Archive for Soups and Stews

August 15th, 2010

Quitting with Tagine (and Couscous)


It’s been a while.

Well to make a long story short, I quit my job. It felt a little crazy to do it in this economy, but it became a matter of “now or never.” We have some savings and not very many responsibilities at the moment so it’s as good a time as any to try out a little life experiment: I went ahead and signed up for a few more cooking classes, a cake decorating class, and applied for an internship at a bakery. Class starts in a couple of weeks and I’ll hear back about the internship next week so we’ll see how that all goes.

So in the spirit of trying out new things, I made a Moroccan meal a few days ago. I found this recipe in The Bon Appetit Cookbook. It didn’t seem very intimidating and I already had most of the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a shot. Turns out, it pays to try new things every once in a while. Although a tagine is a particular kind of pot used primarily in North African cooking, I just used my Dutch oven and it worked out fine. Whatever heavy-bottom pot you have will work great.

Chicken Tagine and Vegetable Couscous
Adapted from Bon Appetit Cookbook
Serves 2-3


1 Tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on (about 2 lbs total)
1/2 an onion
1 1/3 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric
dash of cayenne
2/3 tsp ground ginger
2/3 c low salt chicken broth
small can of olives
lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken to pot and brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to platter. Pour off all but thin film of fat from pot. Add onions. Reduce heat to medium and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add all spices and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return chicken pieces to pot, in single layer if possible. Add chicken broth, lemons, and olives. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, basting and turning occasionally, about 30 minutes. Season tagine to taste with salt and pepper.

This can be prepared 1 day ahead so the chicken can sit in the tasty stew but, well, we were hungry and ate almost all of it.

Since I’ve never had couscous before and wasn’t sure what the taste and texture is supposed to be, I just bought a box of instant couscous. I sauteed a quarter of an onion, one zucchini and one summer squash then mixed that with the cooked couscous. It was like teeny tiny rice! Quite delish.


February 15th, 2010

Soup, Snow and Strangers

Last Saturday it was a little tough to get to class. It was a day after The Great Snowmaggedon of 2010. We got 12 inches of snow in Dallas, which I learned later is the most snow we’ve had in over a hundred years. It was bewildering and exciting and damned cold. I know you Northerners/Europeans/polar bears chuckle at how a foot of snow renders us Southerners helpless and giddy at the same time, but haters to the left please. We had us a good time.


Anyway, it snowed on Thursday and Friday but by the time Saturday rolled around, the magical white stuff had started to melt a little. I woke up on Saturday full of loathing for myself. I was coming down with a sore throat and the thought of driving 20-something miles through this strange Texan winter wonderland early on a weekend seemed ludicrous. I called myself crazy for embarking on this silly personal project but I finally convinced myself to go, and despite feeling really tired, really cold, and a little sick, I was really happy I did.

There was a guy hanging around on the corner where I was waiting to cross the street to get to class. He didn’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere although he seemed unnaturally happy to be out and about so early on a cold Saturday morning. He saw my houndstooth pants and my knife kit and asked loudly, “You going to culinary school?”

“Er, yes…”

“I was in that industry for years! Food industry, man. Learned all the mother sauces and everything. Great times, great times!”

By this time the light had turned and I had to cross the street. All I could think to say was, “Wow, great!” before walking on. I waved goodbye to him and as I got to the other side, he yelled at me, “Stick with it! You won’t regret it!”

It’s odd but that stranger really helped get me through the day.

It also helped that we were doing soups that day. Five soups, to be exact. Perfect for a cold day.



French onion

Cream of Broccoli

Split Pea (we actually used lentils since there were no peas)

Consomme (no picture because it was a pain in the ass to make so I didn’t have time to snap a pic)

All of these were good but I’ll share my favorite with you: the French Onion Soup. After making this, I was really perplexed as to why this soup in particular has a stigma of being really difficult to make when really it’s not. It takes a while to cook, sure, and it uses up an unreal amount of onions, but other than that it’s not the most complicated thing. Try it out if you are a French Onion Soup fan. It’s pretty excellent.

2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 lb onions, sliced thin
4 1/2 cups beef stock
salt and pepper
1.5 oz sherry
French bread
Freshly grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1. Heat butter in a stockpot over moderate heat. Add onions and cook until golden. Stir occasionally. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Be patient, this is where the flavors build. Keep an eye on it though, you don’t want it to burn.
2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until onions are tender and flavors have blended, another 20 minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sherry.
4. Keep soup hot until you are just about to serve it.
5. Cut the bread into slices of 3/8 inches, enough to cover the top of a ramekin or small soup bowl.
6. Toast slices in the oven under the broiler.
7. For each portion, fill an individual ramekin with hot soup. Place 1 or 2 slices of the toast on top and cover with cheese. Pass under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

February 2nd, 2010

Pork Menudo ala Teleconference

We had to call Mom long-distance to get her recipe for this, to make sure we were doing it right. We kept her on the phone almost the entire time we were cooking, alternately gossiping about friends and asking if the stew should be that color. My sister Daphne did pretty much all of the cooking while I took pictures. Mom supervised over the phone.

Mexican menudo, it should be noted, is not at all the same thing as Filipino menudo.  The Mexican version has tripe and peppers while the recipe you see here is a tomatoey pork stew.

Additionally, this recipe is what me and my family think of as menudo, but I know others call it afritada. I’m not sure what the difference is as they are both tomato-based stews, so if someone can enlighten me, please do!

6 cloves of garlic (or less, we like our stuff really garlicky)
1/2 a medium sized yellow onion
1 lb tomatoes (about 4 large roma)
1 large potato (Yukon works great)
1 bell pepper
2 lbs fatty pork
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 bouillon cube
1 cup water

Finely chop the garlic. My sister recommends to sprinkle salt on the garlic so the knife doesn’t get all sticky.


Slice the onion and the tomatoes. My mom’s rule of thumb: one pound of tomatoes for every two pounds of pork. You can use a large can of tomatoes instead but we find those to be more tart and you will have to balance it out with a little bit of sugar. Dice up the bell pepper (take the seedy stuff out). Cut up the potato into small cubes. Slice up the pork into bite-size chunks. My sister bought what looks to be a cut of pork belly but the label wasn’t really clear.



On medium heat, in a large pot (or an awesome red Dutch oven you got for Christmas if you’re me), put in a couple of tablespoons of oil then throw in the onions and the garlic. Let them get fragrant then throw in the tomatoes too.

They’re starting the party! Stir occasionally. Juices will come out and it will get pretty watery in there. This is what we want. Juicy is good.

Once the onions and tomatoes get pretty soft, about 3 minutes, and there’s a fair amount of liquid in there, throw in the pork. Mash the bouillon cube with your fingers and sprinkle over the pork. Let the meat get to a brownish color, stirring occasionally, then pour in about a cup of water.

Let the pork get cooked most of the way (this shouldn’t take long if you cut it into little pieces, about 15 minutes). Pour in the 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and add in the diced bell pepper and potatoes. Cover and let sit for about 15-20 minutes or until both the pork and potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you add in a touch of sugar to liven things up a bit, I’ll look the other way.

There a lot of optional ingredients you can add to this if you like, such as peas and carrots. You’ll want to add the carrots in along with the potato since it will take a while to get them soft, but add the peas towards the end of cooking because it won’t take long for those little guys to get done.

This dish is almost better the next day because the tomatoes… have acid… and does things… I don’t know. Science happens and then it is even tastier.

Serve with rice of course.