Friday, September 19, 2014

Potato and Italian Sausage Soup with Leek, Mushroom and Escarole

My comrades at work said I could sell this! 'Nough said. Sometimes, I surprise even myself ... 

Soups are economical, nourishing and easy to prepare. A large, hot bowl of soup is a meal in itself served with a nice salad, crusty bread and beverage. This soup is so redolent with flavors, it's difficult to know where to begin. Leeks, pancetta, sausage combine to make a great base. To improve that base flavor, I added beef stock to the chicken stock to make it a bit more robust. The smoky, spicy, earthy chipotle powder with the cheese put this soup over the top. And, then of course, the comforting soft potatoes.

I recommend the pancetta instead of regular bacon. Most supermarkets sell it already chopped in a small package. Spinach would also work well in place of the escarole.

  • 10-12 ounces bulk sweet Italian sausage or about 3 links
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped russet potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped leeks, white part only (about one large)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped escarole or kale (I prefer the escarole)
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon Italian spices
  • 2 cups reduced salt, canned chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups reduced salt, canned beef stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, cream, half-and-half or evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked chipotle powder, divided
  • Smoked cheddar cheese
  • Croutons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and peel potatoes. Slice lengthwise. Slice each half again, lengthwise. Chop into random cubes/chunks. Set aside.

Slice escarole down the center and chop until you have two cups. Set aside. Cut leek down the center. If dirty, rinse under water. Slice. Set aside. Chop mushrooms, set aside.

If using sausage links, remove from the casings. Add just a bit of olive oil to a soup pot. Add sausage and brown until done. Remove to a plate.

In the same pan, add just a bit of more olive oil. Add the pancetta. Once it begins to cook, add the leeks and mushrooms. Cook until softened, 5-8 minutes. Add a bit of the chicken stock to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. And remaining chicken stock, beef stock and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and add half of the smoked chipotle powder, all the Italian seasonings, about 10 grinds of fresh black pepper and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir. Taste.

Add the potatoes. Bring back to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cooked sausage. Stir. Taste and re-season as necessary, adding the remaining smoked chipotle powder if desired and more salt and pepper if warranted.

Add the chopped escarole and stir until wiltet. Now, off the heat so it does not curdle, add the cream or evaporated milk. Using a fork, mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pan which will thicken the soup a bit.

Cover, return to a low heat and simmer for about five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest 10-15 minutes so flavors meld. Ladle into bowls. Top with croutons and several grates of the smoked cheddar. Chives also make a nice garnish.

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