Stupid Easy Borscht

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Sun, Jan 8, 2017 at 6:01 PM

Hey Dude,

So I was sick on Christmas Day, home alone and sick. It sucked. So I decided to postpone Christmas until the Julian calendar Christmas observed by Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs and so forth, and celebrate with my niece and brother in New Orleans.

So to mark the occasion, I also offered to prepare some Russian food for them. I made pierogi, sauerkraut, borscht, and blini. It was great.

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Today, I want to focus on the borscht, a traditional beet-based soup. Basically, my understanding is borscht can be prepared many ways, with the non-negotiable ingredient being beets (and arguably dill). As far as I know, just about anything else is up for grabs.

This recipe is essentially paleo, though some dogmatists would gripe about the dairy and legumes. But those people are turds. To make this vegetarian just omit the chicken stock and do more veggie stock.

Oh, and because I didn’t want to spend five hours in the kitchen, I rely heavily on frozen and canned foods. It’s so easy and really damn good.

Here goes:

Open a beer. Start drinking it.

4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chicken broth

Bring to a boil, then simmer.

Olive oil
1 package frozen potatoes, carrots, onion (“for stew”) in the frozen section (16 oz? 32 oz?)

Sautée for a while, then add to the broth.

2 cups frozen green peas
2 cups frozen cut green beans

Throw these in the broth. Drink more beer. Take a shot of vodka.

4 cans sliced beets (15oz.)

Drain, but save the purple beet water. Chop up the beets and throw them in. Add the beet water to the pot. You might want to bring up the heat a bit for a few minutes or whatever. I don’t know. I think I did.

Add 4 tsp. vinegar or so, you could also use lemon juice or something like that, I used apple cider vinegar
Maybe throw in some butter, I did, a few tablespoons or so, sounded like a good idea
2 handfuls of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook a little longer. Or whatever.

Sour cream to serve. Add more dill if you want. Take another shot of vodka. Serve. Stir in the sour cream. Sour cream is awesome.

This was killer. It makes a lot, so go halvesies if you want. But I think it’s fun to have soup to eat all week.

Merry Second Christmas,
Jamey

Stupid Easy Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Sat, Sep 19, 2015 at 4:08 PM

DOOOOD,
Last week I was at a nice Greek restaurant for a buddy’s birthday, and my friend Stephanie introduced me to the most delicious, lemony chicken soup, avgolemono. Avgolemono refers to the sauce that can be used as a part of any number of dishes.

Anyway, I’ve been dying to have this soup again that I had at the restaurant, so I googled “avgolemono chicken egg soup” and found some common ingredients and some variations. So I wrote my own recipe, and tried to make it stupid easy. I got sick this week and saw the perfect opportunity to make it. Way better than chicken noodle soup. So here goes.

Stupid Easy Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups free range organic chicken broth (or homemade broth)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup diced onions, sautéed in olive oil
  • 4 cups cooked white rice
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • ½ to 1 cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly chopped dill

Cook the rice. Run to the store for a rotisserie chicken and fresh dill and chicken broth. Don’t take too long, because the rice, idiot.

Simmer most of the stock and season with pepper to taste (and salt if necessary). Hold back a cup or two (see below).

Sautee the diced onions. I like to get the frozen and already diced onions from the grocery store. Saves time and a mess.

Combine the remaining room temp or cool broth in a blender with the eggs, lemon juice, onions and 2 cups of the rice and blend until smooth. Why not hot broth? We don’t want to curdle the eggs. It’s not egg-drop soup or scrambled egg soup either.

Slowly stir the contents of the blender into the broth still simmering on the stove. Add the rest of the rice.

Fork the chicken bare, down to the bone. Add that to the simmering stock. Maybe bring up the heat a little. I don’t know. I did.

Add more lemon juice if you need to. I thought a cup was perfect for the whole pot, but I like it pretty lemony. Finish off with salt and pepper to taste.

After awhile, you’re basically done. It’s instinct.

Chop up the dill, stir it in. Serve that delicious dish.

Jamey

P.S. This is a lot of soup. So cut it in half, or freeze some, or have a lot of people over who eat chicken. 🙂

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

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Daniel Larkin: to Jamey Bennett

November 25, 2014

You like that email name?  I thought you would.

All stupidness aside, I’m really glad you picked Pho for the first throwdown.  It seems like nowadays I can’t look at any social media forum without seeing a hundred people with raging boners for the stuff, so I think the time is right to Two Dudes it.  The real reason I was excited that you picked Pho, though — and it’s time for some brutal honesty here — is that I’ve never even been in the same room as a bowl of the stuff.

This was a good primer into Pho, and to your credit, I was guided by your recipe.  I just tried to adapt it on the fly with the basic ingredients I could find at the local Food City; aka, Food Shitty. This may be like a blind man describing the color red, or Albrecht Dürer’s Rhino.  But whatever it was that I made, it was outstanding!  It was savory, but the spices were light and festive.  It was hardy, but still soft and comforting.  It was vegan, but had the richness of a steak.

The obvious first hurdle was the meat.  I decided that just going tofu instead of beef was a cop-out.  I hate when restaurants do that, because sometimes it’s just the lazy thing to do, so I wanted to avoid that trap.  What I landed on was mushrooms, but not just mushrooms, ponzu marinated portobello.

Ponzu is a citrusy soy sauce, that when made right, adds all five flavors; sweet, sour, tangy, salty, and savory.  (When Kikkoman makes it, it tastes like soy sauce and 7-Up.)  The spices in Pho seemed like they would be a good match for a slight lime taste, so I went with a ponzu and lime marinade.  (Depending on your noodles, the small amount of wheat in Ponzu can the only thing keeping this meal from being gluten free.)

Most of the work was done in the morning, when I started my broth.  I also cleaned the fans from the mushrooms, sliced them, and let them marinate all day.  In cooking the mushrooms, my general rule is that the longer they cook, the more flavor they give.  It just gets concentrated.  So with all of that in mind, let me give you my list of ingredients.  As you said in your email, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s all fairly easy.  And again, I found everything at the local Food Shitty, so there’s nothing weird or obscure here.

For the mushroom marinade:  

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  • 2 large portobello caps, de-fanned and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup Ponzu
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (soy sauce as it should be, no wheat or sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced
  • 4 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger
  • Juice of one lime

Mix in a gallon Ziplock bag, and stash the fridge, turning every now and then to ensure equal contact time.

For the Broth: aka, the star of the show.

  • 1 32oz box of veggie stock.  I always recommend Imagine No Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 onion rough cut — save the other half for the soup
  • 6 cloves of garlic whole
  • 6 slices of ginger
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 oz package of shittake mushrooms  (This is the key to that savory bump)
  • 2 pods of clove (Optional.  The flavor boils off, leaving good aroma – if you like clove)
  • Half bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 3 tbs Tamari
  • 2 tbs honey — or agave syrup if you don’t consider honey vegan.
  • 1 TBS rice vinegar
  • Half bunch of cilantro whole

Combine all of these into a stock pot, bring to a simmer, and let it go low and slow all day.  Strain all the solids off when it’s time to assemble the soup.  It’s really that easy.

Other miscellaneous ingredients:

  • The other half of that onion sliced
  • 3 carrots sliced thin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small stems
  • Jalapeño (Optional, but recommended)
  • 5 Spice Powder (Optional)
  • Noodles of your choice (I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles)
  • Cilantro, basil and lime wedges for garnish

With all of the prep work done, assembly is pretty easy when the time comes.

  1. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and sear on high heat in your preferred oil.  Once they are seared and have that light brown color on the outside, turn down the heat and go low and slow for at least 20 minutes, or unit they are half sized and easily chewed.
  2. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a splash of broth, then add the other half onion for a two minutes.
  4. Add the broccoli and carrots and top off with the rest of the broth.  Simmer until the broccoli and carrots are tender but not mush.  (Hence the thin slice on the carrots)
  5. Taste and see if you need any five spice powder.  I added a little, but probably could have gotten away without it.
  6. Then you just stack it all, with noodles on the bottom, broth, a teepee of mushrooms, and the garnish herbs and jalapeño.

I’m serious, man, this is one of the most flavorful soups I have ever made.  And it’s one of the few soups that is as good the first day as it is the second.  The key is the broth, which is just a vault of scents and tastes that are neither timid or overpowering. One of these days I’ll actually get to try some real Pho, and then I can see how close I actually came. IMG_7333

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

[For the original, meat-based Paleo pho, click here.]