Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Dinner 2010: Soup Simmer

Grandma Romero
2010 Soup Simmer Judge & Jury

As we mentioned last year, our Christmas dinners are usually made up of hearty, soul-warming foods that carry some ancestral significance. This year...we went crazy...threw out the books...threw in a dash of competitive spirit...and dusted off our crock-pots.

For Christmas 2010 - our family had an inaugural Soup Simmer. It was a competition. And it was phenomenal.

That's right. No roasted side of beast, no football field-sized lasagnas or tamales steamed to perfection (sniff). Everyone arrived, armed with a crock-pot filled with deliciousness...but... you're going to have to wait to hear who our winner was...

Although the men-folk initially found our idea for a soup cook-off a bit lack-luster, we all agreed that the result was just as satisfying and much more entertaining. And, as it turns out, our idea of a non-traditional holiday meal actually has some deep family roots. As we were swapping stories around the dinner table my Grandpa spoke about how our Little Grandma (Great Grandma Romero) always had a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Gramps says she didn't consider her children fit for exiting their home without a serving of warm soup to fuel them. So in a way, this dinner paid homage to her; a little lady, with a huge heart and a gift for making a delicious pot of something out of not much.

So, over the next few posts, we will be sharing the soups that collectively created our Christmas meal. They warmed our hearts, souls and bellies. We hope the same for you and yours!

Happy New Year, and cheers to NEW Holiday traditions!

Entry #1: Grandpa's Smokey Split Pea & Ham

1 bone-in ham
Fixings for making ham broth (see below)
1 lb dry split peas
4 diced carrots
2 cups diced ham
2 tbs fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
Non-fat Half and half

So, as my Grandpa says, if your broth is tasty - you'll have good soup.

This recipe makes amazing broth.

First step is to eat a bone-in ham. ;)
After most of the ham has been consumed (reserve 2 cups chopped) - cover the ham bone with water (about 8-10 cups) in a stock pot, and add 2 onions, 4 carrots, 3 bay leaves and 10 cloves of smashed garlic. Simmer for two hours and then skim SOME of the fat off. You need to leave some fat...that's where the flavor lives.

Strain the broth and place into a soup pot, bring to a simmer.

Add dry peas and cook until al dente.

Add sliced carrots, chopped ham, salt (sparingly), pepper and fresh dill.

When peas and carrots are desired texture, turn off heat and add 1 cup half and half.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Entry #2: Lora's New England Clam Chowder

This is actually an adaptation of Tyler Florence's New England Clam Chowder recipe.

I'm not a fan of thick chowder, so I drastically decreased his amount of flour and shhh...I used canned clams and clam juice in lieu of steaming two batches of clams. I really love this recipe though, and the parmesan oyster crackers are a new favorite snack in our house.

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Leaves from 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
  • 1 large box organic vegetable stock
  • 1 bottle clam juice
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cans chopped clams
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Parmesan Oyster Crackers, recipe follows

Heat butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, onion, celery, garlic, and thyme and cook until the bacon renders its fat and the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Pour in the broth, clam juice and bring to a boil. Add the cream,milk and the potatoes, bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes break down a little. Add the chopped clams and season with salt and pepper.

Now add the 16 clams in their shells. Cover and simmer to open the clams, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve hot, with crackers.

Parmesan Oyster Crackers

2 cups oyster crackers

2 cloves garlic minced

1/4 c olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 c shredded parm

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Toss all ingredients together and bake until golden and cripsy - 25-35 mins.

Stay tuned for the remaining entries!



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