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This one is in honor of Stanza over at CookingOnSundays, who couldn’t make it today, but the people must be fed!

True to Stanza fashion, this one is a soup made from stuff I had sitting in the freezer in the garage (I don’t have a closet) for too long, and that is the way it should be made, but with no onions! Any time you are looking for something in one of your many food storage options and you find there is just too much stuff you have to move out of the way, it is time to make some variant of what I erroneously call Jambalaya.

Every year, we plant a garden in the back yard, and impatiently wait for all the little sprouts to sprout, and then spend a portion of each day urging the cats to keep the gophers out, and yelling at the cats that the garden is not a litter box. Then we complain that there are snails and we need to get the chickens to eat them, which ends with us flapping our arms as we chase the chickens out because they are kicking up the sprouts and eating our lettuce. Somehow, a couple months later we are fretting about what to do as we bring in a bucket load of produce out of the garden every day. In the end, we freeze it in one of our many freezers. Now as we are beginning to plant this years sprouts to begin the process over again, I’m realizing I have a lot of stuff to use up before a new load of stuff arrives.

Today we’ll be making Hambalaya. Why Hambalaya? According to Gen it is better than Shrimpbalaya.

Go find the biggest pot you have in the kitchen. I use a 5 gallon stock pot. Take stock of everything you want to get rid of that wouldn’t be gross in a hearty soup. Think about how you want each ingredient to come out. Do you want to cover the flavor of it and cook it in? Leave it crunchy and fresh? Throw the longest cooking item in the pot with some water and crank it up. Consider all these ingredients suggestions, they change each time. Here is how mine went :

  1. After Christmas there were great sales on ham, so we got a few and cooked them, but didn’t know what to do with that much ham or ham broth. Yes, we froze it. Throw the ham and the broth (or substitute a similar meat product) into the pot (frozen if need be) and crank up the heat.
  2. Rummaging through freezer#3, I found six gallons of zucchini. One gallon goes into the pot. I don’t much like zucchini, but it grows like a weed, so I grow it anyway. Cooked into the soup from the start, it won’t be zucchini flavored at all. What will I do with the other 5 gallons of zucchini?
  3. Someone gave us a bunch of tomatoes last year (I don’t know why), but I froze them (cut the top bit out before you freeze so you don’t have to mess with them frozen). Toss ’em into the pot.
  4. Bought some miscellaneous peppers at the store. A green bell. I think this is an important ingredient to get the flavor right. A Poblano, and a couple Anaheims. I would have gotten more, but they were squishy at the store. Dice them all up and throw them into the pot.
  5. Someone gave me a little jar of lentil and barley soup makings that they had made as gifts for everyone. In the pot. Make sure there is some liquid for things to soak up so they don’t burn. If the soup is bubbling, turn it down. A little bubble is optimal, but while you are still tossing stuff in it is hard to gauge.
  6. Sliced up a hole bunch of celery into little horseshoes. If you have a sharp enough knife, you can just slice them right into the pot.
  7. One of our local markets makes an awesome spicy Italian sausage. I bought about a dozen sausages. Toss them in whole, if they are linked, leave them that way.
  8. Went through the fridge drawers and found some ingredients from last weeks egg roll makings that were just starting to look sorry for themselves. Some diced ginger, cabbage, and carrots. Set aside the cabbage and threw the rest in. Go light on the carrots, they clash with the tomatoes.
  9. Took a break to write a blog post. Once things get to a bubble, leave them there for 40 minutes or so.
  10. Fished out the sausages, now cooked. Dice them into rounds like a carrot and toss them back in. This is way easier than cutting them raw, and adds more flavor than boiling them separate. Don’t worry too much about grease, it is a big stew, and if there is any, you can fish ot off the surface tomorrow when it comes out of the fridge.
  11. Time to stir it up and taste. At this point it should be smelling really good and tasting like it needs something. Take note of what is missing.
  12. I decided it was too hammy. I added a bowl of turkey broth and meat from the freezer. The beauty of this stew is that the more meats you put in it, the better it is.
  13. Dumped in two cans of tomato puree as hambalaya reddener. In addition to making things more red it adds a nice tang and makes visible those little broth circles on the surface.
  14. Added some spices, ground on the spot: Coriander, which is a generally good soup flavorizer. Summer Savory (dried), you will know why if you smell it while you are cooking this. A large, three fingered pinch of cumin, a small handful of pequins for heat, and a large pinch of smoked paprika to round things out. Also a pinch of fennel and a pinch of  caraway to add that occasional healthy interest among all the meaty wickedness.
  15. Stir, wait a few minutes, and taste. Tastes pretty good. Add enough salt to feel like you think it might need more salt and stop. It will get saltier as it sits, and you can always add more later. I actually didn’t need any because the ham and celery are both salty.
  16. Turned off the heat and dumped in a cube of frozen juice from that giant mangle beet I found last year, and threw in the cabbage. Cabbage is really good for you and your digestive system raw, but cooked, it is the opposite. Adding it now will get it to about the consistency of the vegetables you get in Chinese food.

At this point I’ve managed to fill the whole 5 gallon pot to the top. I’ll remove half of the soup tomorrow and put it into paper cups and back into the freezer, which may seem counter to my mission, but frozen soup in a cup is easy to carry to work, and tastier and cheaper than anything I’m likely to find there.  Most people cook a soup like this for a long time. I find if you cook each ingredient just right it ends up much better. I think the most common mistake cooks make is overhomogenization.

Serve the soup with slices of french bread toasted with butter, a few cubes of cheese, fresh sprigs of parsley, grated Parmesan, and black pepper.

4 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. OH MY GOSH I just ate this, but reading the description’s making me hungry all over again. It was so good.

  2. stanza

    Oh nice!

    I’ve been noticing the sad state of bell peppers in our local supermarkets as well and it must be the season. I personally can’t wait for the summer because there is a lot of produce that I like that is looking sad on the supermarket shelves this time of year.

    I don’t know how fast you eat soup, but I’ve found I prefer to put soup in containers in the fridge and take one to work every day. I make enough soup to feed me and everyone that night, and there is typically enough left over that I don’t have to cook for most of the week, and it doesn’t go bad in the fridge for less than a week. However, if you’re implying four gallons of soup left over, well, yeah, I’d freeze that too, I’m not sure I could eat soup for three meals a day for a seven days (which is my estimation of how much that might be).

    More recipes please! Yay!

  3. admin

    I freeze it even if I’m taking it to work tomorrow. I have a bit of a hike and it keeps me from spilling it.

    Peppers are at the end of their season in this part of the world. I’m hoping I can still scrounge up some good ones though, as I’ve got a chili cookoff to attend next week, so with any luck there will be more recipes on the way soon.

  4. That sounds delicious. I may try this one sometime. I couldn’t live without onions though.

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