Snow on Mt Tam

Last Saturday it snowed on Mt. Tamalpais.  Not to be confused with a real mountain like Everest, Rainier or Kilimanjaro all of which are at elevations above 2,500 feet and none of which are located in CALIFORNIA – this was major news. Our town – from which this photo was taken – is at the base of this mountain.  

There is snow predicted in San Francisco this weekend too. I know I've said previously how much I like snow, but let me clarify – only in other places. Not here in sunny, warm California…whatever.

Actually, all this snow couldn't come at a better time. You see, this week is a school vacation, and here in Northern California guess what it is officially called on the official school calendar?  Ski Week. Not joking.  Speaking on behalf of the three other families in the Bay Area who don't ski and don't participate in a mass exodus to Tahoe leaving Marin County a virtual ghost town, I find the name of this week to be a form of discrimination and I plan to do something about it! I'm not sure what, so in the meantime, I'm embracing the wintry-ness and cooking some cabin food. C'mon over.

Winter Veggie Soup with homemade chicken stock

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If you've never made chicken stock, please please try it. It's the easiest thing to make and the result will make you feel like a chef. Email me if you need help.

In a very large pot, put a whole chicken (I encourage organic) and an assortment of the above vegetables.  

I use 3 celery stalks (washed, cut into 3 pieces, 3 carrots (washed or peeled, cut into 3 pieces), 2 yellow onions (peeled and halved), italian parsley (about 10 sprigs) and about 15 whole black peppercorns.  Fill pot with cold water to completely cover chicken. Slowly bring to simmer and let it do it's magical thing uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours turning the chicken once.

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The only thing you have to do other than putting the chicken and vegetables in a pot, is occasionally skim the foam off the top. See below.

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I suggest waiting at least 30 minutes off the heat before you strain into a bowl.  The golden stock should be refrigerated overnight to allow the fat to solidify and rise to the surface.  That way it's easy to take off, leaving just the clear flavorful broth.

The chicken is the unsung hero in this story. I love the velvety poached texture, albeit a little lacking in the flavor department.  I recommend shredding and putting it in something like enchiladas or another highly seasoned dish.  I, however, always seem to do the same thing, and make a chicken salad with celery, mayo, dill, red grapes and lots of salt and pepper.  It's delicious on thick slices of whole wheat bread along side a bowl of Winter Veggie Soup (below).

Winter Veggie Soup

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You could use any veggies you like, but right now, these are plentiful and available at most markets.

Chop into small dice; yukon gold potatoes (about 4 large), 2 small zucchini, 2 celery stalks, 2 large carrots and 1 large or 2 small leeks.

Put them into a large pot that's been heating on med-low with 3 T Olive Oil.  Toss gently to coat in oil.  Let veggies slowly saute, tossing occasionally to prevent sticking, about 20-25 mins.

Now here's a little pearl I learned last year when reading Alice Waters', 'The Art of Simple Food', that takes soup from good to great.

The art of simple food - alice waters

Insignificant as it may seem, this really makes a HUGE difference – add the salt and pepper to the softened veggies before the unseasoned stock is added. The veggies at this point will be lightly coated in oil which means the salt and pepper will stick better, giving each spoonful of the finished soup, much more flavor. 

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Add the broth – just fill on top of the veggies to the point that it looks like the right ratio liquid to solids.  Bring to a simmer. I like to add about a half cup of frozen peas and a half cup of frozen corn.  Simmer for about another 15 mins.  Enjoy!

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