So very proud in Durham

Cumulatively, in my entire life, I don’t think I have been thanked as much as I was yesterday afternoon.

Caution: Subject may appear way nerdier than he actually is.

I hung out with Maxie, one of my oldest friends.  We met in high school.  Doing the math yesterday, we realized we’ve been friends for thirty-seven years.  He is basically the nicest guy on the planet–I’ve never even seen him cranky.

Maxie and his husband Mark were at Durham Pride.  Pride is a weekend of activities celebrating, advocating, and supporting the LGBT community.  Through their church, Calvary United Methodist, they would hand out bottles of water to parade participants.  I joined them.How to describe the scene?  Well, imagine if colors, glitter, and feathers had rained from the sky, and this rain not only coated everyone, but made everybody it touched into best friends.  The air was thick with love and fun.  It was a grand example of the brotherhood of humanity.  I felt lucky to be there.

But.

In our shade-less spot it was hotter than deep-fried fire.  We were passing out bottles of water as fast as we could.  I’ve no idea how many bottles went through my sunburned paws, but in return for each and every one I received a giant smile and heart-felt thanks.

This was my favorite float in the whole parade.  If I live to 1000, I’ll never be as fabulous as the sisters.

We ran out at least twice, and volunteers made a run to Harris Teeter.  By the end, 2100 bottles had been handed out.  And I had a blast.

Afterward, the three of us were famished, so we walked up to Dane’s Place (754 9th St) for lunch.  Everybody ordered cheeseburgers, and nobody was disappointed.  They have about twenty possible toppings, so our every whim was satisfied.  I had cheddar, grilled onions, and tomatoes, slathered with way too much mayo, just the way I like it.  They also have a really good fountain Coke, and the best tater tots in town.

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Here I am in Dane’s, the filling in a man sandwich.  Check out that glitter on Mark.

After lunch, I ran a couple of errands on the way home.  First I hit Whole Foods.  After that meal there was no way I was making a big dinner for Petey and myself, so I picked up one of my spouse’s favorite dinners from their grab and go section.

That man loves Whole Foods burritos.  His traditional fave has been chicken adobo.  But recently it’s been AWOL and in its place they’ve had chicken mole.  Mole’s a complex sauce with seeds, nuts, spices, and usually some unsweetened chocolate.  From the way he devoured it, I don’t think he misses the adobo one bit.After that stop I was starting to hanker for chocolate.  Since I calculated that during my stint as water girl I’d worked off forty or fifty pounds, I headed to one of my favorite stops for sweet self-indulgences; Parker and Otis.

Luckily for my waistline, fate had different plans.

They had many gorgeous, delicious-looking treats on offer (six kinds of cupcakes, blondies, brownies, and assorted cookies), but they also had my favorite P&O summer-time treat: fresh corn and tomato salad.  They cut the fresh corn off the cob in big pieces and mix it with assorted small tomatoes, red onion, and parsley, all tossed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  Instead of sweets, I bought a half pound of summer salad.  But I could happily eat a bucket of it.While I was waiting for the salad to be packaged, I wandered around their autumn and Halloween displays.  Store owner Jennings Brody has curated a seasonal collection which includes everything from mallow pumpkins (my personal favorite) to very exclusive hand-crafted chocolates. If you need a dose of either sweets or fall inspiration, Parker & Otis is one of the best spots in Durham.  Regardless of the temperature outside, you’ll leave with the rustle of fallen leaves in your head, and the desire for a cozy sweater to wrap around your shoulders.So, although yesterday was an entirely new experience and one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time, it was also a typical day in Durham.

Because even though Pride is only one weekend each September, our Bull City is an off-beat, charming mix of diversity, acceptance, and friendship, with a generous helping of delicious, unique food every single day of the year.

I just love this twisted little burg.

Thanks for your time.

Mumbo gumbo

“Don’t bring your lunch tomorrow, I told my workmates.  I’ll bring food for all y’all I told ‘em.”

nhs buds

Four of my best friends in the world.  From left: Bo, Waldo, Kat, and Kelsi.

That was Bo; one of my very best and oldest friends.

She called me last night at 11:00.  And if you knew Bo, you’d know how very unusual this is.  Petey and I are unqualified, dyed-in-the-wool night owls, but my friend not only goes to bed with the chickens, she’s the one urging them along.

Bo is my kitchen role model.  She’s been a great cook since we were kids.  Her calm and confidence with all things food inspires me to try new things, even when it scares me.

So, when the phone rang, and it was Bo, but a nervous, worried Bo, I knew something was up.  She told me I was the only person that she could call this late at night (I think she must hang out with farmers and milkmen in Elizabeth City).

Those guys are straight-up party animals.

My culinary rock, the strongest, most authentic person I’ve ever known was in a tizzy because she was making gumbo for her colleagues at her new job, and realized that she had no flour for roux.

Roux is a French word, which in English roughly translates to reddish-brown.  It’s a 50/50 cooked mixture of flour and fat.  Roux can be any shade from very light blond to dark, chocolatey brown.  As roux cooks it darkens and the thickening power decreases, so more must be used. I use it almost exclusively when making gravies and thick, cream soups.  My roux of thumb (Roux of thumb; see what I did there?) is normally peanut butter-colored.  It thickens well, and imparts a buttery, nutty flavor to the food.

I use it almost exclusively when making gravies and thick, cream soups.  My roux of thumb (Roux of thumb; see what I did there?) is normally peanut butter-colored.  It thickens well, and imparts a buttery, nutty flavor to the food.

In Cajun cooking, the roux is much more rustic and cooked to a dark, brick color, which colors the food, and gives it a rich smoky flavor.

This is cajun roux.  Go any further and it is burned and unusable.

Well Bo was in the middle of a very important pot of gumbo, and out of flour.  Unfortunately, it was 10PM, and in Elizabeth City there are no 24-hour Kroger stores offering shelf after shelf of various flours for sale.

Well Bo was in the middle of a very important pot of gumbo, and out of flour.  Unfortunately, it was 10PM, and in Elizabeth City there are no 24-hour Kroger stores offering shelf after shelf of various flours for sale.

So what’s a desperate culinary rock to do?

My girl made a substitution.  She used a combination of waffle mix and white cornmeal.

And it worked.

Since you don’t normally get anything hot and spicy from me, she graciously offered to share this recipe for her spicy Cajun gumbo.  I love her make-do roux, but if you want traditional, just use one cup each flour and vegetable oil.

bo's roux

Bo’s make-do roux.

Bo’s Gumbo

gumbo

1 lb. Andouille, sliced

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

2 green peppers, chopped

8 ribs celery, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 bag frozen cut okra

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp dried red pepper flakes

8 cups (or so) chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

After cutting up the chicken I sprinkle it with salt, black pepper, cayenne, granulated garlic, onion powder, oregano, thyme and paprika, mix it to coat well and let it sit for a few minutes.

For the roux I used 1 cup of oil 3/4 cup of Krusteaz waffle mix and 1/4 cup white cornmeal.

Get it nice and dark.

Brown the vegetables, add Andouille and chicken, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add can of tomatoes. Start adding roux a spoonful at a time, stirring as you go. Stir in most of the chicken stock.  Add the frozen okra and let it come to a low boil, turn down heat to low and cook for 1.5 hours, stirring every five minutes or so to keep it from sticking. Add more chicken stock as needed. 

Some Andouille is hotter than others so if it isn’t spicy enough you can add hot sauce at the end to your taste.

It is better when served the next day. Most people serve it over white rice but I just eat it like it is.

You cam omit the chicken and add shrimp but only add them after it’s done or they will be little rubber bits.

I hope you enjoy this spicy dish from my friend, the spicy dish that is Bo.

Thanks for your time.

Don’t be that guy

I cook with stock all the time.  I use it for sauces, and gravies; I cook rice and pasta in it.  And almost every single time, it’s from a box, or the grocery store.  I’ve only ever made stock from scratch, once, which I recounted a month or so ago.

But.

There is currently running a commercial for pre-made cartons of stock.  It’s actually a brand that I consider quality, which I’ve used numerous times.  I do though take issue with the message of this ad. In various vignettes, people are insisting they cook because they make “they make the best chicken noodle soup”.  Then they proceed to show them adding some chicken meat, a few veg, and some bagged egg noodles to a bubbling pot of said company’s chicken stock.

Yeah…no.

These poor, deluded folk are not chicken soup makers.  At best they are “stuff-put-er-inners”.  To produce homemade chicken noodle soup you must start with a chicken, and maybe even make your own noodles.

Anything less is practically opening a can.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I have enjoyed many cans of varieties of chicken noodle (stars, noodle-o’s, curly, spaghetti-shaped) soups.  But I never tried to pass it off as scratch-made.

Now, if you want to make a chicken soup that begins with stock (canned or made in your own kitchen) which you can still claim as your own, I’ve got a recipe for you.

This is a rich, creamy, lemony chowder.  It’s a little bit of a riff on Panera Bread’s creamy chicken and wild rice soup.  It also freezes and reheats well.

Lemon chicken and wild rice chowder

chick chow

8 tablespoons butter divided

1/2 cup flour

3 carrots, peeled and cut into same size pieces

4 stalks celery, leaves and all, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3/4 cup dried mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dry thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Zest of 2 lemons, divided

Juice of 2 lemons

1 cup rice and/or grain mix with wild rice (I like Bob’s Red Mill Brown and Wild Rice)

1 1/2cups frozen shoe peg corn

1 cup white wine

5 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 cup heavy cream

4-5 cups cooked chicken, white and dark, cut or ripped into bite-sized pieces.

Make roux:

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in small skillet.  Whisk in flour and cook over low until light blond in color.

Soup:

In a large heavy pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter.  Place in pot: Carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, thyme, bay leaves, half the lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Cook until there is some color on veg, and carrots are starting to soften. 

Stir in rice and/or grain mix and let cook until they start to brown around the edges.

Deglaze the pot with wine.  Cook, stirring often until it’s all cooked in.

Pour in stock and skim milk.  Bring to slow simmer.  Add corn.

When the rice/grain is fully cooked (time varies according to type), bring to a boil and whisk in roux until it’s cream soup thickness. 

Turn down to low.  Pour in lemon juice.  When the juice is thoroughly mixed in, stir in cream and gently add chicken.

Check for seasoning, and keep warm until service.  Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of lemon zest.

Makes 8-10 servings.

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This soup is delicious and quite impressive.  A soup that you can be proud to call your own.  So you don’t need to pretend you did something you really didn’t.

Don’t be that guy.

that guy

Thanks for your time.

Orange you glad?

Consider for a moment, the carrot.

The humble carrot.

It is literally, one of the most down-to-earth veggies that we have.  You’d think that something so humble would do well no matter what type of above-ground procedures it endures.

And you would be wrong.

You know those baby carrots that they sell in the plastic sack?  Yeah, they aren’t actually baby anything.  They are regular carrots which are whittled down, and treated with chemicals.  Don’t go there.  Buy fresh and cut them yourself.  They’ll be about half the price as well.

I’m a big fan of IQF (individually quick frozen) produce.  As soon as they’re harvested, the vegetables are taken to a processing center very near the fields.  They are normally frozen within minutes.  So, unless you grow them in your own yard, it’s hard to get much fresher.  With peas and corn, the sugars start turning to starch as soon as they ae picked.  I almost never buy fresh peas, and only purchase corn in the summertime, from a farmer’s market.

Fresh is almost always best.

Not though, for our friend the carrot.  The hard flesh seems to turn spongy when frozen, and the texture of the cooked carrot becomes unpleasant.  I think the sugar and ice crystals really slice the carrots up and they become badly damaged.  It makes for a very unhappy eating experience.

We eat a lot of carrots, but it’s always from fresh.  My favorite cooking method is glazed.  It seems that no matter how many I make, there are never leftovers.

It’s a simple dish, so every component is important.  Each ingredient has a cheaper, faux version, but I urge you not to use them.  You’ll only use a bit of each item, so it’s not an expensive dish.

Chinese five-spice powder is an ingredient in my carrots.  I also use it in my holiday ham, and on sweet potatoes, among other things.  It’s a spice blend used in many Asian dishes.  If you eat much Chinese, you’ll recognize the aroma.

Traditionally, it’s a mixture of star anise, clove, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seed.  Simple, right?  Yeah, not so much.  I use is a brand called Dynasty.  I get it at Li Ming Asian Market (3400 Westgate Dr, Durham).  But, I’d picked up a jar of Spice Islands at Kroger once when I thought I was out.  I’d never even opened it, so one day when my mom was visiting, I told her about the carrots, and gave her the recipe.  To save her a hunt, I decided to give her my unopened bottle.  Then I looked at the ingredients.  First off, there was way more than five; secondly, the only thing I recognized was cinnamon.  And, the aroma was not right.  I tossed it, and gave her a bag with some from my Dynasty bottle.

glazed carrots

Everything you need.

Glazed carrots

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into similarly sized pieces

½ cup chicken stock

4 tablespoons butter

¼ cup pure maple syrup

¼ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice

Salt and pepper to taste

Put everything into a heavy skillet.  Cover and cook on medium until the carrots are crisp-tender.  Uncover and continue to cook until a thick, glazy sauce has formed. 

Serves four.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love making do, and saving cash.  But sometimes it’s not worth it.  What you save in money, you’ll lose in flavor and enjoyment.

So to save up for those cute boots, buy your meat on sale.  But don’t cheap out on the glazed carrots.

Please pass the discount tuna fish…

Thanks for your time.

A Kernel of Truth

Originally published in the Herald-Sun 12/19/2012.

At our house, we are huge fans of carby comfort food.

We have a repertoire of dishes, everything from blue box mac, to an invented dish we call a ‘pasta toss’ (pasta, usually with sautéed veg and lots of lemon and garlic).

When Petey is saving lives at Duke, my baby and I dine alone.  On those nights we love nothing better than to get into our jimmies, and hop onto the couch with a couple of plates of steamy noodle goodness.  Then we dine, while watching a cinematic classic like, “Super Lobster Versus Mega Kitten”.

One night, prowling the Food Network website, I came upon a picture of a pasta dish with corn and green onions.

It looked fresh and light, yet luxurious.  Crazy gorgeous.  It made my stomach rumble.

I copy/pasted the illustration, and emailed it to The Kid, who was ensconced upstairs in the fortress of solitude, with various beeping and blinking devices.

It was given a thumb’s up.  We decided to create our own corn and pasta dish.

We immediately started making plans.

For pasta, we decided on parpadelle.  It’s as long as spaghetti, but as wide as an egg noodle.  The good stuff is as silky as a French nightgown.  It’s eggy and yummy.

For flavoring and fat in which to saute, we decided to go with pancetta.  It’s Italian.  They make it with pork belly, which also makes our American bacon.  It’s cured and rolled. But unlike bacon, which is smoked, pancetta is never smoked, but flavored with peppercorns and other herbs and spices, like rosemary and juniper berries.

Although I am an onion lover, my child is not, so instead of green onions for our dish, we would stir in a handful of fresh chopped parsley.  This would give us both color and fresh bright flavor.

As for our star of the show, corn, a trip to the farmers’ market presented us with a myriad of choices.  We settled on some beautiful sweet juicy ears still in their pale green silky robes.

Some stuff about fresh corn:

As soon as the ear leaves the stalk, the sugars in those sweet kernels start converting to starch.  In two days, about 80% of the sugar has mutated.  So, only buy fresh corn on the day you will use it.  And don’t buy it if it’s been languishing at the grocery store for days. The way to get the tastiest corn is to get freshly picked.

Otherwise, buy frozen.

Don’t be ashamed to be seen in the freezer aisle.  IQF, or individually quick frozen vegetables is the way most veg are prepared these days.  They’re cleaned and frozen as quickly as possible, sometimes within minutes, in buildings just feet from the fields in which they grew.  I promise they will be fresher than the sad, middle-aged specimens declining in your supermarket veggy department.

To shuck corn, quicker and cleaner; drop each ear into boiling water for a count of fifteen.  This will make the silk practically jump off the corn.  To completely eliminate the mess and bother, make the kids do it–outside.

To get the kernels off the cob, just hold the cob upright on a cutting board, and cut down with a sharp knife, turn it, and repeat.  After kernels are removed, scrape down the cob with the back of your knife, to get the juice.

Some folks swear by resting the cob on the opening of an upright bundt pan.  The theory is all the stuff goes only into the pan.  It never works for me.  It is a messy job, no getting around it.  I suggest a drop cloth, and a shower after.

Once we had our components, we set about making our newest pasta toss.  It was a blast conspiring together to create this new recipe.

Happily, all the fevered intrigue paid off.  It’s the perfect, yummy plate to devour while watching “Grizzlygator versus Colossal Hedgehog 2”.  This time I hear it’s personal.

Summer Corn & Parpadelle

Serves four as a side dish, or two as a main.

1 lb parpadelle

¼ lb thick sliced pancetta, cut into cubes

2 cloves garlic, peeled, and smashed, or thickly sliced

6 ears fresh corn, cut from cob (or 12-16 ounces frozen shoe peg, if fresh is not available)

1 shallot, diced

1/3 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 T butter

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and pepper

Set a very large pot with heavily salted water on to boil.  When it boils, add pasta and cook ‘til al dente. 

In a large heavy skillet, cook pancetta until completely browned on medium-low, and remove from pan. Turn up to medium, and put garlic in.  Cook until lightly golden and fragrant.  Remove and discard. 

Put shallots into skillet, and cook until softened and lightly translucent.  Add corn with juice.  Cook until the liquid is almost gone, and add wine, and stir to coat everything.  When wine has evaporated, add chicken stock, and turn up to medium-high. 

Let it bubble away to thicken, while paprpadelle is cooking.  When the consistency is right, turn off heat, and stir in cheese and butter (called mounting).

When the noodles are done, don’t strain them, remove from water with tongs or a large slotted spoon, and add directly to sauce.  Add parsley, and toss everything together.  If the sauce is too stiff, add a little pasta water to thin it.

Check for seasoning, plate, scatter top with pancetta bits, and serve. 

The Kid called this past weekend, and told me next week’ll be finals for food and wine compatibility class.  The directive is a dish that pairs well with a chardonnay.

Guess what recipe my child is choosing to make for the exam?

Thanks for your time.

Sneaky Pilaf

Here’s my wish for you:

I hope that after more than thirty years together, you and your SO (significant other) are still capable of surprising the heck out of each other.

By now, Petey and I know each other pretty well.

He knows I consider frosting a necessary food group.  That Roger Moore was the best Bond.  And to never bring up how many shoes I own.

I’ve come to accept that when he is holding the remote, we will never watch a program all the way through from start to finish.  And it’s futile to try and get him out of what The Kid calls the Canadian tuxedo; jeans and a jean jacket, with a t-shirt in the summer, or a flannel shirt in the colder months.

But lately, when it comes to food, he has shocked me to the core.

A couple of years ago, I found out that coconut cake is one of his favorite desserts.  Then after making many, many batches of my green pork chili, he confessed that he’s not a fan (at the time of this revelation I had a gallon bagged up in the freezer, which The Kid generously offered to take off my hands).

In a quest to eat healthier, I bought a ten pound bag of brown rice at Costco; with Petey’s full knowledge and cooperation.

But a month or so ago, he sheepishly informed me that he doesn’t really like it.

I told him that we would have to eat it up, but I would alternate brown rice dinners with the white stuff.  I may have told him that, but I hate serving him food that he doesn’t enjoy, so it wasn’t really being used.

He does love pilafs.  When we go out to eat, if there is pilaf on the menu, he orders it, even over things like creamy mashed, or loaded baked potatoes.

The other night I decided to make a pilaf.  One thing I love about them is that they’re a great opportunity to use up any vegetables in the fridge that are past their prime.

I always use stock in my pilaf, so the cooked rice isn’t snow white.  So I would use this stock camouflage to substitute brown rice in my recipe, hoping that the flavor, and chewy characteristics of the wild rice I planned on adding would disguise my deceit.

It worked.  Petey had no idea he was eating brown rice.  And when I told him, he liked it so much, he didn’t even slow down the chowing down.

Brown and wild rice pilaf

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup celery, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

1 teaspoon each dried thyme

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/3 cups brown rice

2/3 cup wild rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon porcini powder (available at Lowes Foods)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 3/4 cups chicken or mushroom stock or some combination of both

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Put 2 cups salted water in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Drop in clean dried mushrooms, and let boil for 3 minutes.  Drain, using cheesecloth or paper towels to catch any dirt and reserve stock for pilaf.  Slice mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.

In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Sauté fresh and dried mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and herbs, until lightly browned; about 8-10 minutes. Add both rices and garlic, then stir until the grains are toasted and well coated, about 3 minutes.

Deglaze with wine.  When’s it’s absorbed, stir in the stock, add porcini powder and Worcestershire. Taste liquid for seasoning, and adjust if needed.  Bring to a simmer, stir and cover.

Transfer the pot to oven and bake until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 65-75 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Serves 8 to 10.

     The recent spousal revelations have, at times, sent me reeling.  I’m afraid that one of these days I’ll find out I’m married to an opera lover who hates scrambled eggs, and loves cats.

Thanks for your time.

Cream Of Insert Name Of Ingredient Here Soup

Originally published in the Herald Sun 9/13/2012

When I was pregnant, and The Kid was just about done cooking, one of my oldest friends, Kiki, came to help the beached whale that was me, and to make sure Petey had food to eat, and clean boxers to wear.
While she was visiting we ate, a lot. One of our favorite things was to get a fresh baguette and a big hunk of brie, and eat until the bread was gone, or we passed out, whichever came first.
One evening, for a change of pace, and some actual nutrition, Kiki decided to make us cream of mushroom soup, with a big salad.
At this point, the only cream of mushroom soup I had any familiarity with was the gray slimy glop in the can. And then, only as an ingredient in a casserole.
But Kiki had been to culinary school, knew what she was doing, and promised me the soup would be yummy.
In about thirty minutes, I waddled out to the kitchen to taste.
It was rich, creamy, and redolent of caramelized mushrooms, chardonnay, and thyme. I was a convert.
The best part of all was that my friend assured me that the soup was a breeze to make.
A few years later, I picked up a copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook at the Durham library book sale.
Leafing through it, I saw a recipe for asparagus sauce. It wasn’t a sauce for the vegetable, but a sauce made with asparagus, to serve on chicken, or fish.
Since it was in season, and there were tons of gorgeous ‘goose’ (Kid-speak for the spears) available, I decided to give it a whirl.
It was basically asparagus, sautéed with some onion, then pureed with water.
It was pretty darn awful.
So, there I am, standing in the kitchen, staring down at a big pot of beautiful, yet inedible sauce.
Then I remembered Kiki’s soup. So, I put in some chicken stock, and added some heavy cream.
I don’t know exactly what happened to it, but that pot of yucky sauce turned into a pot of silky, delicious cream of asparagus soup.
That was the day I figured out cream soups.
It’s less a recipe and more of a technique. You can use any vegetable you’d like. If you buy what’s in season, you’ll get the freshest, cheapest veggies.
For the directions, I’ll use broccoli.

Cream Soup
Serves 6
2 heads fresh broccoli cut into florets
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 Tbl butter
½ cup white wine
2 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
1 ½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbl snipped chives or chopped parsley
Optional:
Blonde roux (equal parts butter and flour cooked on low until lightly browned)
Or
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Holding back two cups florets, sauté broccoli and onion in butter, until onions turn translucent. Add wine, and let reduce until almost dry (called “au sec”; pronounced “oh seck”).
In a food processor or blender, purée cooked veg, adding a little of the stock to keep it loose enough to blend. Pour this back into your soup pot.
Add the rest of the stock and the cream.
To thicken the soup (you may not want to, but I like mine so thick a spoon almost stands up in it):
If you are using roux, allow the soup to come to a boil, and stir in roux until it is the thickness you like,
For the cheese, you want the soup below a simmer, not boiling, or it will separate and get grainy. Slowly whisk the cheddar in, a bit at a time, letting it melt completely before adding more to the pot.
Check for seasoning, and add the raw florets. When the raw broc has cooked in the soup for ten minutes or so, it’s ready.
Spoon into mugs and garnish top with chives or parsley.

The neat thing about this soup is that you can get really creative.
Using carrots? Garnish with chopped crispy bacon, and add a little cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg (Don’t use the pre-ground canned nutmeg. It lost all the volatile oils, and flavor long before it reached the grocery shelf.)
Trying to make a mushroom soup as good as Kiki’s? Add fresh thyme, and maybe a bit of rosemary. And next time you make a recipe calling for cream of mushroom soup, you can use your own, homemade ambrosia, instead of that can.
Really, any veggy that catches your eye in the market will work, even a leafy veg, like spinach or cabbage. Just remember, if you choose hard vegetables like potatoes, or a fall squash, chop them a bit smaller, and par boil or toss them in a little olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes so they won’t have to cook from a raw state in the soup (which will take forever).
On a cool, rainy day, there’s nothing better than a grilled cheese sandwich and a mug of warm soup.
Actually, there is.
A grilled cheese sandwich and a mug of warm, homemade soup.
Thanks for your time.