Deb Paskall’s Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Deb Paskall is another friend I’ve met on social media, through mutual love for flyfishing and cooking. I’m definitely an amateur of the former, while Deb is very much an accomplished professional – She’s a Pro Staff member for Sport Fishing on the Fly, and for Semperfli as well. 

I recently commented that Deb ‘paints with fly tying stuff,’ a bit tongue in cheek, but on the mark. Like developing recipes, coming up with fly patterns that not only look amazing and catch fish is no easy task. While she seems to do both effortlessly, it ain’t necessarily so – she’s put in a lot of hard work to get to where she is. Deb lives, fishes and ties in the stunningly beautiful town of Nelson, British Columbia – and she still cooks wonderful food.

Speaking thereof, she brings us soup today, done right – fast enough to be a fairly quick decision, slow enough to be done right. She writes, ‘according to my sweet neighbor, this is the best chicken vegetable soup she’s ever had – I’ve been making soups for many years, and I used to own a soup kitchen.’

What she’s sharing with us today demonstrates what great home cooking is all about – deceptively simple, inspired, delicious, and based on experience and intuition – she wrote, ‘Here’s my recipe, and sorry, but I don’t measure anything – All to taste.’ As such, some of the proportions and play by play here are mine, which is also how things should work – when you make it, use Deb’s and then make it yours.

Deb’s Chicken & Vegetable Soup

4-6 Chicken Thighs (Bone in, skinned)

1 large Onion (your choice – I prefer Red or Sweet)

2-3 Stalks Celery (with leaves, and Celeriac would be fine too)

2 large Carrots

1 large or two medium Potatoes

3-5 fat Cloves Garlic

3-5 whole Turkish Bay Leaves

1-2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (Store Bought, or see below)

Kosher Salt & ground Black Pepper to taste

Optional: Fresh Parsley to garnish

House Made Italian Seasoning

1 Tablespoon dried Basil

1 Tablespoon dried Oregano

1 teaspoon dried Parsley

1 teaspoon dried Thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried Marjoram

1/2 teaspoon dried Rosemary

Thoroughly combine all ingredients, store in clean glass, in a cool, dark spot.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs if you didn’t get skinless.

End trim, peel, and rough chop onion, celery, and carrot.

Peel, end trim and mince garlic.

In a stock pot over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering.

Add diced and minced veggies and sauté for a couple of minutes, until onions just start to turn translucent.

Add the chicken, bay leaves, and fresh water to cover, plus about 2” over everything.

When soup begins to boil, reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer – let that work for about 60 minutes.

With a pair of tongs, pull the thighs from the mix and put ‘em in a mixing bowl.

Peel and dice the potato(es), and leave them in a mixing bowl, covered with water.

Let the soup simmer for another 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones, shredding by hand.

Add the chicken, drained potatoes, and Italian seasoning to the mix, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed. 

Deb notes that you can substitute noodles, rice, or quinoa for the spuds if you prefer – If you do that, it’s best to have those cooked, and add them to individual bowls right before service. 

What does bay leaf do for our cooking, anyway?

When you make soup, or stew, or any number of sauces at home, you add a bay leaf or two, right? Ever wonder why you do that – I mean, really give it some thought? I’ll be honest – I hadn’t, so I guess it’s time to ask – What does bay leaf do for our cooking, anyway?

Full disclosure, a social media acquaintance sent me a link to a new-agey treatise on bay leaf. This thing claimed that, ‘recent scientific studies have proven’ that bay leaf converted triglycerides to monounsaturated fats, eliminates heartburn, acidity, and constipation, regulates bowel movements and blood sugar, makes the human body produce insulin, eliminates bad cholesterol, protects the heart from seizures and strokes, relieves insomnia, anxiety, kidney stones and cures infections – No freakin’ wonder we put them in soup!

Most if not all of those claims are, at best, gross exaggeration and distortion of facts. The real dead giveaway was this line – ‘Do you know that if you boil some bay leaves in a glass of water and taste it, it will have no flavor?’

My answer to that is, ‘do you know that this statement is complete bullshit?’ Either the author has never actually done the experiment, or did so with bad bay leaves. Had they done it properly, they’d have discovered a much more potent and nuanced result.

Sweet bay laurel tree

Before we dive into that, let’s define what exactly the bay leaf in our pantry is – it’s Sweet Bay, AKA Bay Laurel, or Lauris nobilis. It’s native to the Mediterranean, and cultivated commercially all around that region, as well as France, Spain, Mexico, and Portugal. Now for the record, the other bay we see in a lot of pantries is California Bay, and that’s a whole different beast, Umbullularia californica – it’s far more potent than sweet bay, with longer, narrower leaves.

Dried Sweet Bay leaves Dried Sweet Bay leaves
Dried California Bay leaves Dried California Bay leaves

Problem is, a lot of purveyors just call their stuff ‘Bay Leaf,’ and that can make things tough on us home cooks. Different growing areas produce leaves with subtle differences you may or may not like. In any event, it’d be nice to know from whence yours came, wouldn’t it? Good outfits like World Spice and Penzey’s will tell you that. 

It’s good to keep both the sweet and California versions on hand, by the way. While California bay is intense and medicinal, the sweet, (often called Turkish), is lighter, more nuanced and savory. The latter is far and away my personal go to, for the record. California bay is nice, in moderation, in low and slow soups and stews where time and temperature can simmer out the lion’s share of the more volatile constituents that spring forth early on in the cooking process. In any event, you’d be well advised to find out what variety you have, and like best.

Sweet Bay is complex, with dozens of volatile compounds onboard each leaf. The heavy hitters are cineole, pinine, linalool, and methyl eugenol. Interestingly enough, most of those compounds are also found in basil. California Bay is a bit different, packing cineole, pinine, and sabinine – that last one is responsible for things like the spiciness of black pepper, nutmeg, and carrot oil. Cineole, linalool, and pinine are terpenes, a rather volatile chemical family that has much to do with a wide variety of powerful scents in the natural world. Their highly reactive nature makes them some of the first things we smell when bay leaves are used in cooking. Methyl eugenol is a phenolic found in over 450 plants, and plays a vital role in pollination – how about that in your spaghetti sauce? These compounds are fascinating, especially when we think about how they’ve made that journey from chemical warning sign, or pollination attractor, to our dining table.

On to that experiment then, since that’s the best way to ascertain that what you’ve got in your pantry is packin’. Set a small pan of water to boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Toss in a couple bay leaves of your choice, let them do their thing for 3 to 5 minutes, and then stick your nose down there.

The first things you get will be those fleeting terpenes. If you’ve got California bay, those notes will be the big medicinal ones, menthol and camphor. If you’ve got sweet bay, you’ll still get some hefty initial notes, like camphor from the cineole, but as simmering time progresses, you’ll catch a sort of floral skunkiness – that’s the linalool’s influence. Piney, sagey notes come from the pinine, while the methyl eugenol might remind you of general earthy, savory notes. If you let that simmer go for 45 to 60 minutes, as you would for a soup or stew, and then taste your bay leaf tea, you’ll get hints of all these things – If you don’t, then what you’ve got is old, or old, crappy bay leaf – and that’s not at all uncommon.

Bay leaf’s contribution to your cooking is subtle – it’s a background stalwart, not a lead singer. What makes a sauce, soup, or stew great is the layering of flavors, and for that, a solid aromatic base is critical. Bay lends a raft of minor notes that, while perhaps not missed in and of themselves, certainly will be if they’re absent from the mix.

So what to do in your kitchen? Start by finding your bay leaf, opening the jar and giving it a big sniff. Do you get a nice, complex but subtle whiff of the stuff discussed herein? Do you remember where and when you bought those leaves? Does the container say anything about provenance? If the answer to those questions is, ‘no,’ then trash what you’ve got and get some fresh stuff. World Spice is a great go to for bay leaf – They carry both Turkish and California, and they’re always top notch quality. 

Bay does just fine as a dried herb, by the way. If you keep them in a clean, airtight glass jar, out of direct sunlight and wide swings of temperature, they’ll be good to go for 6 months, easy. If you want more from your bay, store them in your freezer and they’ll last for years.

Fresh Sweet Bay leaves Fresh Sweet Bay leaves

You can use fresh bay leaves in cooking, but know that their potency is quite a bit higher than dried leaves, so adjust accordingly, and again, be sure you know what you’ve got – A freshly crushed leaf of fresh bay from our garden smells subtly savory and complex, just as described, whereas, at least to me, fresh California bay smells like a medicine cabinet – an overdose of the latter will ruin a meal really quickly.

Tej patta, or Indian bay leaf
Tej patta, or Indian bay leaf

Then there’s Tej Patta – Indian Bay leaves. Indigenous to the southern slopes of the Himalayas, Indian bay is mostly wild brown, and can be identified by the 3 distinct veins running down each leaf. Seminal to Terai cuisine from the area around the mountainous northeast of the country, and to Moghul dishes like biryani and korma, Indian bay has notes of  cinnamon, clove, and cassia. It’s a must have if you’re to do those regional cuisines justice.

Grow your own bay leaves

Finally, you can grow your own if you’re living in a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7 or thereabouts – We’re a 7+ here in the northwest corner of Washington State, and our little sweet bay plant is doing fine, even with a couple of hard frosts under its belt. Granted, it’s a small bush and not a tree – in its native turf, it can reach over fifteen meters in height. Here’s a very nice primer on doing so.

Real Deal Bisque – It’s all about shellfish and great stock

When you think ‘Bisque,’ what does that conjure in your minds eye? These days, it might be anything in a thick, rich creamy soup, and that’s sort of correct, but if we’re talking the genuine article, bisque is made with shellfish – lobster, crab, shrimp or crawfish. The key is starting with a great stock – If you don’t have that as the base of the dish, you ain’t got real bisque – It’s that simple.

Fresh, homemade stock is key to great bisque

That said, many things are called bisque these days, but really, that’s just done to sell stuff – Bisque sounds infinitely sexier than Cream of Whatever, doesn’t it? Fact is, the only thing I found on our site was Butternut Squash Bisque, so I’m guilty as charged. It’s high time we posted up the real deal.

This thick, rustic soup goes back at least 500 years in France. Back when, it was peasant food that included crushed seafood shells, but not the meat. Bisque languished for a while before returning to the spotlight as a somewhat more refined dish in the late seventeenth century, (shells were still used to make the stock, but not crushed and left in, as they had been).

In any event, bisque may seem fussy and difficult, but it’s really not. If you’ve poked around here at all, you know we always start a soup or stew with homemade stock, and so should you. From absolute scratch, this stuff can be made in a couple of hours, and faster yet if you do stock one day and bisque the next.  The other must-haves are a solid foundation made with aromatic bases, and thickening done with a buerre manié, (more on the latter technique in a bit.)

Buerre manié - kneaded butter- The key to thickening soups, stews, and sauces.

Buerre manié may be a new trick to some of y’all. If you’ve ever wondered how professionals make such lovely, thick, shiny soups, stews, and sauces, this is how it’s done. Buerre manié is a classic French technique for thickening – it couldn’t be easier, and there’s no better way to get the job done. Buerre manié means kneaded butter, and that’s exactly what you do. Equal portions of butter and flour are combined by hand to form a smooth, uniform paste. Once mixed, you roll up roughly teaspoon sized balls of the stuff and add one at a time to whatever you need thickened, thoroughly whisking that into the mix, et viola – la perfection!

Shrimp Bisque a la Urban

Medium Shrimp come 41-50 to the pound

For the Stock

2 Quarts Water

Shells from 1 1/2 pounds of medium sized shrimp.

1/2 Cup yellow Onion, chopped

1/2 Cup Celery (Leaves are preferred), chopped

1/2 Cup Carrot, chopped

1/2 fresh Lemon

3 cloves fresh Garlic, crushed, skinned, and minced

5-6 whole peppercorns

2 Bay Leaves, (I like Turkish)

Two 3” sprigs fresh Thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh ground pepper

Pinch fine grind Salt

Shell, devein, and chop shrimp. Return shrimp to fridge and retain shells.

In a stock pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil and heat through. 

Add carrot and sauté for a couple of minutes. 

Add onion and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

Add garlic and sauté until the raw garlic smell dissipates. 

Squeeze lemon juice into the pot, then toss the half lemon in as well. 

Add the shrimp shells, water, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaves – Stir to incorporate.

Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to just maintain a simmer – Cook for one hour, uncovered.

Remove pot from heat and carefully pour stock through a single mesh strainer. Set stock aside, and discard the solids.

For the Bisque

4 Cups Shrimp Stock

1/4 Cup Heavy Cream

1/4 Cup Brandy

2 Tablespoons Onion, fine diced

1 Tablespoon Carrot, fine diced

1 Tablespoon Celery, fine diced

2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter 

2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour

2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon Turkish Oregano 

1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Thyme 

1/2 teaspoon Tarragon

2 Turkish Bay Leaves

2-4 shakes Tabasco

A few sprigs fresh Parsley, chopped fine


Fresh ground White Pepper

Reserve and set aside 8-10 whole shrimp. The rest should be shelled, deveined, and chopped.

Pull butter from fridge and set aside.

If you have fresh herbs, you can combine and mince them ahead of cooking.

In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, add olive oil and heat through.

Add carrot and sauté for a couple of minutes. 

Add onion and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

Add brandy and stir until raw booze smell dissipates.

Add tomato paste, and all herbs – Stir to incorporate and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook for 60 minutes.

Carefully process bisque with an immersion blender, until you have a smooth, even consistency.

Add a couple shakes of Tabasco, taste, and adjust salt and pepper as desired.

In a small mixing bowl or cup, combine flour and butter and knead by hand until you’ve got a nice, uniform paste.

Add beurre manié a teaspoon at a time, whisking it into the bisque – Once that’s all introduced, simmer for another 5 minutes.

Whisking constantly, slowly add cream in a thin stream.

Increase temperature to medium, (you want a rolling boil).

Add the shrimp and cook for another 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with a couple whole shrimp and a pinch of parsley.

Serve hot, with crusty bread and a nice dry white wine or cider.

Beef & Barely Stew – A wonderful dish with Pictish roots

M was feeling kinda puny today, so I figured pulling out all the stops for comfort food was Job One. It’s a crisp fall day here, with reasonably warm days and chilly mornings and evenings. On top of that, the garden is in fine fettle, churning out lots of great veggies. If ever there was a day for a hearty stew, this is it – so I went for her absolute fave, beef and barley.

Beef and barley dishes sport Pictish roots

This dish is often attributed to ‘colonial times,’ which is missing the boat by a wide margin. The origins are Pictish, and harken back thousands of years, to the Iron Age. Today in Scotland, it’s called Scotch Broth, a pottage (soup or stew) containing beef, (or mutton), barley, onion, carrots, peas, neeps, rutabaga, and so on – it’s anything but a broth, but there ya go – a perfect fall/winter dish that will shine with whatever you have, love, and/or need to use.

This stew isn’t really designed to be cooking all day low and slow, because of the barley – you can and will end up with mush if it’s allowed to cook much longer than 45 minutes to an hour. As such, you may find you want add liquid to your stew, especially the next day – unless you really like porridge, of course.

There are plenty of versions out there, but it really is meant to be personalized every time. Make what you love, and use what’s fresh, available, or needs using – you’ll not go wrong in any iteration.

Toasting the barley isn’t required, but it is delightful – by itself, it’s not particularly tasty, so adding a greater depth of flavor and nuttiness is well worth the effort. Many folks call for doing this in oil, I don’t – a dry toasting gives better flavor and avoids adding unneeded fat.

What makes this a stew rather than a soup? in a word, viscosity. Employing a roux and the barley assures you end up with something that can’t ever be accused of being thin – and thats as it should be.

M’s Fave Beef & Barley Stew

8 Cups Stock (whatever you like, and water will work too)

3/4 Pound Stew Beef

2/3 Cup Pearl Barley

1 medium Onion

2 stalks Celery

2 medium Carrots

3-5 medium Tomatoes

1-2 mild Chiles (or bell peppers)

1 Cup whole Peas

2-3 cloves Garlic

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil

2 Turkish Bay Leaves

3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

3 Tablespoons AP Flour

3 sprigs fresh Thyme (1-2 teaspoons)

2 sprigs fresh Greek Oregano (1-2 teaspoons)

2-3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce

2-3 shakes Tabasco

Salt & Pepper to taste

If not done already, cut beef into roughly 1/2” cubes.

Peel, end trim and dice onion.

End trim and cut carrots and celery into roughly 1/4” thick rounds/slices.

End trim, deseed, and dice chiles and tomatoes.

Peel, end trim, and mince garlic.

Strip leaves from thyme and oregano, and mince – If you’re using dry, portion 2 teaspoons of each and set aside.

In a stock pot over medium heat, add the oil and heat until shimmering.

Add beef and cook, turning steadily, until all sides are nicely browned, about 3-5 minutes.

Add onion, carrot, celery, and chiles and cook, stirring steadily, until the onion starts to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add garlic and cook until the raw smell dissipates, about 1 minute.

Add stock and deglaze the pot, scraping any fond loose from the bottom of the vessel.

Add tomatoes, peas and bay leaves, and stir to incorporate.

Bring the stew up to a low boil, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer.

In a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat, toast the barley, stirring/shaking steadily, until it’s golden brown and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove barley from hot pan and set aside.

In a 16 oz measuring cup, combine room temperature butter and flour and stir to a paste with a fork or spoon.

Let the stew simmer uncovered for 1 hour – if you lose too much fluid volume, replace it with fresh, hot stock or water.

Add herbs, a three finger pinch of salt, 10-12 twists of pepper, a few drops of Worcestershire and a few shakes of Tabasco – stir to incorporate.

Ladle two cups of stock into the flour/butter mix and stir well to fully incorporate – pour this back into the stew, and scrape/rinse to measuring up to get all your thickener into play. Stir well to incorporate.

Add the barley to the stew and stir to incorporate – Simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is done, (it should be soft, not chewy, and notably fatter)

Serve with biscuits, crusty bread, or cornbread – it’ll be even better the next day.

Hungarian Gulyás with Csipetke

Hungarian Gulyás with Csipetke

Here in the northwest corner of Washington State, winter has set in – temperatures in the 30s and 40s, heavy wind, raining sideways. It’s the time to deploy all the goodies we grew and preserved last summer – stocks, sauces, root veggies and such – time for soups and stews.

One of our favorites is what you probably call Goulash, but Gulyás would be more accurate – either way, it’s Hungary’s answer to winter storms.

Gulyás is a National dish of Hungary, (albeit it’s popular throughout Central Europe in various iterations.) Gulyás has shown up in recorded history as far back as the 9th century. Like chili in northern Mexico, it started as a dried meat preparation carried by shepherds – just add water and you’d have a hearty meal ready for days end.

Hungarians take their Chiles very seriously

The version we enjoy now is a bit different from the original. For about the last 500 years, Gulyás has been powered by powdered chiles – those originated in the Americas, but took the world by storm when introduced across Europe and Asia by the Spaniards back in the 1500s.

The Hungarian version of dried, powdered capsicum annuum, AKA paprika, goes damn near that far back – to the 1600s, when the Turks grew it in Buda, now known as Budapest – Ever since, Gulyás has been paprika powered.

Gulyás is a perfect vehicle to celebrate fall harvest root vegetables with. Other variants contain dry pinto or cranberry beans (Babgulyás), sauerkraut (Szekelygulyás), or haricot vert (Palocgulyás). Versatile stuff, indeed.

For us at home, this is a godsend – like many legendary dishes, there is no one authentic version – there are many. Everyone’s mom makes Golyás, as does any restaurant worth their stuff, and all of them can be (and usually are) glorious – yours will be too.

The paprika in Gulyás affords significant room to play. There are three major varieties you’ll find – sweet, hot, and smoked. Use one, or mix, and you’ll find myriad differences in your final dish. For a real treat, chase down genuine Hungarian paprika – of that, Rubin Szeged Sweet is arguably the best there is – though other famous makers certainly have fine stuff as well.

Paprika isn’t the only unique note to this stew, there’s a great minor note of caraway, the earthy-herby influence of parsnip, and the brightness of celery leaf or parsley. The beef you choose should be a lean roast cut. Onions can be yellow, sweet, red – whatever you prefer. Fresh varietal potatoes will shine here as well.

You’ll notice some leeway in several ingredients – feel free to tweak as you see fit. Any stock you like will work fine, but water will deliver a great dish, too.

In addition to the ingredients, method is important – if you don’t follow the steps, you’ll get a nice soup or stew, but it won’t reach its full potential.

Finally, you don’t need to make or add csipetke, but they’re surprising delicious, authentic, and better yet – they maintain their firmness for next day leftovers.

Urban’s Reasonably Authentic Hungarian Gulyás

4-6 Cups Stock or Water

1 1/2 Pounds Beef

2 medium Onions

2 large Roma Tomatoes

2 fresh Green Bell Peppers

2-3 small Potatoes (any variety you like)

1-2 fresh Carrots

1 Fat Parsnip

2-3 fat cloves fresh Garlic

2-3 fresh Celery Leaves (dry will work, as will parsley)

2-4 Tablespoons Hungarian Paprika

2 teaspoons ground Caraway Seed

2 Bay Leaves

2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil

Sea Salt

Fresh ground Pepper

End trim, peel, and rough dice onion.

End trim, peel and mince garlic.

Trim the top and white membranes from the green peppers and rough dice.

End trim and rough dice carrots and parsnip.

End trim and dice tomatoes.

Rough dice potatoes.

Combine carrot, parsnip, peppers, and potatoes in a mixing bowl and cover veggies with cold water.

Roll up celery leaf (or parsley) and chiffonade cut.

Grind caraway seed in a mortal and pestle (or spice grinder) until you develop a rough powder.

Cut beef into roughly 1/2” cubes.

Measure and portion out bay leaves, oil, salt, and pepper.

In a cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat, add the oil and heat through.

Add the onion, a pinch of salt and a couple twists of pepper – sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the paprika to the onions and stir in well to thoroughly coat.

Add the cubed beef to the hot dutch oven, and sauté until lightly browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the minced garlic, a 3 finger pinch of salt, 10-12 twists of pepper, the ground caraway seed, and bay leaves, and stir everything in well to incorporate.

Cover the mix with stock or water to about an inch above the goodies.
When the meat blend starts to boil, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer.

Simmer for 90 minutes, adding water or stock as needed to maintain a full cover.

After 90 minutes, add the diced veggie blend, including the soaking water, and stir well to incorporate.

Simmer for another 90-120 minutes, until everything is nice and tender.

Taste the broth and adjust salt and pepper balance as needed. You may add more paprika at this point too, if you wish.

Serve with csipetke, or crusty bread, sour cream, and a nice glass of rustic red.

This is a signature Hungarian pasta – they have a delightful, firm chew and they carry flavors like nobody’s business. Derived from the Hungarian word csípni (pinch), the name speaks to the technique of making the pasta – little pinky nail sized chunks are slightly flattened and pinched off a thin rope of dough, then cooked in water or the gulyás, as you prefer.

Hungarian Csipetke

Hungarian Csipetke

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 large Egg

2 finger pinch Sea Salt

1 teaspoon cold Water

On a clean work surface, place the flour and make a well in the middle.

Crack the egg into the well and whisk with a fork until well beaten.

Add a pinch of salt to the egg mix and whisk in.

Slowly add flour to the egg to form a dough.

Add the water if needed.

Knead for about 5 minutes until you have a firm, smooth dough.

Cover with a clean, damp towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough into a cigar shape, spinning it between floured palms, stretching and reducing the diameter until you’ve got a rope roughly 1/4” in diameter.

Pull/pinch a piece off the end of the rope and continue until all your csipetke are formed.

Boil in well salted water until the csipetke float to the surface, about 3-5 minutes.

Alternatively, you can toss the csipetke into your simmering gulyás for about 10 minutes before serving.

Urban’s Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Potato soup in some form is as old as the hills. Spuds originated in the Peruvian Andes, and that’s where the greatest variety is still cultivated to this day. From patatas or patas, to batatas, papas, potatoes, pomme de terre, krompir, aartappel, peruna, or картофель – pretty much every language has a name for them – and fantastic dishes to match.

Here in El Norte, many restaurant chains made loaded baked potato soup pretty famous, and it took no time at all for home chefs to catch on.

There’s a couple primary considerations when making this stuff – namely an all dairy versus stock and dairy base, and how thick the soup will end up. For my mind, there’s no question as to the right way to go – it’s stock and dairy for base, and it’s soup, not stew.

As to the latter point, almost every recipe you’ll find adds either a flour roux or corn starch as a thickener – I’ll never understand why that’s done, considering that mashed potatoes are perfect for the job – just designate two or three small spuds for thickening duty and you’re good to go.

You can use any stock you like – preferably homemade and fresh, but go with what you’ve got. This is a great fridge clearer if you think about it – anything you’d like on a spud can go into the mix. A solid aromatic base is a must, and also is a great place for a little variety. You’ll find lots of options for both stocks and bases right here, of course.

Seasoning is also a wide open field – anything from simple salt and pepper to favorite blends will afford ample opportunity for exploration and expression – Italian or Greek mixes, herbes de Provence or fines herbs come to mind right off the bat, but do what you like most – North African or Indian would be spectacular, I’d bet.

What potatoes to use? Whatever you’ve got that needs using, really. Pretty much any variety will do, though if I was buying, I’d go with Yukon golds. The harder, waxier whites and reds are probably not my first choice – they don’t have the richness of a gold or a russet, and they don’t mash particularly well either.

Urban’s Loaded Baked Potato Soup – This’ll make 8 portions, easy.

6-8 potatoes, 2-3 small ones well done and mashed

4 Cups Stock (poultry or veggie is best)

2 Cups Heavy Cream

2 Cups Whole Milk

1 small sweet Onion

1/2 Sweet Pepper

2-4 cloves Garlic

2 Tablespoons Butter

2 teaspoons Mineral Salt

2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano

5-6 shakes Tabasco

3-4 drops Red Boat Fish Sauce

For Garnish – Use what you like!

4-6 strips thick cut Bacon

1 Cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

2-3 Green Onions

5-6 Garlic Chives

Sour Cream or Crema

Preheat oven to 400° F and set a rack in the middle slot.

Set your spuds right on the rack and let them bake for about 45 minutes, then check them with a fork – You want done but firm, not super soft.

When your spuds are done, leave the smallest two or three in for another 15 minute bake – Those will be your thickening spuds.

Pull the rest to cool enough to handle.

Peel, trim and dice onion and sweet pepper.

Peel, trim and mince garlic.

Trim and slice green onions and chives into roughly 1/4” rounds.

Cut bacon into roughly 1/2” squares.

Grate cheese.

Pull your thickening spuds from the oven and let cool a bit.

Remove skins from spuds.

In a mixing bowl, combine the three thickening spuds, the butter and a splash of milk. Mash with a fork to a fairly smooth consistency, and set aside.

Cut the baked potatoes into roughly 1/2” chunks.

Portion all your ingredients and lay out your mise en place.

Set garnishes on table for service.

In a stock pot over medium heat, add the bacon lardons and sauté until crispy, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate or bowl.

Add onion and peppers to the hot grease in the pot and sauté until the onions start to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Add garlic and sauté until the raw garlic smell dissipates.
Deglaze the pot with a cup or so of stock, and scrape the naughty bits off the bottom.

Add the rest of the stock and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer – cook for 30 minutes.

Bring heat back up to medium, add the cream and milk, and the mashed potato mixture, then stir to thoroughly incorporate.

Add the potato chunks and stir them in well.

Add salt, pepper, oregano, Tabasco, and red boat, and stir to incorporate.

Drop the soup back to a bare simmer and cook for 30 minutes to allow everything to get cozy.

Serve with a nice cold Pilsner, topped with all the goodies, and maybe a chunk of crusty bread to sop things up with.

Then sit back, loosen your belt, and maybe groan a little – you’ve earned it.