Soups and Stews

Sausage, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

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It’s Daylight Savings Time (or is it the end of Daylight Savings Time? I can never keep them straight), and that means it will be dark before I even leave work. And when that happens, I lose interest in cooking at night. Just give me some takeout (or worse yet, junk food) and a glass of wine, and I’ll curl up on the couch with the cat and fall asleep. And then I have no leftovers for lunch the next day. Rinse and repeat…

There are worse problems, but this cycle isn’t great for my wallet or my health. I try to nip it in the bud by cooking more on the weekends and stocking up for the week. I love soup and salad at lunch, which leave me feeling full but not heavy. This one is economical, and easily adaptable to your tastes and preferences. Omit the Half & Half to make it dairy-free, or try substituting chicken for the smoked sausage.

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Sausage, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Serves 4

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup wild rice (or wild & long grain rice blend)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
8 oz. sliced cremini or white mushrooms
8 oz. reduced-fat smoked sausage, cut into bite-sized medallions
1/2 cup Half & Half
Freshly ground pepper and salt

In a medium saucepan, combine broth and rice. Cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and celery and cook 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and mushrooms. Cooking, stirring occasionally, until sausage is browned and vegetables are semi-tender. Add rice and its broth to the sausage and vegetables. Simmer, uncovered, until rice has “bloomed.”

Add Half & Half and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Bacon

So many summer meals growing up were just corn from my dad’s farm. I imagine that isn’t all that uncommon for midwestern farm families (sorry, carb haters — just telling it like it is).

These days, corn is usually a side dish, but it is still a must-do on my summer table. I love this chowder recipe: a few fresh, seasonal ingredients that complement one another, and just filling enough without being heavy.

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Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

Adapted slightly from Cooking Light
Serves 5

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 1/2 cups fresh (uncooked) corn kernels (about 6-7 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
8 ounces fingerling potatos, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more)
Thyme sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half, and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape; secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid to avoid splatters. Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan. Stir in salt and black pepper. Season to taste, if necessary.

Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Chicken and Dumplings

I discovered celery root for the first time a year or two ago. Scary-looking thing, isn’t it?

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My first foray into celery root was a chicken soup with root vegetables, including celery root (or celeriac, as it’s sometimes called). I had walked past it so many times in the grocery store, without ever noticing it.

Big mistake. Once you peel it, it looks a lot like a potato, but it holds its shape when cooking. And it’s quite delicious — to me it’s like mixing celery, cauliflower, and butter into one.

Anyway, I had been jonesing for some kind of chicken stew or dumplings when the latest issue of Bon Appetit arrived. Last week, when the threat of the Snowquester — a supposedly massive snowstorm that preemptively shut down DC — this seemed like the perfect option.

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But, my week was just too busy to get to a regular grocery store (Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell celery root) before the non-storm. Instead, I saved it for the weekend.

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For the wine, choose something rich that can stand up to the chicken and vegetables. My personal preference is Chardonnay, aged in steel (rather than the traditional oak, which I don’t usually care for). But that’s just it — a personal preference. At the end of the day, when cooking with wine, choose one you like, and taste regularly while cooking.

Chicken and Dumplings

Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

Serves 6-8

Stew:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
8 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1/2 cup water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons (or more) Sherry or white vinegar

Dumplings:
3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Carefully drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Add carrots, celery root, onion, and leek; stir frequently until softened and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes.

Add butter; stir until melted. Add flour and stir constantly until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add wine and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 5-8 minutes.

Add chicken, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 35 minutes. Discard bay leaves and herb sprigs. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.

Return shredded chicken to soup. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired. Return to a simmer.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup milk. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of a spoon. (Add additional 2 tablespoons milk if too thick.)

Drop batter in 8 spoonfuls over simmering stew, keeping them spaced apart. Cover and simmer until dumplings are firm, about 20 minutes. Serve in bowls.