Potage Colcannon – Potato Leek Kale Soup

The bounty of the farmers’ market created the inspiration of a Pottage Parmentier meets Colcannon – a potato leek soup with the addition of garlic sautéed cabbage. Potato leek soup served cold and topped with cream and chives is most often known as vichyssoise, but the classic warm soup owes it’s name to Antoine-Augustin Parmetier, who reportedly popularized the potato in Europe after it was brought back to the Old World from the New by the Spanish. I love potato. Parmentier may become my patron saint.

The French were slow to adopt the potato, seen at the time of introduction as peasant food, or even worse, animal fodder. The Irish took to the tuber a bit more readily and one of the classic dishes of the Emerald Isle is colcannon, which is basically mashed potatoes with onions, cream, and cabbage added. We were inspired by some beautiful kale (which basically is just a cabbage variety), leeks, and a selection of fingerling and traditional potatoes.

potato

Potato Leek and Kale Soup

2 cups fingerling potatoes, large dice
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
4 Tbs vegetable oil
4 tsp sea salt

4 leeks, minced (see directions)
2 quarts vegetable broth
8 medium potatoes, peeled and thin sliced
1 pint heavy cream (or almond milk)

6 leaves kale, or enough to yield 2 cups chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss fingerlings potatoes with thyme, 1 Tbs oil, and 2 tsp salt and spread on a sheet pan. Roast for about one hour, or until browned and crisp in the exterior and still soft internally. While potatoes roast, proceed to make soup.

Wash the leeks and thinly slice the lower eight inches, which is mostly white. The remaining greens can be saved for other uses. The slices should then be further chopped fine or processed in a food processor until finely chopped. Place 2 Tbs oil in a large soup pot over medium heat on the stovetop, add the leeks and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir until softened but not browned, about 20 minutes.

Add broth and sliced potatoes. Cook until potatoes are softened, about another 20 minutes once broth comes to a boil. Add cream and just heat through. Do not overcook the cream or it will separate and   Puree until smooth and set aside.

While soup comes to a boil, slice kale into 1/2 inch pieces and rinse then drain well (a salad spinner works well). In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbs oil and minced garlic. Cook until beginning to brown and very fragrant. Add kale, sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp salt and toss well. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Cook times will vary depending on the variety of kale, but the result should be softened and yet retaining some structure. The result should be along these lines:

potato3

Gather the roasted potatoes into a pile and top with cheese, then melt cheese until just browned under the broiler. We used a dill and garlic cheddar cheese curd. There are many great uses for Cheese Curds, but it turns out this wasn’t one of them. We should have gone with some grated white cheddar or similar strong, melting cheese, because the curds retain some of their spongy texture even when melted, which was not ideal in this application. But it looked pretty awesome:

potato2

We served our soup with a healthy pile of kale in the center and then topped with our crispy roasted potatoes and cheese. The smooth, rich flavors of the potato created a wonderful vehicle for the garlicky kale. Our fingerling potatoes were a stand-in for croutons. We’ve done grilled cheese croutons before in our tomato soup, which would have worked here as well.

potato4

Playing with our ethnic traditions, local farm-grown products, and giving it a new twist is right in line with our definition of Great Lakes Cuisine. It was also a lovely, warming autumn meal. Thank you St. Parmentier.

Advertisements

In Praise of Pumpkins

Pumpkins are simply a uniquely identifiable type of winter squash, indigenous to America, and now a globally recognized symbol of autumn. The flavors of winter squash can vary from relatively bland to rich and buttery. They can also take on vegetal qualities similar to summer squashes, such as zucchini. Pureed or roasted, they provide a wonderful canvas for experimentation and are one of the few foods that we enjoy in America equally in savory and sweet preparations. In the spirit of experimentation, the following are few approaches we’ve enjoyed so far this autumn.

Pumpkin Squash Soup
Our garden provided an abundance of pumpkins, ripening into their characteristic oranges just as the weather turned cold. We decided to supplement the home-grown pumpkins with a couple winter squash varietals, Butternut and Golden Nugget from the Wisconsin Co-op.

Pumpkin1

After splitting the squash, we removed the seeds, and then oven-roasted them skin side up, adding a cup of water and ¼ cup of maple syrup to the roasting pan. When the squash were tender, they were allowed to cool and scraped out of the skins. In a large stock-pot, we combined the squash flesh with 2 cups of chicken broth, the pan liquids, and then pureed smooth with a hand blender. We added almond milk to add a bit of sweetness and achieve a lighter soup. Seasonings included a lovely mix from Penzey’s Spices called BBQ 3001, which includes paprika, mustard, ginger, cinnamon and other spices and then added an additional bit of smoked black pepper. We topped each bowl with candied pumpkin seeds, with the same seasonings, to add a bit of textural contrast. A rich and warming opening to a late season meal.

Pumpkin2

Pumpkin Pierogi
A recent lunch at La Merenda in Milwaukee, WI, featured a number of innovative small plate offerings. Chef Peter Sandroni has long done a wonderful job with the global fusion approach to small plate dining, and we applaud his efforts to showcase local farm products. A recent offering fits solidly in our description of Great Lakes Cuisine – an innovative adaptation of a local, ethnic tradition featuring local, seasonal products. Pierogis are a traditional Eastern European dish, brought to the Great Lakes region with the wave of immigrants in the late 1800s, typically made with a picture of potatoes, cabbage, and ground meats in an unleavened dough wrapped dumpling.

Pumpkin3

Chef Sandroni plays with the traditional fillings by featuring heirloom pumpkin puree with purple potatoes, kale, and cream cheese. The perfectly prepared dumplings were topped with Sartori SarVecchio parmesan, salted maple butter and sprinkled with dried cranberries, roasted pecans, and fried sage.

Pumpkin Cupcake
The pumpkins in the garden were the choice of my daughter, and the pumpkin cupcakes were hers as well. She baked dense, moist cupcakes and then topped them with a salted caramel butter cream frosting. The home-made caramel was just slightly over-cooked, which added just a hint of bitterness. It turned out to be a happy accident, the caramel added additional complexity and interest to a frosting that otherwise would have been too sweet. Just a few crystals of sea salt on top was the perfect touch.

Pumpkin4

Pumpkin Pancakes
A bit of leftover pumpkin puree made its way into pancakes the next morning for breakfast. We still had apple butter left from a previous harvest feast and combined 2 parts to 1 with the home-made caramel – Caramel Apple Butter. A perfect way to start an autumn week-end. A perfect example of Great Lakes Cuisine.

Pumpkin

A Moment From 100 Years Ago

A smiling, white-haired gentleman greets me and I give him the name of our party. “Oh, you’re having lunch with my good friends today. Welcome.” The dining room has plenty of dark wood, lit by stained glass and low lights. Nearly every bit of wall space has either a German artifact or a framed photo of a celebrity, some long forgotten, who enjoyed the authentic German cuisine at Karl Ratzsch’s some time over the last 111 years.

Karl ratzsch2

My friends arrive with excited greetings and hugs. They sit down and share their history with me. Their first date was at that table there, 45 years ago. The smiling gentleman who greeted me? He’s been a waiter here for 35 years. The owners, who took over from the Ratzsch family in 2003, have been working behind the bar and in the kitchen just as long. The conversation turns to dogs and gardens and confrontations with a raccoon in the yard. We decide to order.

The soup of the day is cream of mushroom. The every day soup is consommé with liver dumplings. It’s amazing; earthy, rich, unique. The spinach salad following has a hot bacon dressing that actually tastes “fresh”. That doesn’t sound right, but there isn’t the fatty mouth feel you can get with a hot bacon dressing yet all of the flavor. This is classic food, prepared in a way to remind you why it became classic. Then there is the sauerbraten. Oh dear heavens.

Karl Ratzsch

I’m a fan of sauerbraten. We’ve shared our recipe here. This version is fall-apart tender with an authentic gingersnap gravy, the meaty richness balanced by the tang of vinegar, cooked down together for hours. The accompanying red cabbage has the perfect texture and flavor. We’ve also shared our red cabbage recipe. Here is my advice, go eat at Karl Ratzsch’s if you can. Only try to make your own if you can’t get there. This is wonderful, wonderful food. I’m enjoying it with a Köstritzer Schwarzbier.

We continue to talk and enjoy the meal. A few other parties come in, a few parties leave. I feel like I’m eating in my great grandma’s living room, in the very best way. I feel like family. As we leave I take a moment to adjust to the afternoon sun. I look up to the clock on City Hall. It seems we were there for over two hours. It was a moment, a moment completely out of time, a moment from 100 years ago. This is history. This is inspiration.

Smoked Turkey, White Bean Soup

From the outset of our effort here at GreatLakesCuisine.com, we have believed the foods of indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region should be included in the conversation, both as tribute and inspiration. The failure to celebrate the peoples who thrived in the Great Lakes region before settlement by primarily European immigrants would be a loss of heritage and tradition. Wild rice, venison, and blueberries are staples of that diet, and wonderful flavor components for many Great Lakes dishes. Of course the major obstacle for the current chef is a lack of written recipes compounded by the systemic elimination of the indigenous cultural traditions, breaking the continuity of food traditions as well.

Sean Sherman is promoting a “Pre-Contact” Dinner to be held in coming weeks in Minneapolis. Some of the traditions he draws from are more from the Plains states, which likely had a distinct culinary tradition from the Great Lakes region. Nevertheless, we admire the effort to bring focus to a culinary tradition long marginalized to our collective detriment. The menu will include:

dehydrated rabbit – honey hominy cake – toasted walnut – berry jus – wilted dandelion

stewed white bean – cedar broth – seared smoked whitefish – sorrel

buffalo ribs – wasna cake of dried berries – puffed wild rice – sweet potatoes – watercress blooms

smoked duck – dried blueberry – amaranth cracker – blueberry jus – crisp – amaranth leaf – maple – pepitas

squash puree – maple sun seed – cranberry – mountain mint

There is inspiration aplenty in those dishes and our soup echoes some of the flavors Chef Sherman includes above. The following recipe is hardly “pre-contact” indigenous by any definition, but some of the same flavors and ideas are permeating through this belly-warming offering. A wild shot turkey, brined and then smoked over cherry-wood would be ideal (might we suggest something like this approach adapted for the much larger bird), but you may have to settle, as we did, for the store purchased variety. Leftover turkey breast was well-utilized here.

 

Smoked Turkey Soup

Smoked Turkey, White Bean Soup

1 Smoked Turkey Leg
4 cups Turkey Broth
4 cups Water
2 bay leaves

1 medium onion diced
2 cups raw corn kernels
2 15 oz cans of white beans or 4 cups cooked beans
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder

2 cups cooked turkey breast, large dice (leftovers work well)
1 bunch fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, or lemon thyme work well)
Feta or Cotija for grating (frozen, see note)

Bring broth and water to boil in a large stock pot. Add turkey leg and bay leaves and return to a boil then reduce to a simmer for two hours. Discard bay leaves and remove leg and set aside to cool. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbs. butter with the onions. Cook until slightly caramelized then add the corn. Continue to cook another 3 minutes stirring often and then add entire contents of skillet to stock pot. Add white beans and seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes. While soup is simmering, remove all meat from the turkey leg, paying attention to remove all of the long pieces of cartilaginous “quills” from the meat, then dice into 1/2 inch pieces, set aside.

After beans have simmered for 30 minutes, using a slotted spoon, remove approximately half the beans and puree until smooth. Take care when pureeing hot liquids. Alternatively, use a stick blender to puree approximately half of the corn/bean mixture right in the pot. Leaving half of the corn and the beans whole adds some textural appeal to the soup. Return the puree to the pot, then add both leg and breast turkey meat and bring to a low simmer.

We served this with a herb oil, by taking the herbs and pureeing with just enough olive oil to liquefy and a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt. But this could just as easily be served with finely chopped fresh herbs. Our preference is for lemon thyme, which we grow in the backyard, but during the winter this is a bit harder to come by.

Lemon Thyme

So in this version we went with the cilantro which adds a nice brightness. We’re assuming Sean Sherman in his white bean soup listed above is using the native wood sorrel (oxalis) rather than the French imported variety. Either would be a nice addition, but the wood sorrel would keep the recipe truer to our purposes here. The feta here is served grated with a Microplane grater after being frozen.  We have used this approach before with blue cheese over a beet salad and similar applications. The cheese loses none of the flavor appeal as it warms in the soup, but the fine grate creates a more even dispersion. Not necessary, but a fun little wrinkle. Clearly the cheese is not an indigenous item, so leave it out if desired, though it adds a nice saltiness and creaminess to to the finished soup. In the end, this is more of a melting pot dish than a culturally accurate one.

Prepare this soup over an outdoor fire with house-smoked wild-turkey and the result would likely be far better and far closer to a more “pre-contact” experience. Inspiration can from anywhere, but history is a particularly rich source for Great Lakes Cuisine.