loosely chopping most of them, which thankfully does save on some time.

Except for the carrots and the green of the scallions.  Those are getting put aside for later.

First thing I puréed was the tomatoes.

 I coarsely strained out the seeds and some of the pulp, but then poured the remainder into my slow cooker.

The root veggies were a little more involved.  Whenever I cook with onions I like to make sure that they've been softened.  I know that in a soup like this where it is going to be cooking slowly all afternoon that I really do NOT need to worry about that.  But, it's a habit.  Plus it helps to concentrate all of these flavours together.  So rather than one really sharp onion flavour here or there in a soup, doing this will diffuse these flavours evenly throughout the entire dish.  I'm a big fan of diffusion.  I find it pleasing.  :)

So, sauté time.

We're using butter this time children.

Not a lot, just enough to sauté all the root veggies and vampirically absorb all of their flavour.  Just now I briefly wondered about adding the word 'vampirically' to my online dictionary.  In the end I decided not to. Perhaps the next time I use it will be vampirically's day.

The onions go in first, because they take the longest.

Then the shallots and much of the scallions.

Finally the garlic, which is chopped very loosely, because I don't want the nutty flavour of garlic that's been roasted too long.

Anyway, that simmers on medium-low for about 5-10 minutes.

Only to be removed from heat once the onions become translucent.  And a little golden on the exposed bits.

JUST like this excellent photo:


This could be the base for almost anything delicious.

You could put a boot in there and it would taste awesome.  Or grandpappy's unidentifiable roadkill, which is probably the point of all this.  :)

Anyway, that gets puréed.   A lot.

Times like this I yearn for a better blender.  Someday soon I will be getting a Vitamix I think.  Until then... pulse... pulse...pulse...pulse...pulse...


And then into the slow cooker to join the lonely tomatoes.

Mixing these two up creates a beautiful and ever so appetizing brownish puke colour, that just makes me want to cut in with a spoon right away.

Mmmmmm... ack.

Now, because I wanted this to taste good and not just be a healthy hodgepodge of vegetables, I decided to add some beef stock.

I had one jar left from about a year ago when I made a ginormous roast beef and canned the stock.

Because canning is still relatively new for me -- only really been doing it for the last few years -- it is always gratifying to me when I pull something out of the cupboard that has been in there for a very long time, and it is still totally sealed and relatively fresh inside.  Perhaps this feeling will fade as I become a prolific canner, as is my dream, but for now it still feels novel.

This jar gave a very pleasant pop as it was opened, and I discovered I had a very fatty stock on my hands.

Vegetarians look away now!!!

Heh heh heh.

Those chunks of white crud floating on the surface are coagulations of congealed fat deposits.  And they're what is going to make my soup absolutely delicious.  And they're also going to be responsible for bringing my soup's 'healthy' quotient down to more respectable (and tasty) levels.  

Mmmmm... tasty levels.

I'm not saying you couldn't make this without fatty beef stock.  In fact, I believe I said something earlier about being reasonably confounded at the use of beef broth in vegetable soups.

What I am saying is that this soup is going to be delicious.

And so I stirred that stock into my slow cooker, fat and all (those chunks are going to melt nicely).

Still a putrid vomit colour, complete with mysterious red and white chunks.  Appetizing.

But we're not done yet.

Those carrots and green onions we saved for later, well it is now 'later', so let's bring those out and chop them up nicely.  I mean these are going to be seen and eaten as-is, so make 'em look pretty people.

But otherwise just dump those in.

And, together with some bay leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper, it is ready to cook all afternoon.

I will grant you that this doesn't look all that tasty here.  Kinda grey and sad.  Like it wants to jump straight out of the pot, down the drain, and not stop until it reaches its nirvana of my municipality's water treatment facility where it can be gloriously reincarnated as somebody's drinking water.  Yes... my soup is apparently Buddhist.

But I asked it to just hold on for a few hours; to place its trust in me for just a little while.

Anyway, I think it was glad it stuck around, because take a look at what it turned into seven hours later:

Definitely looks more soup-like.  Certainly looks more delicious-like.

Unfortunately this is where the photo train stopped for this excursion.  It happens sometimes when I'm starving and I get more excited about eating the food than documenting the food.  Sorry.

Suffice it to say, I served this up in some large but shallow soup bowls, accompanied with large chunks of freshly ripped artisan bread for dipping.

It was really satisfying.  

Just as I had hoped it would be when it was still just a nugget of a soup dream inside my head 8 hours earlier, on a cold February morning.