Of Soup and Mince Pies

First the soup. Claudia was feeling a bit under the weather so I got her some soup from Central Market in Southlake. I knew I could do better myself so found a good base recipe.

This is inspired by both the classic Greek soup avgolemono and Scottish cockaleekee. The recipe itself (https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013607-chicken-soup-with-leeks-and-lemon) can be followed faithfully or augmented, as I did.

Ingredients are:

  • 3-4 pints chicken or turkey stock (I make my own)
  • 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced thin
  • 1 cup rice
  • Small potatoes (optional)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • Fresh juice of 2 lemons, strained
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Caramelized onions (1) or shallots (3-4)
  • Tarragon
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish – lemon zest, chopped fresh parsley or dill.

Method. This is an endurance recipe – you will be whisking… 🙂

  • If you keep your eggs in the fridge, take them out now and put them in a bowl with room temperature water.
  • Stock: you could buy some or make your own. I start with a flavourful chicken stock – this is a useful byproduct of the pressure cooker chicken thighs I make for the dogs (I kept 2-3 thighs for the soup and 4 pints of stock – the rest goes to the woof dinners). It’s basically 8-12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs topped up to the liquid limit of the Instantpot pressure cooker. Once the pressure is released, carefully extract the chicken and put on a chopping board to cool. I then run the stock through a fat separator because, well, it’s chicken fat and is discarded.
  • Rather than slice the leeks and throw them in a pot with the stock to simmer for a bit, I decided to pre-saute the leeks to give them more complex flavours. Pinch or three of salt, some olive oil and the leeks are transformed. Now, I added the stock, brought it to a boil and backed it down to simmer for 30 minutes. Since I had some finger potatoes left over from the weekend, I threw those in the pot as well as the chicken that I’d set aside and shredded.
  • During those 30 minutes, I put a cup of white wine into the pot, a few tablespoons of tarragon (I only had dried French tarragon on hand), added some salt and on to the other parallel tasks.
  • Since I was making the weekly food batch for the woofs, I put three cups of brown rice into the Instantpot and cooked it (rice auto-setting). I then sliced some shallots and sauted them in olive oil for 20 mins to caramelize them. They will be used as a garnish because their complex, subtle flavours would be lost if I just tossed them into the pot. Also juiced the lemons and extracted the zest (more garnish).
  • Now the rice is done, I took a cup of it and threw it into the pot. Because it’s now cooked, the consistency is good but it needs some time to mingle. I let that continue for 30 minutes on a simmer setting.
  • Five minutes before serving, take two cups of the soup liquid and set it aside to cool (I put it in a shallow dish and put a fan on it to accelerate the process). Whisk the eggs in a bowl (that can hold 2-3 cups of liquid), add the lemon juice and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk as you add the liquid to the lemon-egg mix so it doesn’t congeal (you’re not making an omelette). If your arm aches, you’re doing it right.
  • Now, add the liquid-lemon-egg mix back into the soup and continue to stir. The consistency will become creamy.
  • Serve… Into a bowl. I fished out one of the potatoes and put it on top, added a couple of forkfuls of the shallots and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

It wasn’t bad 🙂

And then this. I enjoy a mince pie from time to time and found a box (of Walkers) in my local British emporium. After some back and forth on flickr, someone suggested I should make my own. Well, here’s why I don’t.

  • I’m not good with pastry. Making a mince pie would involve the creation of puff or shortcrust pastry and it would be a sub-par experience.
  • Mincemeat is not a simple “let’s whip some up” component. It has a list of ingredients as long as your arm and very likely you don’t have many of them in the cupboard so one must procure these in advance. Good suet, for example. And rum or brandy (oh wait, we have both of course). It also takes time for the flavours to mingle (must be the word of the day in my head).
  • So I could buy both good pastry and a jar of mincemeat… but then it wouldn’t really be homemade.
  • There’s the scale issue. With the level of effort in making these, it’d be a large batch. I may eat 3-4 of them. Claudia might eat one. And the rest? Well, the majority of Americans would run in horror when they understand that it’s a pie version of fruit cake. There, my friends lies the issue. I can’t give them away.
  • Americans in general think of fruit cake as something to be avoided at all costs and their experience may well support that. I’ve seen some examples in the shops that look like a cross between a fatburg and a turd. I wouldn’t eat it either. And because fruit cake is held in such low esteem, no one wants to pay the $30-$50 for a good one (from a monastery perhaps which produces good ones). If you want to insult someone or really disappoint them, give them a fruit cake as a gift. Better yet, wrap it nicely and act as though they are about to receive something spectacular. Then watch the reaction once they realize what it is.
  • So, no home made mince pies…

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