Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Sheila and Rick on Vacation

Rick and Sheila enjoying winter!

Mayor De Blasio of NYC has been hyping the “Blizzard of 2015″ aka ” winter storm Juno,” which – if true – would be the first thing he has gotten right since he assumed office over a year ago.   Personally, I am always interested in how many snowplows the labor unions in NYC can mobilize for a winter storm or how many tons of salt will be spread on New York streets to make sure  auto commuters (and to a lesser extent: pedestrians) are not inconvenienced.    I don’t mean to trivialize the seriousness of a winter storm, but I am terribly disappointed that the YMCA will be closed tomorrow so I won’t be able to enjoy my daily sauna.   (Editor’s Note:  As the picture to the left suggests, the “California Dreamers” still believe they are on vacation.)

In any event, Sheila and I braved the crowds by elbowing our way through Whole Foods to stock up for a particularly bitter winter storm.  We opted for Hugh Acheson’s “Beef and Farro Soup” which was recently featured in  Food and Wine.   While this is more of a stew than a soup, Sheila decided to make several modifications to give the stew (sic soup) more flavor.  Personally, I am glad that she did.

Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces  (Editor’s Note:  Sheila recommends a mixture of 50% boned short ribs and 50% chuck for more taste.  Chuck is too dry!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp of white miso
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika  (Editor’s Note:  Make this a Tablespoon, a teaspoon is useless!)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (Editor’s Note:  The photograph shows shaved parmesan – grated is better!)

Preparation

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper, add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with cheese and serve.

Again, this is a hearty stew more than a soup.  Enjoy on a cold winter’s day.

Tuscan Cannellini Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

tarry-marketSeveral weeks ago, Sheila and I enjoyed lunch at Tarry Market in Port Chester. Tarry Market is the brain-child of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianach and is a mini-Eataly for Greenwich residents who detest traveling to New York City.  Tarry Market has undergone a bit of makeover toward the end of last year, when they greatly expanded their dining facilities. I wouldn’t recommend it for dinner, but it is something of a cross between an Italian salumeria and a French Bistro. We go there frequently for lunch and are rarely disappointed. We will normally order one of their delicious sandwiches from the rotisserie (prime rib, porchetta or veal) with the daily soup. One day we were served a very tasty cannellini bean soup with some escarole or kale and Sheila decided to recreate this belly-warming soup at home.

Borrowing inspiration from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection, she prepared a variation of Tuscan White Bean soup with frizzled shallots and pancetta (Sheila’s variations are highlighted in bold). (Note:  The pancetta and shallots add a bit of crunch.  Definitely worthwhile). Enjoy.

Variations on Delia’s Tuscan White Bean Soup with Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 8 oz of cannellini beans
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 good sprig each of parsley, thyme and rosemary (Sheila added additional rosemary)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of escarole (chopped)
  • A small rind of parmesan cheese (This addition makes any soup taste great!)
  • 2 pints of chicken stock
  • 4 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper

Ingredients for Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta Garnish

  • 4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced into rings
  • 3 oz thinly sliced pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 3 Tbs of olive oil

Preparation of the Tuscan Soup

  • Soak beans overnight in twice their volume of cold water.  Drain before cooking.
  • Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté onion until is softens (5 minutes)
  • Add escarole and cook down (2 minutes or so)
  • Add garlic and continue to cook for one minute.
  • Add the drained beans, parmesan rind, celery, herbs, ay leaf and black pepper (but no salt).  Pour in the stock and stir well.
  • When soup begins to boil, turn down heat to a gentle simmer and place the lid on the pot.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.
  • Check to see if the beans are tender and then gently mush a few of the beans and continue for another 10 to 15 minutes or so.
  • Add lemon juice and 2 Tbs of olive oil shortly before serving.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove parmesan rind.  Allow it to cool slightly and then cut in small pieces and return to soup.

Preparation of Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta

  • Roll pancetta into a cigar shape then cut into fine shreds.
  • Heat 2 Tbs olive oil at high temperature and add shallots cooking them for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove and allow to drain.
  • Add 1 Tbs olive oil to the same pan and fry the pancetta for 2 minutes or so.  Drain.

When you are ready to serve the soup, sprinkle the shallots and pancetta over the soup.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

 

Chicken Soup: Better than a Flu Shot?

chicken soupWhen you get to be my age, there is a “big” push at this time of year by pharmaceutical companies to get your FREE flu shot.  I am not sure if this is simply an Obamacare benefit or rather a promotional offer by CVS to encourage Americans to restock their medicine chests for the cold winter. Nevertheless, I continue to resist the FREEBIE on the simple premise that it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to introduce “foreign” antibodies into my body. Sheila thinks differently and has accused me of suffering from some mental disorder after escaping the siege at the Branch Dividians’ Compound in Waco, Texas.   Now that the Bird Flu (aka avian influenza) has appeared in the United Kingdom killing three mute swans in Dorset, I have decided to ingest my own personal remedy:  Chicken broth.

GourMay’s Organic Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • Carcass of an organic chicken,
  • A carrot cut in three large pieces;
  • A stock of celery cut in three or more large pieces;
  • Half of an onion cut in a couple of large pieces,
  • A sprig of thyme,
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation (makes a 1 1/2 to 2 cups)

  • Most people can get about four servings from a roasted chicken.  For broth, simply strip the chicken meat from the carcass and break down the carcass so that it will easily fit into a large sauce pan;
  • Cover the carcass in cold water, add the carrot, celery, onion and thyme and bring to a boil;
  • Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer uncovered for about an hour or so until most of the meat is off the carcass;
  • Strain the broth through cheese cloth or a very fine wire mesh strainer and discard the carcass and veggies.

Unless you are in perfect physical condition – like “Bogey” Pinson – and drink a cup a day of organic chicken broth, you are likely to get the flu.  In that case you will need “Get Better Soup” that was featured in Gourmay in 2011.