Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"A Good Day for Soup" - Chunky Chicken Soup with Green Beans and Rosemary - NFC Championship Game and a cold winter day

Date I made this recipe:  Sunday, January 22, 2017 – NFC (football) Championship Game and a cold winter day.

A Good Day for Soup by Jeanette Ferrary and Louise Fiszer
Published by Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0-8118-0467-4; copyright 1996
Recipe:  Chunky Chicken Soup with Green Beans and Rosemary – p. 113

Today was indeed a good day for soup.  It was cloudy and gloomy and a typical winter day here in Minnesota which calls for something warm and comforting. 

And it was also a good day for football – Packers football.  Well, at least until the game got underway and then it was absolutely not a good day for football and so that left me with soup.

An "anti-jinx" soup, if you will and of course you're wondering what the heck that is all about so let me explain.

During a normal football season, and on any given Sunday, I often celebrate my love for my Green Bay Packers by making food from a Wisconsin-related cookbook or a sports/football-related cookbook, and this quite often spurs them to victory.  I feel it's the least I could do for my team, you know?

But then this year, everything changed and my Packers started losing and by mid-season, had racked up a 4-6 record.  Well this was not good, was it? 

Prior to this, I had not yet cooked for my team, the fans, or my blog readers, and thought, well maybe I should just get on with it already?  But then folks, I got nervous because what if I made something for them but the losing streak continued?  How could I live with myself?

And so it was decided:  no Packers or football or Wisconsin-related food until we were out of the woods which is to say, back in the "W" (win) column. Could we do it?  Hell yeah, we did it, just ask Aaron Rodgers!

Poor Aaron.  Year after year, week after week, loss after loss, he has to stand in front of a roomful of reporters to tell everyone what went wrong, to explain himself to us as if he was a naughty little boy, and to tell us all, in the words of the immortal Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there?"  Because Packer Nation is very demanding.  Very.  If our guys aren't doing well, we freak the freak out.

Two years ago, after the Packers started a season going 1-2 (wins/loses), Packer Nation freaked out (ridiculous, really) and so Aaron took to the airwaves to tell us all to "Relax."  And we did and they did and they went 12-4 that season and were the NFC North Champions and then went off to the playoffs and then went on to play the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC Championship and it did not go well at all and that is all I will say about that horrible game.

This year, when the Packers started racking up the loses, Packer Nation again hit the ceiling and once again, Aaron took to the airwaves.  When asked about the rest of the season, he said "We're going to run the table."  Translation?  We're going to win all our remaining games. 

And [Oshkosh] B'Gosh (a clothing brand founded in Oshkosh, WI), they did! And by the end of the regular season, they had nothing but wins and then won the NFC North Division. And so of course I couldn't mess this all up for them and cook something, could I?  Don't be ridiculous.

So it was time to hunker down because as NFC North Champions, we were off to the playoffs and not only did my team run the table, they set it!  And to do my part, I made sure that I did not jinx my team by a) cooking something "inappropriate" or b) wearing enemy colors, right down to the underwear, during the playoffs.  Some of you sports fans will understand this (think "lucky socks" x 1,000) and some of you will not, but trust me when I say that this is practically a rule:  "Thou shalt not do anything – anything – to jinx thy team during playoff time."  So with that in mind, let's take a look at the schedule and the food I made.

On January 8, my Packers played the New York Giants in the first round of playoff games.  That evening, the Golden Globes were awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to actors and actresses from TV and film.   I gave a slight nod to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with my cookbook selection that night, making a[n] [international] recipe from a Swiss cookbook because the Swiss are known for their neutrality, and my team won! And okay sure, likely not because of my cookbook and recipe choices but it still counts.

On January 15, my Packers played the Dallas Cowboys in the next round of playoffs and beat them in a nail-biter (I hate when they do that to me), and I made food from an Asian slow cooker cookbook  Actually two dishes – lemon chicken and classic fried rice and they were delicious and apparently good luck charms to boot seeing as how we won.

And then folks.  And then.  With that win behind them, my Packers advanced to the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta (though how I wish the game would have been played at Lambeau).  The winner of this game advanced to the Super Bowl to be played in Houston on February 5th  and so everything was now on the line.  And I and all of Packers Nation was on the edge of our seat and how unreal was it anyway that we were here with an 11-6 record after being practically down and out at 4-6 besides "very" unreal?

So game day was now upon us and the pressure was really on not to screw this whole thing up with my food but folks, I was tired and I think I let the team down because the best I could come up with was soup.  Soup for a championship game.  I know, right?  And the only reason I went with soup is that the cookbook was at the top of a pile to be shelved and I was just too exhausted to look through all of my shelves to see if I could find a better option.

In fact, I Googled "food holidays" to see if there was anything going on that might require another choice of cookbook but here's what I found:  January 15th was National Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice Day (nope) and also National Strawberry Ice Cream Day (what?  In winter?) and so those two were out.  And then I swear to you that some website also said it was National Southern Food Day and that was way out:  we were playing the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta.  And so you get a soup recipe by default because sometimes that's the way it goes.  Besides, as Campbell's likes to say "Soup is good food." 

Okay then.  I made my peace with my decision (sort of) and now just had to get on with it, already, because the morning of the game, I still had no idea what to make.  This is so unlike me I cannot even tell you but at this point, I was more focused on the game than what to eat.  It happens.

As always, a good starting point for any cookbook is the Table of Contents and here were my options:  "Soups for Starters;" "Dinner in a Bowl;" Entertaining Soups (soups for special occasions, not to be confused soups that make people chuckle); "Cold and Cookless Soups (not at this time of year);" "Slendersoups (nah);" "Recycled Soups i.e. soups made from leftovers;" "Folksoups;" and finally, "Soupçons" which are accompaniments to soups like breads and crackers.

It is not a good sign when you start eliminating more categories than you are keeping but nothing was leaping out at me.  Actually, that's not quite true as the dishes that stood out were either way too healthy (so many vegetables!) for a football game, or they triggered my "ew" factor.  In fact, here's a list of soups I definitely did not/would never make:

*Corn and Zucchini Chowder for a Crowd (p. 115).  First, we didn't have a crowd, second, I'm not that fond of corn and third, Andy is not that fond of zucchini  so that's a three-strikes and you're out recipe right there.
*Red Pepper and Brussels Sprout Soup (p. 123).  A soup made out of Brussels sprouts?  No.  Newp. 
*Cream of Mixed Lettuces with Chives and Chervil (p. 154).  How is this even a soup?  The thought of lettuce in a soup gives me pause, as does this "sister" recipe, "Cesar Salad Soup (p. 196).  As my mother would have said "Well now you're just being silly."
*Cream of Mussel and Saffron Soup (p. 127) earned a "Oh hell no" because while I like mussels, that combination did not sound good at all. Cream and mussels?  Noooooooo.
*Red, White and Blueberry Soup intended for the 4th of July is ridiculous.  I'm no expert, but I just don't think fruit in a bowl with some kind of liquid constitutes a bona fide soup so that one is out, apologies in advance to 4th of July fans.

At this point, I was reminded of a little chit-chat I had with a friend of mine who is herself a cookbook author and a food writer, and that is that there are a ton of cookbooks out there and a lot of them are crap and should never have been printed.  Or words to that effect!  And I am not suggesting to you that this is an awful cookbook, but what I'm saying is that many of the recipes seemed...precocious and I don't like that.  In other words, just because you can combine some ingredients, doesn't mean you should or that the result is a soup.  We'll leave the discussion of whether they are even tasty for another day.

Perhaps we can and should chalk up a lot of my fussiness over what to make to my own ennui about the upcoming game and the day in general (remember:  cold, gloomy, winter) but I was just having fits on what to make but since I'm no quitter, it was either going to be this book on this day or no food at all! 

So at last folks, I narrowed my choices down to two:  "Fennel, Potato, and Garlic Soup" – p. 59 (from the "Soups for Starters" chapter), and the one I made, "Chunky Chicken Soup with Green Beans and Rosemary," – p. 113 (from the "Entertaining Soups" chapter) and so let's discuss.

Option one – "Fennel, Potato and Garlic Soup" sounded tasty, especially as the garlic was roasted, but in the end, I decided I wanted chicken in my soup and so this left option two – "Chunky Chicken Soup with Green Beans and Rosemary." And I tell you what, it is not often that a recipe looks exactly as described but this one did:  it was "chucky" with chunks of potato, chunks of chicken, "chunks of" green beans and  rosemary, with some broth thrown in for good measure.  And this is not to say it was bad, but I felt like I was eating a soup straight out of my Catholic grade school kitchen which is to say, diced vegetables + water was their idea of soup.

And if I had to make this again, I think I would use a fresh, whole sprig of rosemary so I could remove it, rather than using the leaves which I could not remove and which made me feel like I was eating a tree branch.

Now the soup was tasty but the whole time I was eating it, I felt like it was missing something,  maybe cream?  Yeah, that's it!  If it would have had cream in it, I think it might have been a touchdown but it didn't so it was a field goal and not a game-winning one at that.

Because at the end of the day, my Packers lost by a lot and so there ended my "anti-jinx" ("double toe loop") food roll that I was on and the end of running the table as well. My Packers won't be going to the Super Bowl but they had a great year and they did the Hokey Pokey and turned their season around and that is all that matters.

And so this then concludes the story of how I made the soup and how my Packers game went all to hell and so we pouted and drank (always have a cocktail on hand for these occasions.  Always.) and put it all behind us and got up the next morning and at least speaking for myself, started thinking "Summer training camp."

Until next time and next year, Packers Fans and Soup Fans everywhere!

Chunky Chicken Soup with Green Beans and Rosemary – serves 8
2 tablespoons mild flavored olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 pound skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound red new potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 cups Chicken Stock (page 20)
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
Salt and pepper
Rosemary oil (page 272)

Ann's Note:  I opted against making rosemary oil which is really just a mix of dried rosemary and olive oil.  And as I mentioned above, I think I would use a sprig of rosemary which can be removed, as opposed to the dried rosemary that does not soften well.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Cook onion, garlic, and celery until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in rosemary and chicken and cook until chicken turns white.  Add potatoes and stock, simmer 12 minutes, and add green beans.  Simmer another 8 minutes.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Remove rosemary sprig and drizzle each serving with rosemary oil.

Ann's Note:  As I mentioned above, I think if this recipe would have been a Creamy chunky chicken soup instead of a broth based one, it would have been great. I have no idea how to adjust this recipe, but I bet if you search the internet, you're bound to find something that comes close.

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