Today is the third day in a row that I’ve been sick. I finally took a day off work and it’s a good thing I did, as I’m coughing so dramatically that it’d be embarrassing to be at school. I was sick yesterday, too, but I went to school. Several students suggested that I should stay home today. They didn’t know how right they were!
Today I’m craving a spicy rich soup, full of meat and vegetables. Since nothing like what I want is available in a can or otherwise pre-prepared, I’m making it. I am really good at making soup. That may sound like bragging, or it may just represent an understanding of what I am good at. Either way, today I’m going to show you how I make this delicious soup. It varies every time, so no ingredients are absolute. Other than the roasted poblano peppers and the dried New Mexico chiles grown in the holy dirt of Chimayo, New Mexico. So here goes.
Here are my ingredients today:
1 beef shank with bone. (I think I need that marrow because I’m sick.)
1 beef roast. Could be tri-tip or chuck roast. Today Round roast was cheapest so I got that.
1 big leek, finely sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, roasted in the skillet
2 cloves of garlic, roasted in the skillet
1/2 yellow onion, roasted in the skillet
4 carrots, all different colors, roasted in the skillet
2 Serrano chiles, roasted in the skillet
1 “Oriental Beauty” yam, cubed and peeled. You don’t have to peel it: I did because this variety has a very thick skin. If I was using garnets I probably would not peel it. But I’m in love with the flavor of this variety of yam, so there. I threw away some vitamins.
3 Poblano chiles, roasted over an open flame
about 3 Tablespoons dried crushed New Mexico chiles
about 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt
4 zucchinis, cut in chunks
Chopped cilantro, as much as you like
Avocado and queso fresco and sour cream as garnishes, if desired
OPTIONAL , really good: black beans, either home cooked or from a can. Two cans of them.
1. Cut up the tri-tip or other meat into about 1 1/2 inch cubes. While you are working on that, put the beef shank in to brown until it’s nice and crisp and the marrow looks soft. Then brown the rest of the meat quickly in a hot skillet, using a little bacon fat or olive oil to moisten the pan. Use a high heat and stir it frequently. Don’t let it cool down as it will begin to lose its juices, and you want that to happen in the soup pot. Browning it before adding it to the soup gives it a nice flavor that it won’t have if you just put it in raw. Also only brown a little bit at a time. It doesn’t like to be crowded – it’ll give up its juices too soon. Here’s about how much to put in the pan at once:
It will probably take several batches of meat browning to get done. It’s worth it, don’t ruin it by crowding the skillet.
2. Cover the meat with water (or other broth if you have it Sometimes I use organic chicken broth, but today I don’t have any.) Turn the stove onto medium heat to get the broth going.
3. Now, the vegetables.Put the poblanos over the gas flame to roast. If you cook with electric heat, you can use a skillet without any oil or water in it. While they are roasting, slice the leek and toss it in with the meat. Using tongs or the stem of the chiles, turn them until all sides are roasted black and the skin looks loose. After they are roasted, toss them in a plastic vegetable bag and cover them wit a dish towel and set them aside to cool. They should look like this:
The charred skin will come off very easily with a butter knife. Just hold the chile and slide the knife along its side. The skin will come right off. Then cut off the tops, remove the seeds and membranes and cut the peppers up. Like this:
4. Next, roast the rest of the vegetables. I think that any vegetable tastes better roasted, so I just roast them all. Again, the skillet should be dry and you just keep moving them around as they turn blackish. They will taste so rich! Put all but the tomatoes and tomatillo and Serrano chiles right into the soup. Cut the tops off the Serranos, and remove the seeds. Then chop them into the soup. They are quite spicy, so you do want to remove the seeds. And don’t touch your eyes after you do it. Don’t the vegetables look delicious?! I will roast the zucchini by itself later, and add it to the soup right close to the end so it doesn’t turn to mush.
5. Put the tomatoes and tomatillo into the food processor and make them into a chunky puree. Saute this by putting a (very) little olive oil into your skillet. When it is hot, pour in the tomato puree. stir it until it changes color, for about three minutes. It will begin a pinkish color and will turn darker red. Then add it to the soup.
6. Add the dried chiles and salt and cilantro. Now, just relax and let the magic happen. Simmer it for as long as you have, at least 2 hours. Or you can put it all in the crock pot for a few hours. Maybe on low for 6 or high for 4? You’ll need to experiment with that. I’d just use those times and then see if it’s ready.
7. To serve, I chop up the avocado, and crumble some queso fresco. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of avocado and queso fresco. If you are not a dairy eater, just leave the last part out. If you are touchy about spiciness, then be sure to use the sour cream or regular heavy cream. It cuts the burn, while leaving the flavor.
Does this sound like too much work? It does take a little flurry of work, but the relaxing afterwards and the deliciousness later are worth it, in my humble opinion. Now I can go relax and focus on getting better. Here’s the end result:
If you have a great way of making homemade soup, please let me know!