Category Archives: Soups and Stews

Homemade Turkey Stock Recipe

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

I am always dismayed (and disheartened) at how many people toss a turkey carcass after the turkey dinner. To me, that is such a waste as there is a lot of goodness in that turkey carcass and it makes great homemade turkey stock that can be used in many recipes.

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

A good poultry stock is a handy staple to have on hand in the cook’s kitchen (or freezer).  The stock can be used as the base for soups, sauces, braised dishes, and gravies and it can also be used when called for in any number of different recipes and other dishes. One of the best things about a homemade stock is that you know what is in it, there are no preservatives, and the amount of salt can be controlled.

Homemade Chowder
Turkey Chowder

I usually cook turkeys that are in the 7-9 pound range. Therefore, my recipe below for turkey stock is based on the carcass from this weight range of turkey.  However, this recipe is scalable meaning, if you cook a smaller turkey, reduce the amount of ingredients proportionately and, likewise, if you cook a larger turkey, add additional measures of the ingredients called for in the recipe.

If it is not convenient to make the turkey stock right after the turkey has been roasted and carved (or the next day), simply bag up the carcass in to an airtight zippered freezer bag and toss it in the freezer and make the stock later.  In fact, at the time of writing, I have three turkey carcasses in the freezer waiting to be made in to stock whenever I need it. And that’s in addition to 16 cups of stock already made and frozen!

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

So, to prepare the carcass for stock making, remove all the meat you want from the carcass and use it for other purposes (or cube it up and freeze it for later use in soups or casseroles).  Leave some bits of meat on the carcass. Now, it is entirely possible to make the turkey stock with just the carcass of the roasted turkey (and some aromatics and seasonings, of course) and I have often done so.  However, by adding 2 more pounds of turkey pieces, the result will be a deepened flavor of the stock.  These can be any kind of turkey pieces at all so long as they still have bone-in -– legs, wings, thighs. Generally, I buy whatever is on sale at the time.  Brush a light coating of oil over these turkey pieces and place them in a greased roasting pan.  Place them, uncovered (or loosely tented with tin foil to prevent fat splatters), in a preheated 425°F oven for 25-35 minutes, turning once or twice during the roasting.  Remove the turkey pieces and transfer them to a heatproof dish.  Using a large wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits and drippings from the roasting pan. Add about ½ to ¾ cup or so of water to the roasting pan to deglaze it over medium heat, stirring up the brown bits. This will deepen the flavor of the stock when it is added to it.

You will need a very large stock pot to make this stock – one that can accommodate the size of turkey carcass you are using, two additional pounds of turkey pieces, all the veggies, and 16 cups of water. Although possible, I don’t bother breaking down the carcass unless I need to do so to get it to fit in the stock pot.  Add everything to the pot, skin included, from both the carcass and additional turkey pieces along with the liquid from the deglazed pan.

Turkey stock can be very bland if it does not have enough seasonings added to it. That’s why I add some aromatic and flavourful vegetables – carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, celery, rutabaga, mushrooms, and a hefty dose of garlic. There is no need to peel the vegetables (except for the rutabaga that often has a wax coating).  Just make sure the vegetables are very well washed.  You want all the flavour and colour you can get from the vegetables, some of which is contained in the skins/peelings which will later be discarded anyway once the stock is cooked and strained.  Celery is a big flavour agent in this stock and that’s why, in addition to the five ribs of celery called for in the recipe, the celery leaves and the celery stalk base are used to intensify the flavour. While an optional ingredient, any kind of mushrooms can be used in the stock – I usually use the white button or cremini variety.

Fresh herbs can, of course, be used in this recipe (and I do use them when it is gardening season and I have them fresh). However, I have given amounts for dried herbs because we don’t all have access to quality fresh herbs year-round.  Even though this stock will be strained, I still like to gather up all the dried herbs and spices into a bouquet garni because it corrals them and keeps the stock cleaner.  To make the bouquet garni, cut an 8” square of double layer of cheesecloth, place the herbs and spices in the center, gather up the cheesecloth, and tie it with string.  Add this lovely aromatic sachet to the stock pot.  As the stock simmers, it will be infused by the herbs and spices. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.  The vinegar will extract the collagen, nutrients, and minerals from the bones through the slow simmering process.  Because only a small amount of vinegar is used, it will not leave a negative taste to the stock.

Bring the ingredients almost, but not quite, to the boiling point over medium-high heat.  It’s critical that this stock NEVER boil – that will make it cloudy and the look you’re aiming for is a clear, translucent liquid. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.  The temperature of the liquid should reach and stay around the 200°F point. A candy thermometer is useful to verify the heat from time to time as the stock simmers. If the temperature of the liquid dips below 200°F, simply increase the heat just a bit to bring the temperature back up to the simmering point. If it exceeds 200°F, drop the heat back. It’s okay if you see tiny bubbles forming but they should not break the surface of the liquid. The other tip to a translucent stock is not to stir it as it is simmering. This will stir everything up and can cause clouding to occur, resulting in a murky stock. While a cloudy stock will not affect its flavour, a translucent stock is more eye appealing.

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

As the mixture is simmering, you will likely notice some fat from the bones rising to the surface. Periodically take a large spoon and skim this fat away and discard it.  Don’t cover the stockpot while the stock is simmering as it is more difficult to keep the liquid at the simmering point if it is covered. Also, some reduction of the liquid is required in order to achieve desired flavour. If you find that too much of the stock is evaporating too quickly, add a bit more cold water to ensure all the ingredients are submerged in the liquid. However, be cautious about adding too much water as it will dilute the flavour of the stock.

This stock can simmer away for up to 8 hours. However, I find 5-6 hours is generally sufficient. Once the stock has simmered for this length of time, remove it from the heat and strain it.  To do this, line a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Place the colander over a clean stock pot and pour the stock into the colander.  Discard the remaining solids – i.e., the bones, vegetables, meat, and bouquet garni.  Because the meat that came off the carcass and the turkey pieces has been simmered for hours and served its purpose, it is tough and is of no significant nutritional value so I discard it. Sometimes, I find the meat after this process can have an offputting flavor so it’s not the best to use in soups or casseroles.

Wash the original stock pot in which the mixture had been simmering. Place a new piece of double-layer dampened cheesecloth in a fine wire mesh sieve and place the sieve over the clean stock pot.  Pour the stock through the sieve.  This second straining will help ensure a clear stock, free of all impurities. Place this stockpot containing the strained stock into a large sink filled with ice water to cool it quickly.  Skim off any further solidified fat as the stock cools. Place the cooled, strained stock in the refrigerator to chill completely (this will take several hours or overnight, even) then remove any remaining solidified fat from the stock’s surface.  For more intense flavored stock, it can be placed back on the stove at medium-low heat and simmered until reduced to one-half the amount, yielding a stronger, more concentrated flavour but there will obviously be less quantity.

So, apart from the necessity to use the right ingredients in the stock, the three big tips I have for making a clear, high quality stock are:  1) Don’t boil it; 2) Don’t stir it; and 3) Don’t cover it while it simmers.  Basically, put the ingredients in a large stockpot, get the liquid to the simmering point, and let it be to do its thing.

This stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days or it can be frozen for up to six months, at this point, in freezer-safe containers of desired size.  I usually freeze and label mine in different quantities based on what recipe I intend using it in. I will often freeze some stock in ice cube containers and use them for flavoring dishes, like rice or steamed vegetables, or stir fries where smaller amounts may be needed.

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Turkey Stock

Ingredients:
Carcass (with some meat left on it) from 7-9 lb roasted turkey
2 lbs fresh cut up turkey pieces

1 tsp mixed peppercorns
1 tsp dried rosemary
½ tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried summer savory
3 whole cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
4 whole allspice
1 whole star anise pod

16 cups cold water
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
1½ – 2 tsp Kosher salt, or to taste

1 large onion, skin on, halved
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise
2 large carrots, washed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and chopped into 3” chunks
Celery stalk base + 5 celery ribs and leaves (celery ribs cut into 3” chunks)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise, skins on the cloves
3 slices rutabaga, about ¾” thick, peeled and sliced in half
2 large parsnips, washed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and chopped into 3” chunks
6-8 mushrooms (button or cremini), halved (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 425°F. Brush thin coating of cooking oil over raw turkey pieces. Place turkey pieces in greased baking pan.  Roast, uncovered (or loosely tented with tin foil to avoid splatters in oven) for about 25-35 minutes, turning with tongs after 15 minutes.  Remove turkey pieces from oven and transfer to heatproof dish.  Using a large wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits left in roasting pan. Mix with approximately ½ – ¾ cup of warm water. Heat over medium heat, stirring to prevent burning.

Place turkey carcass and turkey pieces into large stock pot along with the browned liquid from the roasted turkey pieces.

Using a small 8” square of double cheese cloth, gather the dried herbs and spices together in the center and tie up cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni.  Drop the sachet in to the stock pot. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, sea salt, onion, leek, carrots, celery root and ribs, garlic head, rutabaga, parsnips, and mushrooms (if using).

Bring mixture to just below the boiling point over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to a low simmer (liquid temperature should reach and remain around the 200°F point) and let stock simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 hours. If liquid evaporates too much and too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more water (e.g., 1 cup, or so).  Periodically, skim the fat, as it forms, from the surface of the stock as it simmers. Do not stir mixture as it simmers as this may create a cloudy stock.

Prepare a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth.  Place colander over large clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth mixture into the colander to strain it.  Discard the solids – i.e., bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni.

Wash original stock pot in which the stock was made. Line a fine mesh sieve with a new piece of double layer of damp cheesecloth and place over the clean stock pot. Pour stock through sieve to remove any remaining solids, stray herbs, etc.

Place stockpot containing the strained stock in large sink filled with ice water to cool the stock quickly.  Remove and discard any solidified fat. Place strained stock in refrigerator for several hours, or overnight, to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat from the chilled stock.

Use stock immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Alternatively, pour stock into freezer-safe containers of desired size and freeze for future use.

Yield:  Apx. 16 cups (depending on amount of evaporation and reduction that has occurred).

NOTE:  Strained stock may be reheated over medium-low heat and reduced to one-half. This will yield a stronger flavored and more concentrated product but, naturally, there will be less quantity.

Straining the stock twice through a cheesecloth-lined colander/fine mesh sieve will yield a clearer stock, free of any impurities.

This recipe is scalable – if you have a smaller turkey frame, reduce quantities of ingredients; if it is a larger frame, increase quantities proportionately.

 

Homemade Turkey Stock
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Homemade Turkey Stock Recipe

Turkey carcass, combined with a blend of herbs and spices and aromatic and flavorful vegetables, makes healthy and tasty homemade turkey stock
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 Carcass (with some meat left on it) from 7-9 lb roasted turkey
  • 2 lbs fresh cut up turkey pieces
  • 1 tsp mixed peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1 tsp dried summer savory
  • 3 whole cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 whole allspice
  • 1 whole star anise pod
  • 16 cups cold water
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tsp Kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 large onion, skin on, halved
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 2 large carrots, washed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and chopped into 3” chunks
  • 5 celery ribs with leaves+ celery stalk base (celery ribs cut into 3" chunks)
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise, skins on the cloves
  • 3 slices rutabaga, about ¾” thick, peeled and sliced in half
  • 2 large parsnips, washed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and chopped into 3” chunks
  • 6-8 mushrooms (button or cremini), halved (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Brush thin coating of cooking oil over raw turkey pieces. Place turkey pieces in greased baking pan. Roast, uncovered (or loosely tented with tin foil to avoid splatters in oven) for about 25-35 minutes, turning with tongs after 15 minutes. Remove turkey pieces from oven and transfer to heatproof dish. Using a large wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits left in roasting pan. Mix with approximately ½ - ¾ cup of warm water. Heat over medium heat, stirring to prevent burning.
  2. Place turkey carcass and turkey pieces into large stock pot along with the browned liquid from the roasted turkey pieces.
  3. Using a small 8” square of double cheese cloth, gather the dried herbs and spices together in the center and tie up cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. Drop the sachet in to the stock pot. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, sea salt, onion, leek, carrots, celery root and ribs, garlic head, rutabaga, parsnips, and mushrooms (if using).
  4. Bring mixture to just below the boiling point over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to a low simmer (liquid temperature should reach and remain around the 200°F point) and let stock simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 hours. If liquid evaporates too much and too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more water (e.g., 1 cup, or so). Periodically, skim the fat, as it forms, from the surface of the stock as it simmers. Do not stir mixture as it simmers as this may create a cloudy stock.
  5. Prepare a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Place colander over large clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth mixture into the colander to strain it. Discard the solids – i.e., bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni.
  6. Wash original stock pot in which the stock was made. Line a fine mesh sieve with a new piece of double layer of damp cheesecloth and place over the clean stock pot. Pour stock through sieve to remove any remaining solids, stray herbs, etc.
  7. Place stockpot containing the strained stock in large sink filled with ice water to cool the stock quickly. Remove and discard any solidified fat. Place strained stock in refrigerator for several hours, or overnight, to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat from the chilled stock.
  8. Use stock immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Alternatively, pour stock into freezer-safe containers of desired size and freeze for future use. Yield: Apx. 16 cups (depending on amount of evaporation and reduction that has occurred).

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Strained stock may be reheated over medium-low heat and reduced to one-half. This will yield a stronger flavored and more concentrated product but, naturally, there will be less quantity.

Note 2: Straining the stock twice through a cheesecloth-lined colander/fine mesh sieve will yield a clearer stock, free of any impurities.

Note 3: This recipe is scalable – if you have a smaller turkey frame, reduce quantities of ingredients; if it is a larger frame, increase quantities proportionately.

Be sure to read the accompanying blog post to this recipe as it contains additional information and tips on making turkey stock.

For my recipe for homemade Beef Stock, click here.

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Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

Homemade Cream of Celery Soup

Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

Every year we try to grow two or three new vegetables in our garden.  Here, on PEI, we have a very short growing season and so, whatever we grow, must be suitable to that climate. One day, in late June, I was at John’s Greenhouses in Summerside and they had trays of very healthy looking celery starter plants.  On a lark, I bought a tray of six plants and transplanted them.  Never, in my wildest imagination, could I have contemplated how well they would grow!  With leaves on stalks intact, they grew to be 30″ tall.  The celery had a nice crisp bite to it but, seriously, how much celery could we eat raw?

Celery
Celery
Celery
Celery
Celery
Celery

I began thinking about what I could do with the celery and how I could process it into something else. Thus was born my recipe for Cream of Celery Soup which has now elevated itself to one of my favorite cream-based soups.

Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

I have made and tested this recipe several times (well, you know, we did have a lot of celery in the garden!), adjusting the ingredient amounts and perfecting the method.  This process results in me publishing a recipe for a tasty soup I am delighted with.  It also enables me to share my lessons learned and tips for successfully making this soup.

Ingredients

Use the freshest celery you can find for this recipe.  Chop it finely because celery takes a long time to soften during cooking – the smaller the pieces, the faster it will cook.   I use both onions and leeks in this recipe as they each contribute their own unique flavor to the soup.  They may come from the same family but their unique flavour qualities add levels of complexity and depth to the celery soup.  Always use freshly minced garlic in this recipe – it will have more flavour than a bottled version.  Either chicken or vegetable stock may be used as a base in this soup. I typically use chicken stock.

To get that silky smooth texture for which great cream soups are known, use a combination of whole milk and cream (18% MF). Fat-reduced and skim milks do not do well in this soup. This soup can be made entirely with whole milk but using cream for a portion of the dairy content in the soup will yield a richer and smoother soup. Also, this soup will freeze well if whole milk and cream are used. In fact, I make this soup as part of my batch-cooking menu and freeze it in individual portions. It’s great for work lunches.

I add shredded cheddar cheese to this soup.  Celery and cheese have long been great partners so why not pair them in a soup.  I also add a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese to the soup as well.

I love my herb garden and make good use of it.  It’s important to choose herbs for this soup that will pair well with the other ingredients.  I have chosen dill, parsley, and either rosemary or thyme.  Only add these to the late stage reheating of the soup, after it has been puréed, and the milk and cream added.  Softer stemmed herbs such as dill and parsley tend to wilt and become discolored if they are overcooked.  While the more woody rosemary or thyme can withstand a bit more heat, I tend to add them all at the same time, near the end of the cooking process.  The amount of seasoning is always a personal preference. My strategy in herb usage is that they should enhance, not overpower, the dish.  I recommend using the amounts I have indicated in the recipe the first time you make the soup – the herb quantities indicated are considered modest amounts. Then, the next time you make the soup, adjust the quantities of the herbs according to your personal preference.

Method

Celery takes a long time to soften during cooking.  Melt the butter in the saucepan and give the celery the benefit of a head start of about 5 minutes cooking before adding the onions, leeks, potato, and garlic. Cook the vegetables until they are softened – about 15 minutes.  Then, add the thickener (regular or gluten-free flour) followed by the liquid stock (chicken or vegetable) and continue to cook the mixture for 30-35 minutes. The goal is to ensure the vegetables are thoroughly cooked and softened and that time has been allotted for the flavors to blend.

The mixture needs to be puréed until smooth, either in a blender or food processor or, alternatively, via an immersion blender.  I typically use the blender for this and I let the soup cool for about 30-40 minutes or so before putting the hot mixture into the jar of the blender.  I have learned the importance of blending part of the mixture first and then adding the remainder of the mixture while continuing to purée it as, otherwise, it is very difficult to get a  smooth soup.  Because celery has a “stringy” component to it and because, sometimes, no matter how much blending, there can always be little bits of the vegetables that have not puréed completely smooth,  I recommend straining the puréed mixture through a medium mesh wire sieve into a clean stockpot to get rid of any unpuréed residue.  This will result in a smoother textured soup.

Once the puréed mixture is transferred to a clean stock pot and the milk/cream blended in and heated, the cheeses and fresh herbs can be added.

Never boil a cream soup; instead, gently heat it just until the cheeses have melted.

Serving

This soup should be served hot.  It can be garnished with croutons, slivered almonds, croutons, fresh herbs, or a sprig of celery leaves.  Serve it in small quantities as a starter to a meal or in larger bowls as a tasty lunch or light supper. The soup is great served with homemade biscuits, rolls, or bread.

Making this cream-based soup is a great way to make use of fresh celery.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

Homemade Cream of Celery Soup

Ingredients:

¼ cup + 1 tbsp butter
8 oz celery, chopped fine (apx 2 cups)
2½ oz leek (white and green parts only), sliced thin (apx. 1 cup)
2 oz onion, finely chopped (apx. ½ cup)
4 oz potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour (to make it gluten-free, use 1/3 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)

2 cups warm chicken stock
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup 18% cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
¾ tsp fresh dill, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp thyme or rosemary, finely chopped

Celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
Sprinkle of nutmeg for garnish (optional)

Method:

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to just below medium and add the leek, onion, potato, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often.

Sprinkle flour onto vegetables and stir for approximately 1 minute.  Add chicken stock.  Cover. Bring to a boil.  Add the bay leaf. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.  Cool for 30-40 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  Transfer mixture to blender or food processor, starting with a good half of the mixture, puréeing, and then adding in the remainder and continuing to purée until smooth.  Strain puréed mixture through medium mesh wire sieve, into clean stock pot, to remove any bits of ingredients that have not completely puréed.

Add milk, cream, salt, and pepper to the mixture.  Heat over medium heat.  Do not boil.  Add the grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses along with the fresh herbs.  Stir until cheese melts. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a sprig of celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Yield:  5 cups, approximately 4-5 servings (1 to 1¼ cup/serving)

Delicious Cream of Celery Soup with layers of flavor. Perfect as a starter or for a light lunch or supper.

Homemade Cream of Celery Soup

Yield: 5 cups

Serving Size: 1 - 1 1/4 cups

Delicious homemade Cream of Celery Soup with layers of flavor. Perfect as a starter to a meal or for a light lunch or supper.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz celery, chopped fine (apx 2 cups)
  • 2½ oz leek (white and green parts only), sliced thin (apx. 1 cup)
  • 2 oz onion, finely chopped (apx. ½ cup)
  • 4 oz potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour (to make it gluten-free, use 1/3 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • 2 cups warm chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup 18% cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ tsp fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp thyme or rosemary, finely chopped
  • Celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
  • Sprinkle of nutmeg for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to just below medium and add the leek, onion, potato, and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Sprinkle flour onto vegetables and stir for approximately 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Cover. Bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Cool for 30-40 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Transfer mixture to blender or food processor, starting with a good half of the mixture, puréeing, and then adding in the remainder and continuing to purée until smooth. Strain puréed mixture through medium mesh wire sieve, into clean stock pot, to remove any bits of ingredients that have not completely puréed.
  3. Add milk, cream, salt, and pepper to the mixture. Heat over medium heat. Do not boil. Add the grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses along with the fresh herbs. Stir until cheese melts. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a sprig of celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
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Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Mussels are a favorite shellfish of mine and, while I love them steamed in various different broths, today I am presenting them in the form of Mussel Chowder and I’m sharing my own personal recipe.

Steamed PEI Mussels
PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic

PEI mussels are world famous and PEI is the country’s largest mussel cultivator. According to the Mussel Industry Council of Prince Edward Island, the Island produces some 45 million pounds of mussels annually and grows 80% of Canada’s mussel production.  Fresh PEI mussels are shipped to the USA, Hong Kong, Japan, and Kuwait. We may be Canada’s smallest province but mussel farming on PEI is big “muscle” and big business. I love checking out restaurant menus when I travel around the world and seeing PEI mussels on the menu!

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

The blue mussels that come from PEI are farmed mussels meaning they don’t come from the sea bottom but, rather, they are grown in mesh sleeves, known as “socks”.

Mussel Sock
Mussels in the Sock in Which They are Grown

On the day I publish this mussel chowder recipe for the first time, it is Food Day Canada, a day set aside each year to celebrate all the great Canadian foods we enjoy.  Here, in PEI, I have no shortage of local food options to choose from but, this year, it’s all about the mussels.

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

Mussels are more tender than clams and less gritty.  They are readily available on the Island at seafood outlets and supermarkets and are commonly served at gatherings on PEI.

PEI Mussels Served at Many Gatherings
Steamed PEI Mussels Served at Many Gatherings

Mussels are an affordable seafood and are quick, easy, and fast to prepare.  Steam them in liquid (even plain water) for 7-10 minutes, till the shells open. Dip these tasty little morsels in melted butter and oh-là-là! I like them steamed in beer, white wine, or apple juice with some garlic and fresh herbs.

PEI Mussels

Mussels are a great power food. They are low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals.  They are also gluten-free and are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

There are many different styles of mussel chowder and just as many ways to make it.  My mussel chowder is luxuriously rich, thick, creamy, and packed with wonderful flavor.

Begin by sweating some onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in butter to release the wonderful aromatics.  Add the flour and blend into the vegetables. This roux will thicken the chowder. Add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth,  white wine, and some good PEI potatoes. Pour in some milk to make the chowder nice and creamy. Finally, add in the steamed mussels, and fresh herbs.

Serve with crusty rolls, traditional homemade biscuits, whole wheat biscuits, or garlic or artisan bread.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My local beverage pairing for this chowder is the Commons Czech Style Pilsner produced by PEI’s Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown. This is a clean, crisp lager that pairs well with mussels. You can read the story I previously wrote about this artisan brewery by clicking here.

PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company's Commons Czech Style Pilsner
PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company’s Commons Czech Style Pilsner

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Ingredients:
2 lb PEI mussels, washed and beards removed
1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 tbsp butter
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
3 tbsp flour
1 cup reserved strained mussel broth
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1½ cups whole milk or a combination of evaporated milk and whole milk
1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ tsp fresh dillweed, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Method:
To steam the mussels, melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add the white wine, parsley, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Add the mussels. Cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened.  Set aside 4 mussels in their shells to use as garnishes, then remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells, discarding any shells that have not completely opened.  Store mussels in refrigerator until needed. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the second amount of butter over medium heat.  Reduce heat slightly and add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Sweat the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onion is transparent.

Reduce heat to low. Add the flour to make a roux and stir to blend with the vegetables.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching.  Gradually add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth, and white wine, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add the bay leaf and potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 8-9 minutes or until potatoes are almost fork tender.

Remove about ¼ cup of the hot liquid from pot and stir into the milk to temper it.  Pour tempered milk into hot mixture and stir to combine well.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the steamed mussels, fresh herbs, and butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes until mussels are heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish each with a steamed mussel, fresh herbs, or chopped chives. Serve with crusty rolls, biscuits, or artisan or garlic bread.

Yield: Apx. 4 servings

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Serving Size: Apx. 4

A hearty and delicious mussel chowder made with world-famous PEI mussels

Ingredients

  • 2 lb PEI mussels, washed and beards removed
  • 1½ tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup reserved strained mussel broth
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1½ cups whole milk or a combination of evaporated milk and whole milk
  • 1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh dillweed, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To steam the mussels, melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels. Cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened. Set aside 4 mussels in their shells to use as garnishes, then remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells, discarding any shells that have not completely opened. Store mussels in refrigerator until needed. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the second amount of butter over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly and add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Sweat the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onion is transparent.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add the flour to make a roux and stir to blend with the vegetables. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching. Gradually add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth, and white wine, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add the bay leaf and potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 8-9 minutes or until potatoes are almost fork tender.
  4. Remove about ¼ cup of the hot liquid from pot and stir into the milk to temper it. Pour tempered milk into hot mixture and stir to combine well. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the steamed mussels, fresh herbs, and butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes until mussels are heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish each with a steamed mussel, fresh herbs, or chopped chives. Serve with crusty rolls, biscuits, or artisan or garlic bread.
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Ham Lentil Soup Recipe

Today, I am sharing my newly-developed recipe for Ham Lentil Soup that is made from a leftover ham bone, broth, and ham.

If you are a regular follower of my food blog, by now you have likely figured out that I am a fan of leftovers and of foods that generate leftovers that can be used in other dishes.  One of my favorite comfort food meals is a boiled ham dinner.  I blogged about this back in 2013. I buy a large smoked pork picnic ham, place it in a big stockpot with lots of water and boil it for a good while then add the vegetables to make a meal-in-one-pot soup.  Easy-peasy and, oh, ever-so-tasty. However, these hams are almost always quite large and there is a lot of meat. After a couple of days of leftover ham with scalloped potatoes, sandwiches, and perhaps my Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole, I find it’s time to do something else with the ham and the flavorful broth in which it was boiled.

I’ve decided that all that good ham broth should not go to waste so I have developed a recipe to use the leftover ham broth and ham to make a tasty soup… a second soup, of sorts, from the same piece of meat.  Ham Lentil Soup is a good economical way to use leftovers.  You will need to refer back to my 2013 post for directions on cooking the ham in order to get the ham broth, so go ahead and click here for those instructions.  Make sure you use enough water to cook the ham so that you end up with 7 cups of ham broth and, remember, the water will reduce as the ham cooks so you will most likely need to top it up during the cooking process.

Ham Lentil Soup
Ham Lentil Soup

Now, this leftover Ham Lentil Soup could be made without the ham broth, instead using all chicken broth or vegetable broth. However, what would be missing would be the wonderful flavor of the natural ham broth. So, after I have removed the cooked ham from the stock pot, what I do is refrigerate the ham broth overnight. A layer of fat will form on the top of the broth. Skim all of that off and discard it.  Strain the broth through a cheesecloth lined strainer to remove any remaining whole bits of fat.  Place 7 cups of the ham broth along with the meaty ham bone striped of most of its meat, and the addition of several wonderful spices into a large stockpot. The bone has great flavor in it and the spices will enhance the ham broth and form a flavorful foundational base for the soup.  It’s the broth that makes this soup so it needs lots of flavor. After this broth has cooked slowly in a large stock pot under cover for about 45 minutes, it will have reduced down to about 4 cups or so. Strain this so you have a clear broth.

Then, get those aromatics cooking in the oil. Add the strained ham broth and top it up with 4 cups of vegetable broth so you have 8 cups of liquid.  The great part about this soup is that if you end up with more than 4 cups of strained ham broth, just add less vegetable broth or, conversely, if you have less than 4 cups of ham broth, top it up with more vegetable broth.  Follow the recipe for when to add the different vegetables and lentils that require different cooking times. If there is a vegetable you don’t like, simply replace it with an equal amount of a vegetable you prefer.

Ham Lentil Soup
Ham Lentil Soup

This is a great way to totally maximize the use of a large ham. When you get tired of it, dice up the leftover ham and use it in this soup. Anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 cups of leftover ham will suffice for this recipe. It’s meant to be a brothy, not thick, soup. I have added some orange lentils to this soup for extra substance but also because lentils are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and minerals. I have chosen orange lentils because they cook in a relatively short time, usually about 20-25 minutes. Don’t overcook the soup after adding the lentils or they will turn to mush. The lentils will still be flavorful but they will have lost their shape if cooked too long.

This Ham Lentil Soup is a good way to maximize and change up leftover ham and it also freezes well.

Ham Lentil Soup
Ham Lentil Soup

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Ham Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

Step 1:
1 leftover meaty ham bone
7 cups liquid (ham stock, chicken or vegetable broth)
2 whole star anise
10 whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick (about 3”)
3 cardamon pods
5 whole peppercorns
1 large unpeeled garlic clove
2 whole allspice
2 bay leaves

Step 2:
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
2/3 cup celery, chopped (apx. 1 large stalk)
1/3 cup parsnip, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups strained broth from Step 1 above
2 vegetable stock cubes
4 cups hot water
¾ cup carrots, diced
½ cup turnip, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
¾ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp marjoram
½ tsp summer savory
¼ tsp cloves
Pepper, to taste
4 oz (apx. ¾ cup) orange lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup potato, diced
19 oz can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen peas
1½ – 2 cups cooked leftover ham, diced
Fresh parsley for garnish

Method:

Step 1: Place leftover ham bone in large stock pot. Add 7 cups liquid (either ham stock left over from boiling the picnic ham or, alternatively, use chicken or vegetable stock).  Add star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, garlic clove, allspice, and bay leaves. Cover and boil gently over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through fine mesh strainer.  Discard bone and spices. Set broth aside. This should yield approximately 4 cups broth.

Step 2: Heat oil over medium heat in the large stock pot.  Add the onions, celery, and parsnip.  Sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, stirring briskly.

Return strained broth from Step 1 to stock pot.  Dissolve 2 vegetable stock cubes in 4 cups hot water. Add to the strained broth. Bring to a boil.  Add carrots, turnip, and spices. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Add the lentils.  Cook for 10 minutes then add the potato and drained kidney beans.  Cook for about 10 minutes then add the corn, peas, and cooked ham. Cook for about 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are fork tender.

Yield:  Apx. 12 – 1-cup servings

Ham Lentil Soup

Yield: Apx. 12 - 1-cup servings

This flavorful ham lentil soup makes good use of leftover ham bone, broth, and ham along with a mixture of vegetables, spices, and lentils.

Ingredients

  • Step 1:
  • 1 leftover meaty ham bone
  • 7 cups liquid (ham stock, chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 10 whole cloves
  • ½ cinnamon stick (about 3”)
  • 3 cardamon pods
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 large unpeeled garlic clove
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Step 2:
  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup celery, chopped (apx. 1 large stalk)
  • 1/3 cup parsnip, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups strained broth from Step 1 above
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 4 cups hot water
  • ¾ cup carrots, diced
  • ½ cup turnip, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¾ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp marjoram
  • ½ tsp summer savory
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz (apx. ¾ cup) orange lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup potato, diced
  • 19 oz can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1½ - 2 cups cooked leftover ham, diced
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Step 1: Place leftover ham bone in large stock pot. Add 7 cups liquid (either ham stock left over from boiling the picnic ham or, alternatively, use chicken or vegetable stock). Add star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, garlic clove, allspice, and bay leaves. Cover and boil gently over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through fine mesh strainer. Discard bone and spices. Set broth aside. This should yield approximately 4 cups broth.
  2. Step 2: Heat oil over medium heat in the large stock pot. Add the onions, celery, and parsnip. Sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, stirring briskly.
  3. Return strained broth from Step 1 to stock pot. Dissolve 2 vegetable stock cubes in 4 cups hot water. Add to the strained broth. Bring to a boil. Add carrots, turnip, and spices. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Add the lentils. Cook for 10 minutes then add the potato and drained kidney beans. Cook for about 10 minutes then add the corn, peas, and cooked ham. Cook for about 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are fork tender.

Notes

Please read entire blog post for additional information on making this soup.

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Ham and Lentil Soup
Ham and Lentil Soup

 

Ham and Lentil Soup
Ham and Lentil Soup

Turkey Chowder Recipe

Turkey Chowder is the perfect way to use up leftover turkey.  It’s a welcome tummy-warming and tasty chowder for cold winter days and is a real treat after skiing, a long winter walk, snowshoeing, or coasting on the snow-covered hills. Serve with warm rolls or biscuits straight from the oven for an extra special treat.

Homemade Chowder
Turkey Chowder

I make this chowder throughout the year, not just after Christmas or Thanksgiving when I have roasted a turkey.  If you don’t have the leftovers from a turkey, simply buy and roast turkey breasts. Dice up the cooked meat and, voilà, you have the needed turkey for a tasty chowder.

Turkey Chowder
Homemade Turkey Chowder

Apart from the soothing, comfort-food taste, two things I like most about this chowder: First, its simplicity of basic ingredients used and, second, the easy method used to make the chowder.

Like any great soup or chowder, this one starts with the aromatics. The flavor base for this chowder is a basic French Mirepoix. This is nothing more than a combination of three humble vegetables finely chopped and sautéed in butter –  onion, celery, and carrots.  These three veggies alone form the foundational flavor base for many dishes. Ever walk into a home or restaurant and pick up the heady scent of these veggies being sautéed? That’s the French Mirepoix in the making and you just know that something good is going to come from it!  It’s important that the veggies be finely chopped so they will release their flavor and aroma early in the cooking process. It’s also important to allow the necessary time for them to sauté. For example, if all you did was dump all the ingredients for this chowder into a pot all at once, the flavor would be very bland. This is because the onion, celery, and carrots need time to release their flavors and this is what will give the deep, well-rounded flavor in soups or chowders.

Homemade Turkey Chowder
Turkey Chowder

Once the French Mirepoix is well underway, add the next layer of aromatics – the dried summer savory and the garlic salt.  Summer savory is a very common herb to use as a poultry seasoning here on Prince Edward Island and I always have to have summer savory for my poultry stuffing/dressing.  Add the next layer of aromatics – mushrooms and red pepper.  Now you have the flavor base for the chowder.

Chowders are, by nature, thick consistency.  My recipe calls for a couple of tablespoons of all-purpose flour.  The flour is simply sprinkled over the aromatic mixture in the pot and stirred in. This is followed by the addition of chicken stock (or turkey stock if you have used the turkey carcass to make your own) and cubed potato. Make sure you stir the mixture well to ensure there are no lumps forming from the flour – nobody likes a lumpy chowder. The base for the chowder should be silky smooth.  Very slowly add the milk all the while continuing to stir the mixture to keep it lump-free. Don’t boil the chowder but, instead, allow it to heat slowly before adding the cooked turkey, creamed corn which lends a sweetness to the chowder, and grated Parmesan cheese.  Taste the chowder and add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  The chowder is done when it is heated through, the Parmesan cheese has melted and been incorporated into the chowder, and the cubes of potato are just fork tender – don’t cook them to mush.

This hearty chowder is perfect served with rolls, biscuits, or your favorite crackers.

Turkey Chowder
Homemade Turkey Chowder

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Turkey Chowder

Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter
¾ cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup carrots, diced
3 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup red pepper, chopped
1½ – 2 tsp dried summer savory
¾ tsp garlic salt
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup potato, diced
1¼ cups milk
2 cup cooked turkey, cubed
1 – 10oz can creamed corn
Sprinkle salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Melt butter in large soup pot.  Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the mixture with summer savory and garlic salt. Increase heat to medium-high and add mushrooms and red pepper and cook 3-4 minutes, continuing to stir vegetables often.

Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir for 1-2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and potato. Bring to a boil, stirring to ensure flour is incorporated and not lumpy.  Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly add the milk while stirring the mixture. Cook, stirring mixture, for approximately 2 minutes.

Add the cooked turkey, creamed corn, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan.  Heat to melt the cheese and ensure potato is fork tender but do not boil chowder.  Serve hot with rolls, biscuits, or crackers.

Yield: Apx. 4-5 servings

Turkey Chowder Recipe

Yield: Apx. 4-5 servings

A thick, flavorful chowder that uses leftover cooked turkey, aromatic vegetables, creamed corn, and Parmesan cheese, all seasoned with dried summer savory

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, diced
  • 3 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup red pepper, chopped
  • 1½ - 2 tsp dried summer savory
  • ¾ tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup potato, diced
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • 2 cup cooked turkey, cubed
  • 1 – 10oz can creamed corn
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in large soup pot. Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the mixture with summer savory and garlic salt. Increase heat to medium-high and add mushrooms and red pepper and cook 3-4 minutes, continuing to stir vegetables often.
  2. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potato. Bring to a boil, stirring to ensure flour is incorporated and not lumpy. Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly add the milk while stirring the mixture. Cook, stirring mixture, for approximately 2 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked turkey, creamed corn, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Heat to melt the cheese and ensure potato is fork tender but do not boil chowder. Serve hot with rolls, biscuits, or crackers.
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Turkey Chowder
Turkey Chowder

 

Homemade Turkey Chowder
Turkey Chowder

The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Italian Soup
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

I spent some time in Italy this fall and, of course, now I am totally motivated to do more Italian-inspired cooking like this minestrone soup, for example.  It’s very easy to get inspired when traveling to beautiful parts of the world, especially those known for fine cuisine and wines!

Cinque Terre
Manarola, Italy

Vineyards were busy as the grape harvesting was on when we were in Italy. The one in the photo below was near Manarola in Cinque Terre (Liguria Region)  on the rugged Italian Rivieria. Those are terraced vineyards you see in the background in the photo above and a close up of one in the photo below as harvesters collect the grapes for winemaking.

Grape Harvesting
Harvesting Grapes near Manarola, Italy

And, of course, I always check out the local farmers markets, like the one below in Venice, when I travel.

dsc00991

And, I can never pass up colorful Italian pasta or good quality olive oil!

Pasta
Italian Pasta (Venice, Italy)

But, alas, I am back home in my Prince Edward Island kitchen with lots of ideas for Italian-inspired dishes.  I have actually been making this minestrone soup for many years, tweaking and adjusting it until it reached my satisfaction. In fact, it is a staple in my freezer – I freeze portion-sized servings and then take them to work for weekday lunches. Served with a homemade biscuit, crusty roll, or garlic bread, this is a filling soup.

Minestrone
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Minestrone is what I call the “kitchen sink of soups” because many different ingredients can be included in the soup, almost everything but the kitchen sink! It’s often called “the big soup” for a reason and that is because it contains lots of ingredients. This is a vegetable-type soup that, no matter the recipe, will contain common ingredients like beans, onions, tomatoes, a variety of vegetables, and some kind of pasta.  Other ingredients, such as meat, can be added as well to make it a more hearty meal.  Pretty much any vegetables you like can be added to the soup but you will generally find carrots, peas, string beans, tomatoes, and zucchini in most minestrone soups. There is no fixed recipe as such for minestrone and ingredients vary according to the regions of Italy and what is in season and available at the time the soup is made. There are as many versions of this soup as there are cooks! I have tasted minestrone in different restaurants and they all taste different but they all still go by the same name!

Minestrone
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

This Mediterranean soup is cooked in a broth – beef, chicken, or vegetable stock may be used. Like many soups with vegetables, I find the broth needs some extra seasoning. I rely heavily on basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning for this soup and these are somewhat standard in most minestrone recipes. To further deepen the flavor, I also add a couple of tablespoons of my homemade basil pesto. You can find my pesto recipe by clicking here.

Pesto
Basil Pesto

What follows is my recipe for Beefy Minestrone (printable version of the recipe follows at end of posting).

The Bistro's Beefy Minestrone Soup
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone Soup

The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Ingredients:
 
330g (¾ lb) stew beef, cut into small ¼” – ½” bite-size cubes
2 tbsp cooking oil
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh fennel, very finely chopped (optional but good)
½ cup celery, chopped
2/3 cup carrots, sliced thinly

1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 – 284 ml (apx. 10 oz) can tomato soup
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp fresh lemon juice
1½ tsp brown sugar
1¾ tsp dried basil
1¾ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup green or yellow string beans (fresh or frozen), cut into 1”–1½ “ inch pieces
1 – 540 ml can (apx. 18 oz) six-bean medley or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
160 g (apx. 1¼ cups) zucchini, diced
1 cup uncooked elbow pasta
1½ cups frozen peas

1-2 tbsp basil pesto

Olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

In large stock pot, brown beef cubes in oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, garlic, fennel, celery, and carrots.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a small amount of additional oil, if necessary.

Add the next 11 ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook slowly for about 12-15 minutes.  Add the string beans.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.

Stir in the six-bean medley (or red kidney beans), zucchini, elbow pasta, and frozen peas. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 7-10 minutes, or until pasta is just fork tender.

Remove soup from heat and stir in the basil pesto.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with either a drizzle of olive oil or grated Parmesan cheese.

Yield: Apx. 12, one-cup servings

Pin This Minestrone Recipe To Pinterest!

Minestrone
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Yield: Apx 12, one-cup servings

An Italian-inspired hearty minestrone soup with beef and a variety of tasty and healthy vegetables and pasta cooked in a broth flavored with basil and oregano

Ingredients

  • 330g (¾ lb) stew beef, cut into small ¼” – ½” bite-size cubes
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh fennel, very finely chopped (optional but good)
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • 2/3 cup carrots, sliced thinly
  • 1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 284 ml (apx. 10 oz) can tomato soup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp brown sugar
  • 1¾ tsp dried basil
  • 1¾ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup green or yellow string beans (fresh or frozen), cut into 1” – 1½ “ inch pieces
  • 1 – 540 ml can (apx. 18 oz) six-bean medley or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 160 g (apx. 1¼ cups) zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow pasta
  • 1½ cups frozen peas
  • 1-2 tbsp basil pesto
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In large stock pot, brown beef cubes in oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, fennel, celery, and carrots. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a small amount of additional oil, if necessary.
  2. Add the next 11 ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook slowly for about 12-15 minutes. Add the string beans. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the six-bean medley or red kidney beans, zucchini, elbow pasta, and frozen peas. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 7-10 minutes, or until pasta is just fork tender.
  4. Remove soup from heat and stir in the basil pesto. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with either a drizzle of olive oil or grated Parmesan cheese.
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Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

One of my all-time favorite soups is made with the most unlikely vegetable – cauliflower. I first had this soup on a cold, rainy night in a small café in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, many years ago. We were looking for light fare and cauliflower was the soup of the day. I must admit, the thoughts of cauliflower in soup was not at all appealing to me but the menu was limited so this is what was ordered. What came to the table was, without a doubt, one of the most palate-pleasing soups I’ve ever had! Rich and creamy with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top and served with a multi-grain bread, this became a soup that I just had to figure out how to make on my own.  So I set about figuring out just what ingredients would have been used to enhance the somewhat blah cauliflower. My recipe is a good replica of that first cauliflower soup I so enjoyed.

Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Over the years, I’ve worked on my recipe for the soup. The first thing I do is roast the cauliflower that I sprinkle with nutmeg.  Of all the spices, I find nutmeg complements the cauliflower best. Roasting vegetables deepens their flavor and this, of course, contributes to the overall flavor of the soup. To make life simpler, rather than say the recipe calls for one head of cauliflower (which comes in different sizes), or x cups of florets, I’ve measured the exact weight of cauliflower my recipe takes for optimal results.  This measurement is taken after the main core stalk of the cauliflower has been removed and discarded. For roasting, I break off chunks of the florets instead of breaking off each individual floret.  The small florets would burn in the roasting process and there is a difference between roasting and burnt offerings! It’s important to stir and turn the cauliflower every 10-12 minutes as it roasts to prevent burning and to ensure even roasting of all sides of the florets.  I also find that loosely mashing the roasted cauliflower with a potato masher makes the vegetable easier to purée evenly.

I use a combination of leeks, onion, and garlic to flavor the soup. The addition of a small amount of fresh fennel does add a layer of flavor complexity to this soup but its addition is optional. When I am making this soup at a time when I have fresh fennel in the garden, I use it but I would not buy an expensive fennel bulb out of season for the small amount the recipe calls for.

The base for this soup is chicken stock. I use the liquid chicken bouillon concentrate to make the stock but homemade or canned/boxed stock can certainly be used.

Cool both the cauliflower and the soup mixture to room temperature before puréeing it. I recommend puréeing the mixture in small batches to ensure the mixture is very smooth and free of any lumps or chunks of cauliflower, leeks, or onions.

I also recommend the milk be at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes or so before blending it into the puréed cauliflower mixture to avoid the milk curdling. Use whole milk, not fat-reduced or skim, for this soup – it’s meant to be luxurious, velvety, and soothing to the palate. In fact, a small amount of cream can be substituted for part of the milk in the recipe. This soup freezes well (yes, it really does) but whole milk or a blend of milk/cream needs to be used when freezing cream-based soups successfully. Soups made with fat-reduced or skim milk do not freeze and reheat well as the ingredients tend to separate.

Once the milk is added (slowly) to the puréed mixture, it’s important not to boil it – all it needs is a slow, gentle heating to the point that the cheese will melt.  My recipe calls for a blend of three flavorful cheeses – cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan.  I buy the bag of pre-shredded cheese with this mixture in it and these three cheeses do complement, not only each other well, but the cauliflower, too.  Stir the soup over low heat just until the cheeses have all melted and blended into the soup. Never boil this soup.

The soup may be served in small appetizer-sized portions for the soup course of a dinner or, in larger portions as a main meal for lunch or a light supper.  Serve this gorgeous-colored soup with homemade biscuits, crusty rolls, rustic or French bread.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1¼ lb cauliflower florets, chopped into chunks of about 7-9 florets   (weighed after large core stalk removed)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

3 tbsp butter
2/3 cup sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
¾ oz fresh fennel, finely minced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp flour

2¼ cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk (at room temperature for 20-30 minutes)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded three-cheese blend (cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking oil.

In large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets, oil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Spread cauliflower in single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Roast for approximately 40-45 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft, stirring and turning the cauliflower every 10-12 minutes for even roasting.  Cool slightly.  Break florets into small pieces and mash loosely with a potato masher to break down the florets for easier puréeing.

In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter.  Sauté the leeks, onion, fennel, and garlic over medium heat until leeks and fennel are softened (but not browned), about 7-8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to blend. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Purée cooled mixture along with the cauliflower in small batches in food processor or blender until smooth.

Return puréed mixture to stockpot and, over medium-low heat, slowly stir or whisk in the milk.  Add salt and pepper to taste. When mixture is heated (do not boil), stir in 1 cup of three-cheese blend.  Heat, stirring constantly, just until cheese is melted (do not boil).

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with roasted cauliflower florets.

Yield: 6-7 servings

Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Yield: 6-7 servings

A rich and velvety-textured cream-based soup made with roasted cauliflower and a blend of three cheeses.

Ingredients

  • 1¼ lb cauliflower florets, chopped into chunks of about 7-9 florets (weighed after large core stalk removed)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ oz fresh fennel, finely minced (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2¼ cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups whole milk (at room temperature for 20-30 minutes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded three-cheese blend (cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking oil.
  3. In large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets, oil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Spread cauliflower in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast for approximately 40-45 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft, stirring and turning the cauliflower every 10-12 minutes for even roasting. Cool slightly. Break florets into small pieces and mash loosely with a potato masher to break down the florets for easier puréeing.
  4. In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter. Sauté the leeks, onion, fennel, and garlic over medium heat until leeks and fennel are softened (but not browned), about 7-8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to blend. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Purée cooled mixture along with the cauliflower in small batches in food processor or blender until smooth.
  5. Return puréed mixture to stockpot and, over medium-low heat, slowly stir or whisk in the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. When mixture is heated (do not boil), stir in 1 cup of three-cheese blend. Heat, stirring constantly, just until cheese is melted (do not boil).
  6. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with roasted cauliflower florets.
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Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

For the recipe for the biscuits in the photos, click here.