Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup, Mark II

My favourite soup is Cream of Mushroom, and I made one not too long ago.  It was good... but it really wasn't what I was craving.  The first cream of mushroom soup was with Crimini and White Button mushrooms.  It was a little on the thin side.  While it was great, I was wanting something that was a little thicker like a chowder, and I knew I wanted some more hearty, flavourful mushrooms.  Since our local Farmer's Market has started up, we headed to it.  Tons of mushrooms grow in the redwood forests here, so we get an awesome variety to choose from.  I grabbed some Lion's Mane, which the vendor said had a lobster-like flavour, and that's not a bad comparison!  And we also got some Maitakis, which are also real earthy and crunchy.  The Knorr's Vegetable packet that I used threw me off.  I had a few sitting in the pantry for quick dips, but I wondered how it would be as a seasoning?  Using such great mushrooms, I was a little hesitant to use a pre-packaged mix in the soup... afraid it'd ruin the whole thing.  But I took a gamble, used it, and actually love the way it came out.

Consistency came out so perfect.  It's not too thick that it's like gravy, but it's also not got that coat-your-tongue thing like heavy cream based soups.  The mushrooms were all al dente and meaty.  So if you like thick, rich chowdery soups, this recipe is for you.  And we can't stop talking about what kind of other things we can add to it that would be awesome - adding crab or lobster would be delicious, bacon would be great, some roasted poblano pepper would give it a southwest taste.  It'd be perfect for a clam chowder, just add potatoes and clams and maybe some celery.  And if you like the thinner soups, our Cream of Mushroom Soup, Mark I would be the one for you!

We've had a Swingin' Utters album playing in the car all week, and Justin's been digging on this song a lot, so it's been running through both of our heads - "Next In Line".  -jen

 Top Left - Maitaki, Top Right - Lion's Mane, Bottom - Crimini
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 pound Crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 pound Lion's Mane mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 pound Maitaki mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 teaspoons wet chicken base
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup Half & Half
  • 1 packet Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix, 1.4oz  
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Accent/msg (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
 In a stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and shallots.  Saute until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir until incorporated.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Add chicken base to mixture, then whisk in water, Half & Half, and Knorr Vegetable packet.  Turn heat to high and stir constantly until soup has thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in sherry, cayenne, and Accent.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mexican Meatballs

So Jen and I like doing meatballs for dinner every so often and last time we had done a nice marinara we happened to be discussing ways to vary them and thought that a Mexican style meatball would be awesome and easy to pull off.  Here is my attempt at this meal and I believe it worked excellently, if I do say so myself.

This can be varied with any type of salsa that you want or if you were feeling extra adventurous you could cover it in a delicious mole.  I went with a fairly straightforward salsa that would work warm or cold and be good with anything.  Feel free to try a salsa verde or maybe a chipotle salsa if you dig the heat!

To accompany this dish I'm going with some Pulley, specifically "Crawl" because that tune has been stuck in my head and maybe this act will appease whatever gods are responsible for that sort of situation. - justin
Mexican Meatballs
Time: 2 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 4-6

  • 4 whole medium tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Poblano peppers, halved and deseeded
  • 2 Anaheim peppers, halved and deseeded
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried epazote
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp Caldo de Pollo (Mexican chicken bouillon with some herbs and spices)
Preheat oven to 425.   Arrange your halved tomatoes (cut side up) on a, oiled baking sheet along with the halved and cleaned peppers (cut side down).  Lightly brush peppers and tomatoes with 2 of the tbsp of olive oil.  Place in the preheated oven and roast for 40-50 minutes.  Cover with foil when they are done and let them sit for 10 minutes to cool.  This will steam the skins and make them easier to remove.  When the veggies have rested the skins should simply pull off of the peppers and tomatoes.  Roughly chop them and set aside.

In a saucepan, add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and set burner to medium heat.  When hot, add the diced yellow onion and salt and let the onions sweat until translucent, roughly 7 minutes or so.  Add the chopped, roasted peppers and tomatoes, the lime zest and juice, the cilantro, the epazote, the Mexican oregano and the cumin.  Stir together thoroughly, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Disolve the caldo de pollo in the cup of water and add to the saucepan.  Stir to incorporate.  The salsa should be very chunky and a little watery at this point.  Simmer the water off to thicken it to your desired consistency.  If you would like a very silky, smooth salsa, use a blender to puree the mixture.  I prefer mine to be a little chunkier so I just gave it a couple quick pulses and called it good after simmering it for an hour or so while I made the rest of the meal.

  • 2 lbs ground beef (80/20 lean to fat ratio is best for these)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 whole green onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried epazote 
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
Preheat oven to 425.  I find that while the veggies for the salsa are roasting, it's a perfect time to make the meatball mixture and then the oven is already hot and ready to bake meatballs when the veggies come out and you are finishing the salsa.

Mix the breadcrumbs and the milk and let sit for five minutes to absorb.  Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix together.  Roll into golfball sized balls and place equidistantly from each other on a lightly oiled sheet pan.  It should make roughly 30-35 balls.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes.  Meatball diameter will determine your total time but check one of the bigger ones after 20 minutes and use that as a judge for how much longer you'll need.  You want medium, not well done.

  • Frying set up, either a deep fryer or a skillet and a enough frying oil to be a couple inches deep
  • 2 large plantains, peeled and sliced into 2 inch rounds
Heat oil to 350 degrees.  Fry enough of your plantains so as to not crowd your oil.  Do a couple of batches if you need to or your oil will cool and they will turn out greasier than you want.  Fry them for 2 minutes per side (or 2 minutes total if you have them completely immersed in oil).  Remove from oil and allow to cool for a couple minutes.  Set them upright and smash them with your hand or a spoon so that they squish into a sort of disk.  Fry again for 2 more minutes per side and remove to drain excess oil.  Salt immediately and set aside.


At this point I placed the salsa on the bottom of a plate, set the tostones in the salsa like little boats and served the meatballs resting on top of the tostones, like so:
However, you could do the salsa over the meatballs or tostones on the side or whatever you like.