Thursday, March 22, 2012

Potatoes. Part 4. Italian Potato-Sausage Soup.

I've never been a big soup person.  Something about solid food in liquid just weirds me out.  It's like, why is there solid food in this bowl of flavored water?  But lately, more precisely, this winter, I've really gotten "INTO" soup.  Like, I think it's delicious and want to soak bread in there and have yummy hearty soup for lunch.  My other (old) prejudice against soup was that it was never filling enough for me.  I'm a hungry-type of gal and liquid meals just didn't fill me up.

Let's say my conversion was partially brought about by adult braces.  Sometimes, especially right after a tightening, my whole mouth would be in pain and liquid food sounded like the only appetizing thing in the world.  That and buckets of ice cream.  Hehe.

Anyway, my sister has always been a big soup person so she was overjoyed at my conversion into soup and my foray into soup-making.  A few weeks ago I made this hearty yet light soup that was GREAT for lunch.  Adding in a thick slice or two of a French baguette not only made this meal pan-European but also made it filling enough to last me the rest of a work afternoon =).

So, without further ado, my spin on Italian Potato-Sausage Soup.

Assembled ingredients (I don't recall using that cheddar ... so no idea how it snuck into the picture).
Not sure why there's cheese and bacon here - didn't use it

The recipe said to remove the sausage from the casings but my casing was pretty stuck, so I just sliced up the sausage and then used a handheld blender to break up my sausage.  As you might've noticed, I'm a pretty big fan of aidells brand sausages.  The only one I'm not a huge fan of was the Chicken & Apple, it was just a touch, ok fine, it was like a blunt hammerstrike too sweet for me.

Anyway, so I broke up the sausage and cooked it was red pepper flakes (but the Korean kind because that was the only kind I had on hand  I assumed that I used Korean pepper flakes because that's the only kind we have but actually I don't even remember if I used red pepper flakes at all - I'll have to ask my sister if the soup was any kind of spicy and report back), regular paprika, onion, and garlic.  I added the chicken broth and used Google to find out what was in Italian seasoning and added about a teaspoon's combination of the appropriate seasonings I had in my cupboard (basil, rosemary, and thyme - I didn't have some of the others like marjoram and sage and I just straightup don't like oregano).  I also threw in a bay leaf or 3 (ok, 3) because I always see chefs do it on TV so I always throw in a few bay leaves when I make soup or stew.  I looked up on Google the next day why people do it and apparently I added an "aroma" to the soup with the bay leaf.
Delicious juices swimming together

Bring it all to a boil and add diced potatoes.  I also added a drained can of black beans because 1) I like black beans, 2) they're good for your heart, 3) I believe beans make soup heartier, and 4) because I like adding beans to anything I make in a soup pot.  Cover and let simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender.  Test the potatoes' tenderness in any way you'd like that doesn't cause injury.

So the reason this "hearty" soup is not as heavy as what it wants/claims to be is the use of what I inexpertly call a "thickener" rather than just adding heavy cream or a more traditional roux.

I'm pretty sure I did this next thing as one step.  As in, I just let the cream cheese come to room temperature while I was assembling the first half of the soup and then melted it all together in a small saucepan rather than blending first then adding it to melted butter. This was a few weeks ago, so my memory might be a little off, but I can't imagine myself using more pots/pans/dishes than necessary.  (My secret specialty is making any food in one bowl/pan for easy cleanup!).
Looks like the beginning of my Perfect Frosting!

I followed directions after that, cooking over medium heat until pretty thick. When the potatoes were cooked, I added the milk mixture and chopped spinach.  As you can see below, I only halfheartedly chopped the spinach.  No big deal once it was in there.  (I was actually annoyed at having to use the whole bag of spinach and that's why I halfheartedly chopped it... I had bought the spinach originally to put into morning smoothies (you can't taste them and all the nutrients are still in there!) and was disappointed at using them in my soup instead but it all turned out fine in the end). 

I don't think I needed to add any extra seasoning at the end so I didn't (even though the recipe says to).  I just let the soup cool down (after I'd already learned firsthand why not to pour hot soup into weak little plastic Ziploc bags) and then ladled into sandwich size Ziploc bags, which was perfect for these small round containers (ooh, the little "handy tips" on the side say to take soup to work for lunch in these!  And I did!).  I lay the baggies flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer since I'd made enough for the week for both me and my sister.

Take out a baggie the night before and transfer it to the fridge.  It was thawed to a granita-like texture the next day, perfect for squishing out into the plastic soup container.  I topped it off with a little grated-at-home parmigiano (have a baggie of that in the fridge just for this purpose) and took to work with a 2" baguette slice.

Unfortunately, I got really busy/excited after the soup was actually made and have no pictures of the finished product.  Mostly I had a bit of a mini-disaster after trying to ladle the hot soup into flimsy sandwich bags that melt/rip and then trying to contain that mess while losing as little of the precious soup as possible.  And then when it came time to eat the soup, I was already starving for lunch and never remembered to snap a pic before digging in...

But my consistency was about the same as this:
My sister actually came home from work after the first day of soup lunch and told me she couldn't figure out if it was a broth or a cream soup, but that she stopped caring after she tasted it.  So that's a win, right?

Anyway, let's just say it was really in between being too creamy a la ...
And too watery a la ...

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