Saturday, February 05, 2011

Making a soup out of nothing

I had invited eight people (plus three kids) for supper tonight and had planned a wonderful meal, using a beef casserole recipe that I love. Pull apart bread seasoned with parmesan, mozzarella, bacon, and green onion was in the freezer, along with a chocolate/coffee/mint ice cream pie with cookie crumb crust and topping. Trouble was,  because of the snow, I couldn't get to the grocery until late this afternoon, by which time it was too late to go shopping and make a big meal. So I decided on a pot-luck pot of soup and urged everyone to bring something to throw in the pot. Jordan made a bean/cheese dip and brought chips and salad makings (and made the salad, bless her). I was talking to Amy Sutton this morning, and she said they had carrots and celery . . . we were sort of fiddling around with that when John said they had two lamb shanks and he would cook them. He braised them with wine, carrots, celery, onion, and they were heavenly--I asked to be invited for dinner soon. But the lamb made all the difference in the world with the soup--it was sort of like eating lamb stew. I put everything but the kitchen sink in that soup--chicken breasts I'd baked, some leftover pork roast, a yellow squash, a red onion, two mushrooms (I was cleaning the veggie drawer and inspecting while I did it--discarded a bit of zucchini and a lot of celery but saved some for the soup), a bit of pasta too small to make anything else. I used chicken and vegetarian broth, a can of beef broth, packets of chicken and brown gravy, a half a small can of English peas left from creamed tuna the other night, a half can of Wolf lean chili left from my supper another night, and a bunch of frozen corn. Never did salt or pepper anything, and the final product didn't need it. Talk about cooking with what you have. But it would have been so-so, good but not great, without the lamb. As it was, it was delicious, and a great evening. Unfortunately I have about a third of the pot of soup left.
This was what I called my young people's dinner--guests were Jordan and Christian, two girls who are daughters of 40-year friends of mine with their husbands, and my next-door neighbors, who are a bit younger than the others. The three girls, of course, have grown up knowing each other but they all quickly took in the neighbors, and everyone laughed a lot and had a good time. Jordan was an immense help, from making the appetizer and bringing the salad goods, to doing almost all the kitchen clean-up. Oh, and she cut the pie--I hate cutting desserts. I did tease her later that she had the messiest place at the table.
The big thaw has come, and the streets and sidewalks are clear--my north-facing front porch is still a bit icy, but I have a path. I'm going to the grocery tomorrow--hooray! Just too late for tonight's dinner.

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