Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Tag: potatoes

Caldo Verde Soup

Caldo Verde Soup

Caldo Verde Soup

Caldo Verde, what a nice name you have. Mysterious, exotic, European, warm.

Rather charming for a soup, I’d say.

(It might be too opaque for some, I grant you. We could flip-flop to English and adopt “Green broth.” Yes, go ahead, make a face. Or we could go literal: Portuguese Sausage Soup with Kale and Potatoes. But please, let’s not.)

In its mysterious linguistic cloak, Caldo Verde alludes to a party, a celebration like that of feasts of various saints honored in Portugal in June, when this soup is a requisite menu item. (As are sardines. A party with sardines is my kind of party.)

But forgive me, Saint John, for I can’t wait till June. My dear friend Judy told me about Caldo Verde this weekend, and October is prime soup season.

At first, when I read your recipe, I thought you might be too dull.

But soups are stovetop alchemy.

Think of French onion soup or chicken noodle soup or miso soup. Unfussy ingredients somehow meld together to create a tastebud quilt. Even the limp vegetables become savory pillows. Broth transforms into a magical foundation for dinner.

Stone soup isn’t just for kids.

Caldo Verde has its own entry in the alchemic textbook. Sausage. Potatoes. Kale. Onions. Garlic. Broth. Salt. Pepper.

Done.

I resisted the lure of the paprika, the cayenne, the tumeric, all eyeing me from the cabinet.

This simple sausage soup, filling and delicious, sent my sweetheart back for thirds.

Caldo Verde Soup

adapted from the Joy of Cooking

  • 1 pound chorizo sausage (Tip for Charlottesvillians: We were happy with Timbercreek Organics chorizo from Relay Foods.)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves (or more!), minced
  • 4 medium potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 big bunch kale, washed and torn up into pieces
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced, deseeded, and ready to squeeze

Cook the sausage, sliced or broken up into chunks, in a Dutch oven or other big soup pan on medium heat until browned and cooked through.

Remove the sausage onto a plate or bowl. Leave the luscious fat drippings in the pot, unless the quantity is bordering on obscene, in which case, you may want to drain a little until you get a tablespoon or two covering the bottom of the pot.

Now sauté the chopped onions and minced garlic on medium heat in the sausage drippings for 5 minutes or so, unless softened but not browned.

Add the 3 cups of chicken broth and 3 cups of water, plus the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Joy of Cooking advises 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but I only did a half-dozen cranks each of the black pepper grinder and salt grinder. We’re not in the excessive salt fan club here.)

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

If you have a potato masher, mash up the potatoes. If you don’t, as I didn’t, you could use the back of a metal spatula to mush them up a bit. Don’t worry if the potatoes don’t crumble into bits. Potatoes are potatoes are potatoes, and the soup will still be delicious.

Add back in the sausages and the torn chunks of kale.

Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Squirt in lemon, to taste.

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Marvelous Roasted Chicken

On the heels of a miserable post-winter cold monster, I’ve been craving comfort foods. Soup. Mac and cheese. Spaghetti. All serviceable. All edible. All have tamed the tissue-gnawing beast a bit.

But the blue-ribbon winner of the week? Roasted chicken.

Roasted chicken, done

Roasted chicken, carrots, onions, potatoes. Heaven on a Sunday evening.

That’s what I’ll be making again, even after my nose turns back to its normal color.

Roasting also feels like perfect weekend cooking. It’s a bit of prep, and then you get a lazy evening to relax as the aromas fill the house. And the leftover meat makes terrific sandwiches to take for lunch.

I think I sort of knew already, back in some dust-bunny crevice of my brain, that roasted chicken was a certifiable winner. That it’s one of those classic meals that gives you 10 times the return for the effort. It is so so so good. It is the kind of meal where you wonder, why in the world would we ever go out to a restaurant to eat? This is a $5 chicken and $2 worth of vegetables. And it’s fabulous!

There are a more or less a quadrillion ways to roast a chicken. The experts have their tips. Salt the chicken a day ahead. Let the chicken come to room temperature before roasting. Use a cast-iron skillet.

But, in the end, I turned to two standards: Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. And they seemed more or less in agreement on the critical bits:

1. Wash and dry – thoroughly – the chicken.

2. Salt and pepper the chicken skin.

3. Stuff some flavor magic in the cavity, like a half a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, some herbs, a half an onion.

4. Rub butter all over the chicken skin. If you have fresh herbs around, mash that into the butter first.

5. Place the chicken in the bottom of a roasting pan or something similar.

And then there’s my own rule:

6. Add vegetables.

This seems to be optional for the celeb chefs.

But not for me.

Roasted vegetables are delicious in their own right. But these vegetables? These vegetables cuddle around the chicken and cook in chicken juices. They soak up the most exquisite natural broth and grow caramelized and yet crisp. Dreamy. Seriously.

Pan of veggies

Veggies, ready for their chicken neighbor and the oven spa.

Even veggie haters need to consider this. Think of it as a veggie gateway.

Besides, why would you bother boiling or sauteing a side dish when you have extra space for rent around the bird? Do you have a secret game for making washing dishes fun?

If so, please share.

I advocate one pan for one dinner whenever humanly possible. (By the way, an official roasting pan isn’t essential. I used my all-purpose 9×13 Pyrex dish, and that worked fine.)

Here’s my recent recipe, but it’s really up for grabs. Swap the veggies with fennel, parsnips, or any root vegetable. Change out butter for olive oil. Nix the garlic. Make it exactly how you like it.

Marvelous Roasted Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds (you can easily go bigger, just cook it longer and add more veggies as needed to fill your pan)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter
  • Fresh herbs (optional)
  • Dried herbs, like herbes de provence (optional)
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 small potatoes
  • 4 small onions
  • 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees or 210C.

Wash the chicken and dry it thoroughly. I used paper towels to pat it down.

Place the chicken in the middle of a baking pan with sides. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken.

If you have fresh herbs – oregano, basil, rosemary, dill, sage, etc. – mince up a few tablespoons and mash them into a few tablespoons of butter.

Using your freshly washed fingers, spread the butter, with or without herbs, all around the skin.

Sprinkle dried herbs all over the chicken.

Into the cavity – make sure it’s otherwise empty, no bag or giblets or anything – stuff a half a lemon and a small onion peeled and cut in half.

Chicken to be stuffed

Stuff the chicken with lemon, onion. Garlic and herbs are nice, if you like.

Peel the carrots and potatoes. Slice them up into carrot rods and potato chunks. Don’t make them too thin or small or they will cook quickly and burn. Peel and quarter the small onions. (Cut them into chunks if you only have large onions.)

Add the vegetables all around the chicken.

Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. Toss the vegetables with your hands so the oil and seasonings get spread around.

Ready for the oven

You can tie the legs shut, but I didn’t bother. Turns out it’s a myth that trussing is essential. Though, if you want to tie it up, here’s a great video detailing how.

Pop the pan into the oven. After 15 or 20 minutes, check the oven. If the veggies are looking slightly too done already, turn down the oven to 400 or 375. (I had to do this.)

Cook for an hour (3-4 pounds) to an hour and a half (5-6 pounds).

Take the chicken out and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving. This seems ridiculous, but it’s the difference between a good bird and a succulent, moist, and memorable roasted chicken.

Have a marvelous weekend!

April farmer’s market loot in Germany

Market produce in Germany in April

Market produce in Germany in April

The winter edge is starting to wear off, slowly but surely, after the coldest March and the darkest winter on record.

Here in Southern Germany, the markets blooming with produce.

Here’s what I picked up this weekend. The lemon is from afar – Spain, I think – but the rest is local.

We’ve also hit upon the start of spargel season, the beloved asparagus, white or green, found during these brief weeks on restaurant menus all across the city. Spargel is still rather expensive, around $10 a pound at the farmer’s market, but the price will fall as the season nears its peak. (I leaned this the hard way after paying 9€ last year, in a newcomer’s green excitement.) I’m waiting now for a thick bundle of white stalks to peel down to their pearly cores and grill to that divine crunchy sweetness.

Fresh potatoes

Fresh potatoes

I baked up a batch of these potatoes today, so freshly dug up that they were smeared with dirt. I love that, a sort of authenticity badge of real food straight from the fields to the farmers’ trucks to our downtown market. Not plastic wrapped or infused with preservatives. Just dirt.

I find them delicious roasted very simply, tossed with olive oil and spices, and baked for 15-20 minutes around 375-400F degrees. Old Bay is nice, barbeque spices are tangy and sweet. My current favorite potato spice mix is paprika, oregano, sea salt, and pepper.

Dill, leeks mushrooms

Dill, leeks mushrooms

Leeks are a staple throughout winter. And despite all my American cookbooks warning me against the gritty dirt found in leeks, the German ones I’ve bought have been clean as a whistle. These are going to be chopped, sauteed in butter, and served with potatoes and steak.

Dill is a such a wonderful bright, spring flavor. I plan to sprinkle it on green beans with garlic and lemon and remember our Turkish cooking class.

I don’t know what the mushrooms will be destined for, but they were so irresistibly mellow and fresh. Any ideas?

Kohlrabi (German turnip)

Kohlrabi (German turnip)

This bulbous mysterious thing is one of my two cooking adventures of the week. Meet kohlrabi, otherwise known as a German turnip. I’ve read so far that you can eat it raw quite happily or cook it up. I’m debating between a kohlrabi gratin, kohlrabi fries, and kohlrabi risotto. Any votes?

Onions

Onions

Onions are Zwiebeln are onions. Same as in the States. But so pretty, tucked in a crisp brown bag.

Romanesco broccoli

Romanesco broccoli

Here’s adventure No. 2 of the week: Romanesco broccoli, aka Roman cauliflower. I’ve been eying it all winter, wondering what it was, delighting in its weird, alien-like spikes. I have no earthly idea how to use it yet, but I imagine, should no intriguing recipes turn up, I’ll roast it like cauliflower, with olive oil and garlic. You can’t go wrong with those two.