Friday, February 28, 2014

Beef Soup with Mushrooms, Cabbage and Noodles

Comfortingly, somewhere between a soup and a stew.

Even though the cherry trees here in North Carolina are actually blossoming, it remains a bit nippy and soup weather is still on the radar.

Beef soups, it seems, are redolent with barley. I just wanted a strong, beefy broth with earthy overtones of mixed mushrooms and pinches of herbs here and there. And lots of wide egg noodles to slurp.

I love making soups. But I'm not good relating how I actually make them .... because, well, I'm always adding to them--such is the nature of soup making. Taste. Season. Taste. Re-season. Taste. Re-think. I had never really intended to add cream to this soup, for example, but the flavors begged for it and just mellowed all the wonderful ingredients.

And I love my stocks to simmer long. I mean really long .... like overnight. It's the only way to get hearty broths.

Finding beef bones is no easy task. It's much simpler to find chicken and turkey parts rather than beef. So I settled on strips of rib meat thinly-cut and readily available at my supermarket.

Cut off some of the meat to add to the stock later. Or buy extra meat.

If you don't want to mess with the consuming part of making your own broth, you could just skip to soup recipe portion of this blog and use a really good store-bought broth. The only one I would use would be Pacific. Most of the canned varieties are "tinny tasting" to me. If you have to use canned broth, sub in some water or, even better, some chicken stock.

To make the beef stock:

  • 1.5 - 2 pounds beef bones with meat
  • 1-2 slices raw bacon, cut up
  • 1 large onion
  • 1.5 stalks of celery, roughly cut
  • 1-2 carrots, roughly cut
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 cups, about, water
  • 2-4 small garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • several sprigs fresh thyme

Place beef in a large pot. Cover with water. Drain. Repeat several times until the water begins to run clear. (Alternatively, you may quickly brown the bones/meat in an oven and then add to the soup pot.) Once the bones and meat are clean, add rest of ingredients. Water should just cover everything by about an inch or so.

Bring to a simmer. DO NOT boil. Soup should never be boiled. It will turn cloudy. Remove any scum that rises to the top. Loosely cover and simmer for a minimum of four hours. After that time, cool, de-fat and strain and measure your stock. You want about 8 cups. If short, add beef stock and/or water. I try to avoid bullion cubes.

Overnight Method

If allowing your stock to simmer overnight, it will have reduced by as much as half but it will be wonderfully strong and have absorbed the taste of the slow-braised vegetables. I add about four cups of Pacific-brand beef broth and then bring the ingredients back to a good simmer. Allow to cool a bit, cook, de-fat and then strain your stock.*

Homemade beef stock. Wonderfully rich and amazingly nourishing.

To make the soup:

  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup Half and Half
  • 8 ounces (a good one cup) snipped beef
  • 6-8 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 4 - 6 ounces mushrooms, preferably a blend, broken/sliced
  • 6-8 ounces (about 1.5 - 2 cups) sliced green cabbage
  • Thyme flakes, dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill and more for garnish
  • Caraway seed
  • Sour cream for garnish (don't omit)

In a large frying pan, melt a bit of butter with some olive oil. Add the meat, mushrooms, garlic and onion. Season with salt, pepper and a few pinches of dried thyme flakes. Once the veggies have sweated, add to stock along with 1/2 cup red wine and sliced carrots. Bring to a simmer.

Add noodles. Partially cover and bring back to a simmer. When noodles have softened, add the cabbage, a few pinches of caraway seed and the dried dill. Partially cover and return to a simmer. Taste and re-adjust seasonings as necessary.

Remove from heat and blend in the Half and Half. Taste and re-adjust seasonings as necessary.

To serve, ladle into large bowls with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprinkle of dill weed. The garnish makes the soup, so please do not omit.

*To strain your stock: Dump into a large colander over a large bowl or use the same pot you cooked it in having made sure you rinsed it clean. Squeeze out some of the veggies. Next, strain that stock through a sieve. Finally, strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Yea, it's a lot of work ...