Sunday, January 15, 2012

Soupy Day

It had been a mid winter. Not anymore! It's windy, freezing and hurting. That's New England winter. The fire has been on in the fire place. On a freezing day like today, we need soup to keep us warm from the inside. Tonight's dinner was seafood soup. I love when a dinner menu comes up so easily.

Well, I looked through some recipes, but nothing inspired me so much. I went on my own. This is how I usually cook. I check what's in the fridge, put them together in a pot, and serve. Don't ask me what I cooked. They don't have names. Here goes my wanna-be seafood soup. You don't know it would make it to actual seafood soup or not yet. So, it's wanna-be. Let's see what happened.

First step was checking what was in the fridge for soup. Today's finds were celery, carrots and mushrooms. They are basic ingredients for stews and soup. I grabbed two onions from the basket. That was a good start. The pot began to warm up with butter and olive oil in it. At this point, it could be creamy chowder or clear soup. Apparently, I hadn't decided it yet. Having options is not a bad thing.

Added some crushed garlic to the pot. I love my mortar and pestle. They are handy. I never mince garlic since I found crushed one is more flavorful than minced. And, it's quick and easy!

They are made of marble, nice and sturdy. The rough surface inside has a nice grip. I've seen some porcelain and stoneware ones. I'm afraid I would break them, interested to see how sturdy they are. Mine is exactly same as one my Indian friend has. When I visited her, she made chai for me. She put some cardamons and crushed them in it and added to the milk in the pot. I cannot forget the intense fresh spicy smell of the cardamon spread in the kitchen. It was a sensational moment to me.

Tossed sliced onion, celery and carrots into the pot, and cooked until they got soft. I picked soup over chowder. Chowder was very tempting, in fact I was thinking to add some corns in it. But I wanted something lighter.

Added seafood stock. I'm not a big fan of using store bought stock, but seafood stock is not cheap to make from scratch, especially if you want flavorful one. This is my compromise. I want something made from all sort of fish, shellfish and shrimps. Seafood stock is not easy to find. I've never seen any companies make seafood stock other than Kitchen Basics who makes what I usually get. Maybe some more options at fancy grocery stores? Anyway, seafood stock is stinky. To cover the smell, put white wine generously. I don't measure things when I cook. I just add whatever the amount I feel comfortable with.

Added mushrooms and sprinkled some herb de provence.

Covered the pot and made the soup boil.

It was looking good, but I wanted to add something else to add more flavor. I looked into the fridge again.

I found cooked whole tomatos which was a leftover from the lentil soup made the other day. I made more room in the fridge, yay!

It was getting like a New York style clam chowder. Made it boil again.

It was time to add seafood. I didn't go to a store to make the soup. All seafood used here are frozen ones. I usually keep each bag of clams with juice and shrimps in the freezer for quick dinner. They are handy to make pasta sauces. To me, shrimps have to be uncooked ones. Even they are frozen, their texture and flavor are different from precooked ones. Anyway, I added some haddock, clams, mussels and shrimps thawed and marinated with white wine in advance.

Added some salt, pepper and a little bit of soy sauce. It might sound strange, but soy sauce helps enhancing flavor in various dishes. If you feel something missing in a dish, add a little bit of soy sauce. It does a trick in many cases. Quickly made it boil and turned off the heat. It's better to cook fast otherwise the seafood, especially shrimps get tough.

Scooped into the bowl, added chopped parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top. Served with rustic bread. It was light and flavorful. Adding tomatoes was a good call. Their sweet and sour flavor added some depth to the soup. I think it came out good. Chad had two bowls. So, I think I did ok. Our stomachs are nice and warm now. If I make the same soup again, I would brown onion first, then add carrots and celery, also add a bayleaf or two when seafood stock is added.

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