Sausage, chard and lentil soup

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Sometimes, I think I should rename this blog, “Things I tried to feed my husband.” It’s a long list, and each item on it has been received with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Kil’t kale, for example, was immediately embraced and adapted to work with the metric crap-ton of chard I grew in our garden this summer. The white bean, ham and leek soup has been in regular rotation since the first time I made it, because it’s so easy, inexpensive, and hard not to like.

But a lot of other things I’ve made over the past few months since posting have utterly failed. I made a zucchini rice gratin from Smitten Kitchen that was delicious, but immediately rejected. I bought some amazing kielbasa at a farmer’s market only to realize that apparently the man I married has no Polish blood in his veins. None. (Who is this man?!)

All this is by way of halfway explaining why I haven’t been posting, because I have been assuming that if my husband doesn’t like something, you won’t, either. But you know what? I don’t think that’s true. Mostly because I fell in love with this soup, while he pretty much refused to eat it. Lentils, apparently, not being an acceptable source of protein.    Continue reading

Missing People and Mushroom Soup

all hearts come home for christmas 

I miss everything lately. Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s that I haven’t been back to my hometown since 2008. Regardless of the reason, I’ve been throwing myself a little pity party for the past week, thinking back with nostalgia on everything from the weird noises the heating system made in my old house to the easiness of hanging out at my old “local” in Dublin.

Mostly, I have been thinking about things I wish I had done with my family. I wish I’d gotten to know Grandpa Wutz better. I wish I’d learned Polish from Grandma Wutz. I wish I had spent more time with Grandpa Gallo down in his basement workshop, learning about things like pocket holes and jigsaws and how to turn scrap wood into anything imaginable.

grandpa's christmas ornament

While I’m probably going to have to teach myself about pocket holes, I can take advantage of the things I did learn from my family. I can wear scarves like Grandma Wutz did, sew a new bed for my dog using skills Grandma Gallo taught me, and I can make Grandpa’s mushroom soup.

mushroom soup

This soup is the most traditional recipe I have — in fact, really the only one. If I was a recipe hoarder, I would hoard this one. It comes from my maternal grandfather’s family, and it’s a dish my grandmother made every year without fail as the starter to our Christmas Eve dinner. She always says it’s a meal in itself, and I agree — so much so that I started making it for Christmas Eve dinner four years ago, serving it just with some crusty bread and a little wine.

One bite and you’re transported to Central Europe. Who else would combine kielbasa, sauerkraut, ham hocks and mushrooms? I really am not positive how authentic it is, but reliable relatives tell me it dates at least to the turn of the 20th century (despite my grandma’s version containing canned mushrooms, which I think was likely a change made later for convenience).

One caveat: this is not exactly Grandma’s recipe. She always used a ham bone, and she used half the amount of sausage, along with the aforementioned canned mushrooms. I felt like I could make this my own, within reason, and I could never find a ham bone when I was looking for one.

Regardless, it’s something I did manage to learn from my family. And in a way, that’s enough.

Mushroom Soup
 
Author: Kate Wutz
My family’s traditional Christmas Eve soup, a medly of Central European flavors — sausage, ham, sauerkraut and mushrooms.
Ingredients
  • 4 smoked ham hocks
  • 2 lbs brown cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 lbs smoked kielbasa, cut in half and then sliced
  • 2 lbs sauerkraut, rinsed thoroughly
  • Brown gravy:
  • 4 Tbsp butter (or, um, bacon grease if you want to get crazy)
  • Flour
  • Water
Instructions
  1. The night before Christmas Eve, put your ham hocks in the largest stock pot you have. Fill the rest of the pot with water and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for five hours or so. The broth might not look too much like broth, more like ham water, but it’ll be fine. Remove the ham hocks and put in a bowl in the fridge overnight. Chill the broth in its stockpot overnight as well.
  2. On Christmas Eve, skim the fat from the top of the broth and bring it back to a simmer. Meanwhile, peel the meat off of the ham hocks, trim the fat, and add the ham to the pot. Throw your dog a little bite if you’re feeling festive. Add mushrooms, kielbasa and sauerkraut and simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. While the soup is simmering, make the gravy. Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-heat, then add flour until the mixture is dry (you may, yes, use gluten-free flour or cornstarch here). Watching this like a hawk and stirring constantly, brown this mixture until it’s golden. Whisk in water slowly, beating out lumps, until you have a thick gravy.
  4. Add to the soup and stir to combine (see how much thicker and darker that broth gets? Crazy!). Serve immediately, or store in the fridge for a few days. The flavors get better with a little bit of time.
 

 

Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

paleo gluten-free sweet potato hash 1

Some days, you just want to come home from work and eat cereal out of the box. I know that feeling. Of course, every time I try to make cereal my dinner, I end up on the couch with a bag of chocolate chips around 9 p.m., suddenly realizing I’ve eaten the whole thing by myself. Woman cannot live on cereal alone, apparently.

I end up wishing I had just taken 10 minutes and made this meal instead. It uses fully cooked, gluten-free, and Paleo Aidell’s andouille sausage, sweet potatoes, and a little red pepper, all sauteed in one pan. It even feeds two if you stretch it with a salad…even if you don’t, as this is an incredibly hearty portion.

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Turkey Gumbo

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This recipe is the reason I’ve made turkey three times this year, even though we didn’t actually eat Thanksgiving dinner at home. I was browsing through the Homesick Texan blog, looking for something remotely Paleo (sigh), when this recipe popped up. Obviously meant to use up Thanksgiving leftovers, this looked so delicious that I just had to roast up some turkey, stock up on sausage, and go on the hunt for okra.

Unfortunately, my first attempt completely failed. My second attempt, however, was delicious. I ate it over sort of a bed of white rice (not Paleo, I know, but not not Paleo either) — but apparently, rice is supposed to be used more as a topping or a stir-in. Who knew? A lot of people, but not this East Coast native.

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