stuff and things

29 November 2011

A New and Different Raptor for Us ...

We spotted this wonderful hawk in a tangle of branches far above the canyon to the west of Balboa Park's dog park. We're still new to bird watching, however, and would like some help with identifying it, if you can shed any light for us.



We think it's either a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk. They're very similar, but the latter's smaller. I was struck by the small size of this hawk upon walking up on it, which is why I'm leaning toward the latter. Andy think's it's a Cooper's, because it seems to him at least 16" tall. Either way, we think it's a young adult, inbetween juvenal and adult plumage.

Thanks in advance, and enjoy this wonderous world of ours.

28 November 2011

Grandmother's Thanksgiving Soup

Delicious turkey soup is a blank canvas for whatever you have on hand.
Some years we use every last bit of the Thanksgiving turkey, carcass and all. Other years, we snooze and lose, tossing it when it gets too old. This year I was inspired by the "Dave's Leftover Turkey Soup" recipe in the Anderson's La Costa Nursery e-newsletter. I wanted to ensure we turned our turkey's carcass into a nice, simple soup this time. I guess Andy thought the recipe was a little too simple, so he came up with this delicious version. I hope you still have your turkey's bones, and maybe some leftover meat around.

We call this "Grandmother's" soup because we ended up using leftovers and what we had on hand, instead of running out to buy red potatoes and whatever else Dave's recipe required. We had some extra sliced squash we had prepped for a not-so-crusty side of Crusted Butternut Squash; lots of wild rice, prepared for my Wild Rice and Cornbread Dressing (Fine Cooking, Nov. 2000, No. 41); and staples like carrots and celery. Using what we had on hand, we felt, was what Grandmother would have done.

Stock Talk
The day before Thanksgiving had served as our major prep and cooking day. While making my dressing, I'd added the turkey's neck, gizzards and heart to some four quarts of store-bought chicken stock, to far exceed the one cup needed. To us, stock is like the heart of our culinary souls, and we almost always make and freeze a variety of homemade types: beef-heart, chicken, chicken feet (super-gelationous, check your Asian market for chicken feet); demi-glace (super-reduced, brown the bones, first); and even shellfish stock. Alas, this holiday we'd run out of homemade chicken, thanks to trying to blow through our frozen foods before being tented for termites. So we amended the organic stock-in-a-box with those turkey parts, instead. Still, it came out delicious, I think.

To the leftover stock, Andy added the turkey carcass and simmered it for several hours. After an overnight in the fridge, the next morning he simmered it another hour, removed all bones and skin and giblets, strained the stock twice, then added a few peppercorns and two bay leaves.

A Handful of Chicos
Andy also added an ingredient that might be a little unfamiliar: chicos.
Chicos, dried corn, add that special glow to a soup or stew.
Similar but different to canned hominy, chicos are basically dried corn, bought in bulk and much adored in Taos and other northern New Mexico locales. Maybe they're beloved in regular Mexico, too; I'm not sure and I'm sure not going there. Chicos add pizazz to any type of soup or stew. They're toothsome, chewy and provide great fiber. It's pure and clean food, if you know what I mean.

I'll bet you can find them at your local market if you look in the Spanish or Mexican section. Andy added just a few tablespoons, but they enhanced the equally toothsome wild rice, below.
Wild rice adds a nutty and chewy quality to a simple soup.
Wild Mushrooms
Andy had on hand a small packet of dried mushrooms, below, from Mycological Wild Gourmet Mushrooms' "Northwest Mix." He reconstituted these in a cup of hot stock. After 30 minutes, he strained it all through a coffee filter and added the stock to the soup. He rinsed the mushrooms, chopped them up, and added them to the soup, as well. Fresh wild or everyday button mushrooms would also serve well.
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Dried mushrooms provide variety and tender flavor.
The Fresh Veggies
Then Andy added to the strained stock two or three cups of the leftover butternut squash strips, one rib of peeled, chopped celery; and one peeled carrot, in 1/4" rounds. After simmering it all for an hour, he sauteed a small, chopped onion and about four minced garlic cloves in a bit of olive oil, just until translucent, pouring these into the soup.

Adding the Turkey
While the squash cooked to al dente, he chopped the leftover bits of turkey meat into half-inch cubes, added them, then let it all simmer for another half hour. Finally, to season the soup, we added the juice of one lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Take this last step at your own pace: We love our lemons.

Serving the Soup
We spooned some of the already-cooked wild rice in the bottom of our bowls without bothering to heat it up (to keep it from getting mushy). Then we ladled out generous and scrumptious helpings of soup on top. A few drops of Tamari (aged, organic soy sauce) provided that elusive umami to our simple but delicious supper. We ate it again tonight. Yum!

Happy Holidays!
I hope all of you had a beautiful and delicious holiday -- full of family, friends, and your own cherished dishes. Did you manage to do something interesting with your turkey leftovers and/or carcass? Are you thinking of using any or all of our ideas? Please comment -- link to your own blogs and recipes, if possible ... and share with all of us.