Sunday, March 6, 2011

EDU: Charlie Sheen Soup

So I've been making soups for a while now. Long enough to know what I like and know what I don't like. So, inspired by Charlie Sheen, I decided to say "Fuck it" and make a soup off the cuff. Some would say that I don't have enough cooking experience to be throwing things together all willy-nilly, but to tell you the truth, I'm tired of pretending I'm not some bitching rockstar from Mars. I mean, is it really that hard to make a good soup? If Charlie Sheen can bang 7 gram rocks and walk away from 1.5 million dollars for every hungover, strung-out performance, I can make a soup without as a crutch.

As I mentioned earlier, I know what I like at this point. I have about 20 soups under my belt, and I think I have pretty good idea of what tastes good together and what should be fed to fools and trolls. That said, I knew right away that I wanted to make it spicy. And not just because Charlie has fire-breathing fists. Spicy food adds a layer of excitement and mystery to normal dishes. It accentuates flavors and triggers the release of endorphins in the brain (translation: gives you tiger blood). At least in a normal brain. If your brain is not from this terrestrial realm, I don't know what to tell you.

Here is what we are working with. Lots of Trader Joes goodies, as you might have guessed. Some spicy Italian chicken sausage for some kick, some pancetta for my cured meat fix, a couple cans of garbanzo beans for depth and the rest of your standard lineup to round things out.

This is how things get rolling. Onions, garlic and pancetta get intimate like Charlie and his two goddesses. After 5-10 minutes, I added a bunch of spices (parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, salt/pepper), and opened a 28oz can of TJ's peeled whole plum tomatoes (salted, with basil) to keep things from getting out of hand.

Of course, when you have whole plum tomatoes in sauce, you need to mush the tomatoes with your hands, and more often than not these little buggers are bursting with juice and would like nothing more than to cover you and yours with tomato innards. Well wouldn't you know it, one splattered itself all over AG and her camera and most of the countertop. Like an F-18, she kept her cool and didn't let it ruin the shot. In the meantime, I got the sausages going on another burner.

They sizzled and popped for about 15 minutes, while I added the chicken broth to the pot and adjusted the spices (2 bay leaves, 1/2 TSP cumin). To recap, here are the cast of characters to which I am referring, photographed by Ms. AG.

When the sausage was cooked through, I sliced it up and tossed it into the pot, added half a cup of Port and  brought everything to a simmer for 10 minutes or so. In the meantime, AG and I chowed down on meat and cheese and crackers.

AG also spent this time bringing some stale bread back from the brink of death by turning it into little Crostinis that were delightful. Here is a picture of the whole set-up.

Winning, anyone? Rhymes with winning? Yeah, it was pretty good, especially the broth. Nice and spicy and filing. I think It could have used something to fill it out a little bit more. I meant to put some Kale in it but I completely spaced, so that would have helped, but potatoes or lentils wouldn't have hurt either. AG liked it too. Round 1: Unanimous decision. Yummy.

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