Saturday, January 10, 2015

What to cook when it gets cold?

It’s been just about as cold as it gets during winter in Houston lately and that’s had me thinking about cooking comforting, uncomplicated, and relatively easy meals. This first one is a soup, comes together rather quickly and can be served within an hour from start to finish.

Potato Leek Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed to cover bottom of your pot)
3 leeks*, white and light green parts only, cleaned well and finely sliced or chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
1 large shallot finely sliced
½ cup white wine
Small bunch of fresh thyme tied together with kitchen string. (If you don’t have fresh a couple of teaspoons of dry will do)
1 bay leaf
3 lbs potatoes but into chunks (Yukon Gold or Russet)
6 cups low sodium chicken broth (more if necessary to cover potatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon fresh ground pepper (white if you have it)
½ cup sour cream or crème fraiche
½ cup heavy cream
Sour cream, chives or finely sliced green onions for garnish

Heat a heavy bottomed 4-5 quart pot (I prefer an enameled cast iron pot) over medium heat. Add olive oil, leeks, garlic and shallot and cook over medium heat until the vegetables have wilted and become translucent, but not browned. Add white wine to deglaze. 

Stir in thyme and bay leaf, salt, pepper and potatoes. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

Remove the thyme and bay leaves. Let pot cool slightly and then puree using an immersion blender. Alternately, you can puree in a blender or food processor in batches. Pay attention not to overfill your container if you need to work in batches. Return to pot. If the mixture is too thick you may add more broth to bring it to a desired consistency. Stir in sour cream until it melts into the soup. Stir in cream. Adjust seasonings and serve. Garnish with a big dollop of sour cream, and minced chives or green onion.

* To clean leeks – Cut off the tops and bottoms of the leeks, then cut in half lengthwise. Rinse each half under running water making sure water gets to each layer and to remove any sand and grit between the leaves.

The second recipe requires more cooking time than it does prep time, but you can have this delicious meal on the table for dinner in just over an hour once you get it simmering.

My cousin Marcella Lolos shared this recipe with me years ago after she cooked it for dinner one night and I love it.

Marcella’s Hungarian Goulash

2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tb butter
3-4 lbs stew meat (cubed)
1 large onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
½ tsp dry mustard
3 tsp paprika
¾ cup ketchup
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water (or enough to cover meat)

Add olive oil and butter to a heavy bottomed 5-6 quart pot (I prefer enameled cast iron). Brown meat in batches over medium high heat until nicely caramelized. Reserve meat.

Add onions to pot on medium heat and stir until they become translucent and slightly caramelized. Add garlic and stir for one minute. Stir in dry mustard, paprika, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Return meat to pot. Add about a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper, then pour in enough water to cover meat by at least half an inch.  Bring to a simmer. Cover and continue simmering about an hour or until meat becomes tender and sauce reduces and begins to slightly thicken.  Serve over buttered noodles.

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