Caramelized Onion and Italian Sausage Soup

soup

by Karen Frazier

I know, I know. More soup. It’s the first day of fall, so a nice, warming soup is perfect for your dinner.

One of the reasons I like soups and stews so much is that they really provide an opportunity to build flavor, which gives them a complex, rich taste. In the case of this soup, the complex flavors come from taking the time to brown your meat and caramelize your onions, which adds a deep savory richness to the soup. This soup is pretty easy and hands-off, so while it takes a bit of time to come together, it isn’t terribly labor-intensive.

Caramelized Onion and Italian Sausage Soup

  • 2 tablespoons duck fat, lard, or your favorite fat
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 6 cups homemade beef bone broth
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  1. In a large pot, heat the fat on medium-high until it shimmers.
  2. Add the Italian sausage and cook, crumbling as you cook, until it is browned, about five minutes.
  3. Remove the sausage from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a platter.
  4. Reduce the heat to low. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the onions are caramelized.
  5. Return the heat to medium-high. Add the sherry, using the side of a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  6. Add the bone broth, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and reserved Italian sausage. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until the mushrooms soften, five to ten minutes.

I like mine drizzled with a little bit of truffle oil.

photo credit: photopin (license)

Shrimp and Mushrooms with Garlic Mojo

shrimpby Karen Frazier

I know – more mushrooms. Like I said in an earlier post, fall is the perfect time to find delicious seasonal mushrooms, so I take advantage of the bounty. Plus, I love mushrooms. If you don’t care for them, go ahead and leave them out of this delicious paleo recipe.

I use a modified version of Rick Bayless’s garlic mojo. Make the mojo ahead of time, and keep it tightly sealed in the refrigerator for several weeks. Then, use the garlic mojo in the recipe.

Garlic Mojo

  • 1 1/2 cups peeled garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil (or some type of melted animal fat, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice of three limes
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a square glass pan (8×8″), spread the garlic along the bottom of the pan. Pour the olive oil or fat over the top. Add the salt and stir to combine, making sure all of the cloves are completely covered with oil. If they aren’t, add a little more oil or remove a few garlic cloves.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the garlic begins to turn golden, 45 to 50 minutes.
  4. Remove the garlic from the oven and stir in the lime juice and chipotle.
  5. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the garlic mojo from the oven and mash the garlic cloves with a potato masher or a fork.
  7. Allow the garlic mojo to cool completely and then put it in a container that seals tightly. Refrigerate for up to 90 days. Be sure the garlic remains submerged in oil when you store it.

Shrimp and Mushrooms with Garlic Mojo

  • 1/4 cup garlic mojo, divided
  • 1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (use any kind you wish)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 recipe guacamole
  • 1 recipe pico di gallo (recipe follows)
  • Several large lettuce leaves
  1. Stir the garlic mojo before measuring it.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat two tablespoons of the garlic mojo over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until it turns pink, about six minutes.
  3. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a platter.
  4. Add the remaining two tablespoons of garlic mojo to the sauté pan. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and begin to brown, six to eight minutes.
  5. Return the shrimp and any juices that have collected on the platter to the sauté pan.
  6. Add the lime juice, chipotle chili and sea salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp heats through, about four minutes.
  7. Serve the garlic mojo using the lettuce leaves as tortillas. Top with guacamole and pico de gallo.

Pico de Gallo

  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

photo credit: Rene Venturoso via photopin cc

Mushroom Soup with Italian Sausage and Fennel

mushroom soupby Karen Frazier

Tendergrass farms makes a tasty grass-fed, sugar-free Italian sausage. I really like it, and so I enjoy using it in soups, spaghetti sauce (with zucchini spaghetti of course), and other recipes. In the fall when delicious mushrooms are so abundant, I especially enjoy mushroom dishes, which is why you’re seeing so many of them in my recipe feed lately.

This soup is delicious and hearty. It really hits the spot on a cold fall evening. I use my typical thickening method…pureeing the vegetables and adding them back into the broth, because it works so well.

Mushroom Soup with Italian Sausage and Fennel

  • 1 bulb organic garlic, the top sliced off
  • 2 tablespoons melted fat (lard, duck fat, etc.)
  • Sprinkling of sea salt
  • Sprinkling of organic chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 package organic dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 cups homemade beef or chicken bone broth
  • 3 tablespoons melted fat (I use duck fat)
  • 1 pound sugar-free, organic pastured pork Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 pound seasonal organic mushrooms (can be any variety), sliced
  • 1 bulb organic fennel, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (or more broth)
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper.
  • Two tablespoons chopped organic fennel fronds
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cut garlic heads on a large piece of foil. Drizzle them with two tablespoons of the melted fat and sprinkle them with salt and rosemary. Wrap them in the foil. Roast the garlic in the preheated oven for about 90 minutes, until soft. Allow it to cool slightly, and then squeeze the cloves out of the papery skin and into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the bone broth until it simmers. Remove the broth from the heat and add the dried porcini mushrooms. Cover and allow the mushrooms to soak until they are soft, about two hours.
  3. In a large dutch oven, heat three tablespoons of fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the Italian sausage and cook, breaking the sausage apart with a spoon, until it is browned, five to seven minutes. Remove the sausage from the fat with a slotted spoon and set aside on a platter.
  4. Add the onion to the fat in the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it softens and begins to brown, five to seven minutes. Remove the onions from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade.
  5. If needed, add a little more fat to the pan. Over medium-high heat, cook the mushrooms in the fat, stirring occasionally, until they soften, seven to ten minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the fat with a slotted spoon. Put half of the mushrooms into the food processor with the onions and put the remaining half on the platter with the Italian sausage.
  6. Add the fennel to the remaining fat in the pan (or add a bit more if necessary). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is soft, five to seven minutes.
  7. Add the red wine to the pot. Using the side of your spoon, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  8. Use a slotted spoon to remove the reconstituted porcini mushrooms from the stock and put them in the food processor with the other vegetables. Pour the stock into the cooking pot.
  9. Add the cooked sausage and mushrooms from the platter, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer.
  10. Meanwhile, add the roasted garlic to the food processor with the mushrooms and onions. Process until the vegetables form a smooth paste, 30 seconds to one minute.
  11. Stir the vegetables back into the pot of soup to thicken it.
  12. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup warms through, about five more minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  13. Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

For an easier to make but still paleo version, but with a slightly higher carb count (about 12 g per serving versus about 7 g per serving):

  • 1 package organic dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 cups homemade beef or chicken bone broth
  • 3 tablespoons melted fat (I use duck fat)
  • 1 pound sugar-free, organic pastured pork Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 pound seasonal organic mushrooms (can be any variety), sliced
  • 1 bulb organic fennel, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (or more broth)
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper.
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Two tablespoons chopped organic fennel fronds
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cut garlic heads on a large piece of foil. Drizzle them with two tablespoons of the melted fat and sprinkle them with salt and rosemary. Wrap them in the foil. Roast the garlic in the preheated oven for about 90 minutes, until soft. Allow it to cool slightly, and then squeeze the cloves out of the papery skin and into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the bone broth until it simmers. Remove the broth from the heat and add the dried porcini mushrooms. Cover and allow the mushrooms to soak until they are soft, about two hours. Remove the mushrooms from the broth and chop them roughly. Return them to the broth.
  3. In a large dutch oven, heat three tablespoons of fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the Italian sausage and cook, breaking the sausage apart with a spoon, until it is browned, five to seven minutes. Remove the sausage from the fat with a slotted spoon and set aside on a platter.
  4. Add the onion to the fat in the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it softens and begins to brown, five to seven minutes. Remove the onions from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside with the sausage.
  5. If needed, add a little more fat to the pan. Over medium-high heat, cook the mushrooms in the fat, stirring occasionally, until they soften and brown, seven to ten minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the fat with a slotted spoon. Set them aside with the sausage.
  6. Add the fennel to the remaining fat in the pan (or add a bit more if necessary). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is soft, five to seven minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add the sherry to the pot. Using the side of your spoon, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  8. Pour the stock into the cooking pot. Add the cooked sausage, mushrooms, and onions back to the pot along with the thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  9. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together the arrowroot powder and water. Pour them into the simmering pot, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly.
  11. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  12. Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

photo credit: RonjaNilsson via photopin cc

Coq au Vin

coqJim and I were working side-by-side in the kitchen last night. Actually, since I was in the midst of the world’s worst hot flash, he was cooking and I was instructing. Jim isn’t much of a cook – something he’ll freely admit. He can follow instructions pretty precisely and do okay. He’s awesome on the grill. He sometimes comes across something he decides is a “magic ingredient” and begins adding it to absolutely everything he cooks (such as the great Emeril Lagasse Kicked Up Gahlic Salad Dressing explosion of 2002 where he combined the salad dressing and green beans, wrapping it in a tortilla because, hey – it’s a burrito). But really what Jim does is heat stuff up so that it is warm enough to ward off bacteria and food-borne illness. This is how many people cook – with the goal of getting the food cooked, rather than making it flavorful.

On the other hand, building flavor is pretty easy if you know a few cooking techniques. If you can get food to the proper temperature in order to serve it, if you can combine ingredients in a recipe to make a dish, then you can begin to build flavors in your food. Best of all, it won’t take that much longer than just following the recipe ingredient by ingredient and your food will improve by leaps and bounds.

One of the best ways to build flavor is via the Maillard reaction. I know – it sounds all fancy, but it’s really pretty simple. When meat browns, it happens due to the Maillard reaction. When bread browns, same thing. Essentially, what you need to know about the Maillard reaction is this: it adds flavor to food. At its most basic, the Maillard reaction occurs when heat is added to foods containing amino acids and carbohydrates. In food terms, it adds tremendous savoriness meats and other foods.

For example, how do you like your steak? I am a medium rare gal, myself, but I know some people who like their steak super rare in the middle. Yet these same people wouldn’t consider eating a cut of meat that is entirely uncooked. When you are served a rare steak in a restaurant, it arrives crisp and brown on the outside, but when you cut into it, it is nearly raw. And most of the flavor on that steak comes from the brown part on the outside (as well as seasonings), which has browned due to the Maillard reaction.

To promote the Maillard reaction in your cooking:

  • Don’t crowd the pan. That inhibits the reaction and instead causes steaming. I work in batches.
  • Leave whatever you are cooking in contact with the heat without moving it for several minutes until it browns. Do this with vegetables, mushrooms, onions, meats. This allows for tremendous flavor development.
  • If you are thickening with flour, add it to the heated fat in the pan and then let it cook for a few minutes to develop flavor.
  • When you add liquids to a pain that you’ve browned meat and/or vegetables in to make a sauce, don’t waste the flavor that is stuck to the pan. Use the side of a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

Let’s look at the application of the Maillard Reaction in a recipe for coq au vin.

Coq au Vin

  • 6 thick slices bacon, chopped
  • One chicken, cut into pieces, skin left on
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1-1/2 cup pearl onions (fresh or frozen)
  • One onion, diced
  • One carrot, peeled and diced
  • One celery stalk, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 tbsp flour (or sweet rice flour for gluten-free)
  • Two cups dry red wine
  • Two cups gluten-free chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large, oven proof pot such as a dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from fat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook the chicken pieces in the bacon fat until skin is browned on both sides.
  4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the oil in the pan. Allow them to stay in contact with the pan for about four minutes to brown before stirring them. Continue to stir and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Add pearl onions to the pan, allowing them to stay in contact with the pan and brown for a few minutes before stirring. Once cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  6. Add mirepoix to pan (diced onions, carrots, celery). Cook in the oil without stirring until they are browned. Once browned, stir and cook until tender.
  7. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring until garlic releases its scent – about 30 seconds.
  8. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to cook flour about four minutes.
  9. Pour wine into pan, scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring as you do. Cook for a few minutes to remove alcohol flavors.
  10. Add chicken stock and thyme. Stir to combine.
  11. Return chicken, mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon to the pan, making sure you add any juices that have accumulated, as well. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  12. Cover pan and place in preheated oven. Cook 60 minutes, until chicken is tender. Serve with egg noodles or rice if you prefer gluten-free.

Chanterelles and Basil

basilI had two great culinary surprises today. The first was the discovery when I entered the farmer’s market that it was chanterelle season! These woody orange mushrooms are almost always wild gathered and have a tender bite and delicately earthy flavor. Every year, I wait throughs summer for chanterelle season. I had a hunch that I’d be seeing them soon, but I was surprised they were already there today. My second surprise was a bunch of fresh, homegrown basil from a colleague. She had a huge bag that scented the air and disappeared quickly. I grabbed a bag and brought it home.

These are two of the best of this season in the Pacific Northwest. Right now you’ll also find giant heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, apples, and the beginning of heartier winter vegetables.

Cooking Chanterelles

At first I tossed around combining my culinary treasures, but then I decided that I would cook them for two separate meals so my family could enjoy them longer. Tonight, I sauteed the chanterelles in a little butter, tossed them with some thyme and fresh garlic, and used them to top off a batch of mushroom risotto.

When cooking chanterelles, heat a pan to very hot and then add a small amount of butter. Add chanterelles in a single layer so every mushroom is in contact with the pan – do not overcrowd. Allow the chanterelles to saute until they release their liquid and the pan dries – about five minutes – before stirring. Stir and continue to cook for five minutes to brown the mushrooms. Add a dash of salt, some fresh thyme, and minced garlic. After adding the garlic, stir and immediately remove from the heat.

Chanterelles also make a great sauce. Cook as outlined above adding diced onions or shallots at the same time you add the mushrooms. After chanterelles have browned, add garlic and thyme, and then add a small bit of white wine, scraping the pan as the wine evaporates. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and allow to simmer until broth reduces by half. Stir in a swirl of heavy cream and taste to season. Use to top a protein like chicken or as a pasta sauce.

Chanterelles also bake well, so try adding them to a quiche.

Cooking with Basil

I am of the mind that basil loses a lot if you cook it. I believe that the value of basil is in its fresh flavor, so I almost always add fresh basil at the end of cooking. For example, I enjoy making a frittata and topping it with a chiffonade of fresh basil or some homemade pesto. You can also make a caprese salad, slicing heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and then drizzling them with high quality extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkling them with torn basil leaves. Season to taste with a little sea salt.