The New Year Begins – 2012
Christmas has come and gone, with all the cooking and feasting, and visiting and gift-giving and carolling. New Year’s Eve has come and gone, with all the cooking and feasting, and noise-making and toasting and hugging and kissing.
Yes, there was lots of cooking and feasting this holiday season. And it was done in the best possible company – family. There were many willing helping-hands in the kitchen. It was the place to be. Memories were made, stories exchanged and laughter shared, all while different family members rotated in and out to chop and peel and stir and wash – often with a glass of wine or eggnog in hand.
I love those kinds of Christmases.
And I also love the aftermath – the time when you reflect on the lovely holiday, drink a mug of tea while you read your new book, gradually take down and pack away a Christmas thing here and a decoration there, cook light nourishing meals to use up the holiday leftovers, and contemplate the upcoming year. This first week of January feels clean and new and fresh, with all kinds of promises for the year ahead.
I didn’t make any specific resolutions because I’ve never kept them anyway – at least not past the end of January, maybe February if I’m lucky. I’ve just decided to live this year to the fullest and enjoy every day, to make better decisions regarding healthy living and lifestyle and relationships, wherever I can, and to nourish my creative side, which I’ve long neglected. Because I am a year older, so I should be at least, proportionately, a little wiser. I need to acknowledge that wisdom and incorporate it into my decision-making. I am no King Solomon, but I can try to make choices more often that benefit me and not just those around me. If I take better care of myself, I can take better care of others.
Now back to cooking and feasting and our simpler meals.
For our New Year’s Eve dinner of grilled filet mignon, baked potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and onions, corn and green salad (for 17), I seriously overestimated the number of baked potatoes that would be eaten. The potatoes were small, no work to prepare, so throw in a few (ahem, a dozen) extra to bake. After all, the teenage boys in the crowd will surely eat at least two each. Forget to factor in the lure of a chocolate fondue for dessert … and you have a lovely re-sealable bag of leftover baked potatoes to inspire this week’s cooking. Perfect for the sabbatical my cooking-brain has taken.
Half of the potatoes made a huge pot of comforting baked-potato soup to fill our bowls and bellies whenever yours-truly was too lazy to cook. The other half, after a quick forage into the pantry, made a delectable meal of crab-stuffed twice baked potatoes for dinner one night. (Recipe to follow in the next post.)
So, next time you bake potatoes for supper, throw in a few – or a lot – extra. They can be the basis for all kinds of wonderful dishes. And if you haven’t been baking potatoes lately, I’m sure this soup would also be great with the same amount of diced raw potatoes thrown in – just cook them long enough to become tender but not mushy.
When I bake potatoes, I drizzle a little oil onto the washed and dried whole baking potatoes (russets) and rub each one all over with my hands until the whole potato is covered with a thin film of oil. I then place them onto a baking pan and bake at high heat (425° or 450°F) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork – it depends on the size of your potatoes. This makes the outsides nice and crispy and the insides fluffy and tender.
For the chicken broth, you can use homemade, canned, or a good quality boullion mix.
For the sausages, use whatever you have leftover or on hand – smokies, farmer’s sausage, garlic sausage, chorizo if you like it spicy, etc.
Baked Potato Soup
6 baked and cooled potatoes
1 onion, diced
1 cup (250ml) celery, diced
2 cup (500ml) frozen corn kernels
2 bay leaves
10 cups (2.5 litres) chicken broth
1 lb. (450gms) sausages, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half-moons (about 3 heaped cupfuls)
½ tsp (2.5ml) black pepper
2 Tbsp (30mg) whole grain mustard (or regular Dijon mustard)
1 cup (240ml) sour cream
additional sour cream and sliced green onions or hot pickled banana peppers to garnish
Put the first eight ingredients into a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 to 60 minutes. (Soups are very flexible with cooking times.) You can also place the ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for most of the day.
Just before serving, taste to see if it needs additional salt or pepper, then stir in the grainy mustard and the sour cream.
Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a good sprinkling of sliced green onions or a few rings of hot pickled banana peppers.
Serves 6 – with plenty of leftovers for workday lunches, but recipe can also be easily halved. (Leftovers would not freeze well because the potatoes would get mushy, but the soup will keep for several days in the fridge.)
*Note – if you like more of a chowder texture, then thicken the soup, before adding the sour cream, with a slurry of flour and water shaken together. This time, I preferred the lighter taste of a thin broth, but next time – who knows?
Happy New Year!