Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Buffalo chicken soup over the fire

This cooking over the fire thing is turning out to be a bit of an obsession... it starts so innocently. We talk about grilling, or cooking something different. Pretty soon, the question arises. "We should have soup!" "Yeah. And we should cook it over the fire!" Geez.

A few weekends ago, we added a twist. "Do you think we could make a soup that tastes like buffalo chicken?" "You mean, like wings?" "Yeah!"

Challenge accepted!

To create a buffalo chicken wing soup, I studiously avoided googling the phrase. I consulted a tomato soup and a recipe for chicken fajita soup, and decided to use tomato juice and chicken broth as a base. Then I decided to use the same flavors I'd use in buffalo chicken dip -- red hot sauce and ranch dressing.

Vegetables were a bit of a debate. I started with the celery, onion and carrot trifecta. Then I added sweet orange peppers, corn off the cob and kale. Then I added two cans of diced tomatoes, garlic and a small can of green chiles. What we ended up with was really good, if a bit hot. Note -- really consider how much heat you can take before being liberal with the hot sauce!

Buffalo chicken soup

2 large chicken breasts
1 cup Frank's red hot sauce or similar, divided
1 T. olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 small sweet hot peppers
1/2 bottle mild beer
2 ears corn, cut off the cob
2 leaves kale
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 4-oz. can green chiles
1 46-oz. bottle tomato juice
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet, and sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Then take out, and cut into slices. Top with 1/2 cup of the hot sauce. Bake for an additional 15 min.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saute pan, and cook celery, onion and carrots for about 4 to 5 min. Add in garlic and sweet peppers, and cook four more minutes. Add beer to pan, and stir. Turn off heat.

To Dutch oven, add the sauteed veggies, as well as the corn, tomatoes and chiles. Shred chicken and add to pot. Pour over the tomato juice, remaining hot sauce and chicken broth. Place over the fire for about 45 minutes to an hour. There will be plenty of liquid, so extra time shouldn't hurt.

Once it's cooled, ladle the soup into shallow bowls and top with ranch dressing and avocado. Serve with beer bread or crackers or tortilla chips.

In retrospect, I might lower the liquid by about a cup and add some black beans to the dish. C'est la vie. Overall, we were pretty happy with the result, and plan to make it again! 

Seafood stew: Scallops and shrimp in a tasty experiment

We had meant to go over to the seafood place for months. Years, even. We sped by from nearby Menards with wood in the back, lattice, tools, you name it. Always, we said, "next time, we should stop by the seafood place."

Lo, one Saturday, we did.

We had to fix a few drainage pipes in the yard, because over the winter, this happened:

Grr. I shake my fist at you, tree.

The giant tree took two drainage pipes with it when it fell over, which meant they had to be cut when the tree people pulled out the stump with a truck. Took two tries. Broke a rope. Luckily, we didn't break anything else. We were left with a hole and two pipes to repair, but we'll take it, considering.

So, after we picked up our 10-ft. pipe, we headed over to the Great Midwest Seafood Co. I stared at mounds of oysters, crab, shrimp and fresh fish thinking to myself, "this is short ribs all over again. I have no idea what I'm doing." In the end, we went home with a half-pound of cooked, cleaned shrimp and  half pound of scallops, and no idea what to do with either. I did, out of desperation, buy a canister of Old Bay seasoning.

On the way home, we theorized about a fish stew, preferably over the fire. We are obsessed with soup over the fire, and there was only the chance of rain. Once we decided on a broth/tomato base, I began to theorize over flavors and vegetables. Vegetable and chicken base, wine, lemon, kale - definitely. Fresh tomato? Beans, I thought. Cannellini? Corn, we both decided. Now, to find such a recipe that surely didn't exist.

In fact, it did. Sort of. Four cookbooks later, I stumbled upon the Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew from Cook's Illustrated. Perfect, I thought -- all the ingredients we wanted, and then it was just a matter of adding the shrimp and scallops.

It seems like a lot of kale, but it cooks up beautifully. I decided to use corn off the cob, because when cut, it produces a sort of milk that I thought would help add to the broth. Adding the seafood at the end seemed to ensure that it didn't get tough, but still flavored the soup with sea.

Seafood stew

1/2 lb. bacon, cut into small pieces
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3-4 carrots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
1 lb. kale, taken off the stem
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, or two fresh tomatoes, diced
2 cobs corn
1 can white beans, drained
1 can kidney or black beans, drained
1/2 lb. cooked, cleaned shrimp
1/2 lb. scallops
1/2 lemon
1 T. plus 1/2 cup white wine
1 t. Old Bay
salt and pepper
4 t. chicken or vegetable boullion or base
4 cups water

Render bacon on low to medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add diced onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes and turn off heat.

Toss shrimp and scallops with the juice from 1/4 of a lemon, 1 T. wine and 1/4 teaspoon of Old Bay. Heat 1 T of butter in a small saucepan, and add shrimp and scallops. Cook about 2 minutes, then transfer to bowl. Put in the fridge.

Cut corn off the cob into a large bowl. Prepare brussels sprouts and kale, and add to bowl, along with tomatoes and beans. Add in bacon and sauteed vegetables.

Heat water, and dissolve boullion.

Once your fire is stoked and ready, add everything but the shrimp and scallops to the Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper and add the boullion and half cup of wine. Stir to combine, and place over fire for 30 minutes.

At the 30-minute mark, check your liquid level - if you need more, just add a half-cup of water or beer. (Guess which one we had on hand?) Then add the shrimp and scallops and cook another 15 minutes.

We ate this with crusty French bread slices and it was wonderful!

A note: The Great Midwest Seafood Co. is indeed great. Stocked, clean, friendly employees (owners?) They have no idea who we are or that I write this blog, but they will see us again soon.