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Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to make soup out of almost nothing

My son roasted a turkey. About a week later, my daughter-in-law gave me a jar of turkey broth that was left from the roasting. I opened the jar and took a whiff. The broth smelled heavenly.

"It got lost in the back of the fridge," she explained. "You better use it today."

What do do with the broth? I didn't want to freeze it. Hmmm. I could use it to flavor a box of Zatarains gumbo or jambalaya. Or I could make my own soup. But I was tired and didn't have much time to cook.

I opened the door of my refrigerator. Other than condiments and juice, the fridge contained exactly:

(1) a container of veggies that I had stir-fried two days earlier (summer squash, zucchini, broccoli and onions);

(2) an almost-completely picked-over breast of chicken, also from two days earlier.

If only I had barley, I thought. I took a look in the pantry, and lo! there was a box of quick-barley. Fabulous.

Sounded like soup to me, especially because I knew that Charlie had made the turkey rich with flavors during roasting.

I threw all the ingredients into a pot. I wanted carrots but was too lazy to sauté them. It turned out to be one of the best concoctions I've ever tasted...from leftover rescue, or what I call "Clean out the fridge soup." I had been leery of adding the broccoli because I've read that the flavor can overtake all others, but it was fine and added nice texture.

In Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel food section, a famous chef was interviewed and he said the art of cooking is working with what you have. Ta-da! A culinary expert has stamped approval on what home cooks have been doing from time immemorial.

Here's the recipe - of sorts....

Mama Gail's Clean-out-the-fridge soup

leftover meat or poultry
(fish is okay but adds a strong flavor you have to know you like)

leftover sautéed veggies
(squash, onion, carrots, broccoli, whatever!)

leftover broth
(saved from when you cooked the chicken or meat, or from "good garbage": onion peels, carrot peels, and celery leavings you threw in the freezer to boil and drain later for broth)

(Beware: if you have leftover soup, the barley will soak up all the broth. Best to use only the amount you need today and save the rest separately to eat with the soup tomorrow.)

spices to taste
(salt, pepper)
(My son's turkey seasonings were bay leaves and allspice, with onions and apples as roast-alongs.)


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