Archive for soup

friday dinners

Posted in delicious stories, vague recipes with tags , , , , on December 28, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

I wouldn’t say that it has happened enough to make it a habit, but if I have my way this winter it just might: Friday night dinners at my place. With the end of the semester, the work load eased enough for me to find myself with time on my hands. The weather also got accomodatingly chilly, sending me searching for recipes for stews and soups and while it is nice to make a big pot of soup on Sunday and enjoy it for the rest of the week, it is even nicer to make a big pot of soup on Friday and share it with whomever can stop by.

The first Friday dinner was after Thanksgiving. We were all still a little full– some people had decided that a week of raw vegetables was the antidote to a weekend of feasting, some planned dinner parties of salads, and I decided that I would finally find a recipe for fish stew. I knew what it was that I wanted, lots of different meats of the sea,  in a tomatoe-y broth, probably some onion, a splash of wine, garlic of course, pepper, and what else….? Maybe fennel? After browsing through some recipes and finding none that had exactly all of the elements I was looking for, I decided that I would wing it with a modicum of good sense and see what I came up with. On the particular Friday I had only two obligations: visit a new mom and baby and make fish stew. Obligations, now that is the wrong word. Since I was taking the train out to visit mom and baby I decided that I would stop at the fish stand in Reading Terminal Market to make the fishy purchases and since there were some veggie vendors still open at that time of night, I was set.

Here is what I bought for a fish stew dinner for four:

1 lb of cod

1/2 lb of shrimp

1 dozen tiny mussels

1/2 dozen clams

1 bulb of fennel

1 bunch of parsley

onions and garlic and carrots were at the house

Lilli brought a loaf of delicious bread that was soft but with an excellent crust. A loaf of bread meant for tearing and dipping.

Matt brought salty, divine salami coated in herbs de provence

Joe rustled up the canned tomatoes that I needed and a jug of wine.

I made my purchases at the market and then walked home through the windy streets. There was snow promised in the forecast and they were setting up the Christmas lights in city hall.  I cut down along Arch Street enjoying the wind and the bump of my bags against my leg. There was no reason to hurry and even the cold didn’t bother me all that much.

I had not invited that many people over since Lilli was planning on hosting a feast out at her place on Saturday. The plan was supposed to be me, Joe, Lilli, Matt, and Alex but Alex got pulled away by other adventures…..

So, fish stew for four.

I finely minced the fennel, the onion, the garlic, and the carrot. That went into the pot with some olive oil to sautee. Then, I decided that I would quickly sautee the cod in a separate pan just to get a nice brown crust on the edges. Once the cod was browned, the shrimp deveined and washed, and the shellfish soaked and lightly scrubbed, everything went into the pot along with the two large cans of crushed tomatoes, some generous glugs of wine, and plenty of crushed pepper. The soup sat on the stove and glurped and bubbled while we all compared work weeks, tore off hunks of bread and ate them with the salami. The wine jug was passed around and the soup was ready within the hour. I didn’t add salt until the very end. I wasn’t sure how much of a salt the shellfish would add when they opened and I wasn’t sure how far the soup would cook down so I waited until I was about to serve the stew to salt it to my taste, which is a little saltier than most.  Poured out into bowls and topped with some chopped parsely we had ourselves some fish stew. My favorite part, other than the taste,  was seeing the shells of the clams and mussels peeking out of the red-winey broth. Like the bolognese sauce, I think that the reason I was so pleased with this stew was that it tasted exactly like I was hoping that it would.

It is always a disappointment when you spend all day cooking something and it smells right, and it looks right but when you take the first bite, there is something a little off. This fish stew was winey and earthy from the fennel and had that fresh from the sea taste of the shellfish. The cod practically disintegrated in the cooking process but the shrimp and mussels were juicy and sweet.

The soup was slurped up and remnants mopped up with pieces of bread. I think that we all had seconds and drank enough wine to get unreasonably sleepy by about nine o’clock. But since Matt and I both had to be up at dawn the next day, none of us felt too terrible for tucking in and calling it a night.

The second Friday night dinner was two weeks later. Again a snow storm had been forecasted and the temperature had dropped even further. The week before had been spent in a haze of exams and last minute preparations for the upcoming winter break. I had another soup in mind, one that I wanted to make in the slow cooker since I was going to be studying for most of the day and my exam was scheduled around the prime hour of dinner preparations. Since Emily Tredeau was in town and had a little bit of a morning to hang out, I thought that again I would make the dinner purchases at Reading Terminal Market. The plan was a sausage and arugula soup with mushrooms on toast (a recipe stolen from Smitten Kitchen).

Emily and I set off in the morning, bundled up as much as we could. The wind was cold and sharp but it was a clear day.

What was purchased:

1 lb of chicken sausage with fennel, garlic, and white wine

16 oz chicken broth

10 cremini mushrooms

1 lavender cupcake (for dessert) and 1 peanut butter and chocolate cupcake (eaten to fortify us for the walk back)

again, the onions and garlic were at home. And I had some left over fennel fronds and parsely that needed to get used up.

Purchases made and Amish cinnamon buns oogled, Emily and I headed through city hall. As a visitor to the city, Emily had wanted to take a tour of city hall. I knew that there was a long list of drugs and diseases that I needed to get home to memorize, but the temptation to spend the wonderful day out and exploring my own city won out. We ducked into the gift store and asked how long a tour was. There was a 15 minute, $4.00 tour of “The Tower.”  Surely I could spare 15 minutes of my day….

Not really knowing what we were getting ourselves in for, Emily and I made our way up to the Tower. Turns out that the Tower in question was the spire that reaches out of the center of city hall, houses the clocks, and upon William Penn in his two (three, four? I am not sure,  I didn’t pay as much attention on the tour as I should have) ton glory stands. Led by a gruff security guard to a small elevator we ascended up past the clocks to the look-out deck and down below us and for forty miles around us we could see the city of Philadelphia. It was glorious.

Adventures for the morning completed, I headed back to my apartment to begin cooking and studying.

The onions and garlic were sauteed with a little olive oil and then I browned the meat in the same pan. I deglazed the pan with a little whiskey and then the onions and sausage, the whiskey, the fennel fronds, and the chicken broth with some pepper went into the slow cooker. Again, I didn’t salt the soup since I didn’t know how much it would reduce and because the sausage was rather salty. The whole mess then got left alone until about 8 hours.

The mushrooms on toast were made with an adapted recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I finely minced the mushrooms, some garlic, and some parsley. That went into a skillet with some butter and olive oil. I cooked the mushrooms down and then added a splash of red wine. The wine was cooked off and then I added a small dollope of sour cream. When it came time for dinner I toasted some bread, added the mushrooms and then topped with some more sour cream. These tasty mushroom toasts with the soup that had become a rich meaty broth were perfect for the bitterly cold evening. I also made some mulled wine with Limoncello, cinammon, and sliced clementines. The soup was laddled over fresh arugula and topped with some pecorino cheese. The arugula added a peppery green bite to the heaviness of the soup and the cheese melted on top just like a good french onion soup. For dessert there was dark chocolate and the lavender cupcake that I purchased with Emily earlier in the day at a small bakery stand called the Flying Monkey. As we were ladling out the soup, Matt arrived with a bulb of fennel, two giant oranges, and again the delicious salami.  I sliced up the fennel and sprinkled some salt and vinegar over it and it was a fresh, sweet, crunchy addition to the other heavier items of the meal.

After dinner, we all bundled up and headed off to Toby’s Weekly Review.

For both of these dinners, the left overs were superb.

Here’s to hoping there are more Friday dinners….

Un beso,
Wave

Advertisements