Monday, November 29, 2010

UnRecipe: Meatballs of Fury

It's a meatball soup -- come on, like you wouldn't have written a title just like that? When the weather turns chilly, I think we all crave a cozy spot on the couch, grab the Snuggie (leopard print, of course), and curl up with a hot bowl of soup and listen to the sound of the pouring rain (or snow)... that will likely not leave our Pacific Northwest skies till April. You think I jest?? While a creamy rich bisque is always elegant, if you're wearing a Snuggie, go rustic with this hearty Meat-a-ball and Vegetable Soup. It will help mitigate the fact you're wearing a backwards robe.

This soup pairs nicely with a dry chardonnay... and a fuzzy Snuggie - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Why is this an UnRecipe? Because yet again, I had a crisper full of random vegetables, plus a summertime favorite, fragrant herb pesto, which carried most of the flavor spotlight. It's clearly a riff on an Italian wedding soup, but I can't call it that because I'm sure a thousand Italian grandmas would argue that this is not the proper way to make this soup. So fuggetaboutit. I'm just sayin' it's a meatball soup that was freakin' tasty -- even those orange-hued Jersey Shore kids would have enjoyed it in between Redbull and vodka shots.

The vegetable miscellany included carrots, celery, bell peppers, zucchini and some chard. The meatball component was a half pound of ground turkey mixed with some of the pesto for a little extra fat, an egg to bind it, and then the meticulous rolling of small, bite-sized meatballs began. The soup with all its softened vegetables were simmering away when I dropped in each little meatball to let it braise in the soup. I let it simmer for a bit until the meat was cooked and the flavors melded together.

I should preface this by saying we have a freezer full of chicken stock. That's half the ease of deciding soup is on the menu. I simmer a rag-tag band of ingredients in a big pot, cool it down, strain it off and pour it into old sour cream or yogurt containers before hitting the deep freeze. Mr. Wasabi bemoans my hoarding of these plastic containers, but they're the best for storing quarts of stock. I can usually get a little over a dozen filled with golden, delicious chicken goodness every stock-making day. The basic ingredient list is chicken bones with saved vegetable scraps and aromatics like garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns. I keep a brown paper sack in the freezer that collects carrot ends, onion tops, and any other vegetable scraps that will add flavor to stock, and when the bag is full, it's like a timer saying Ding! Time to haul out the stockpot. Usually by that time I will at least have one chicken carcass stored in the freezer, preferably two. At the risk of our freezer looking like an undead nightmare, it's been a fairly effective way to literally wring every bit of flavor from our meals -- even the dregs.

Granted, I realize not everyone has the schedule to fit in making their own stock, but if you can find the time, it's so totally worth it, and a pennysaver. On a rainy/snowy Sunday, what else you gonna do? Plus it will make your house smell amazingly delicious! Sure, it can be messy and the way I do it, the process of collecting the ingredients can take a couple of months. But once we started on this self-replenishing stock cycle, it makes UnRecipe nights where I decide, "I want soup," very easy, as I can defrost a couple of the frozen stock containers and it adds richness and flavor that the mass market stuff doesn't quite achieve.

The return of Zucchini Staredown and a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes of soupmaking - Photos by Wasabi Prime 

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