Souper Tuesday Guest Post: Eva’s Chicken Soup & Holla Fo’ Challah

I am so excited to have a guest poster on Hot Breakfast today! Today’s Souper Tuesday is brought to you by Eva, who has her own Souper Sunday tradition. 

eva

Eva ca. 1999

Eva and I met studying abroad in England in 1999. That could have been the beginning and end of our friendship, but thanks to social media, we were able to reconnect. Eva is smart, fiercely funny and, from the looks of it, quite the cook! While it might be a while until I can sit down and share a bowl of soup with Eva, I am glad to share some space on Hot Breakfast with her.These yummy recipes should help get you through what Lord knows I’m praying are the final days of winter.

I’m pretty sure that Amy is my Blogger Spirit Animal.  She’s dancing in the kitchen, trying to wrangle her kidlets and offer witty commentary via various social media outlets, while having a snack.  This is a life with which I am intimately familiar.  Our Amy is a smart cookie … and I like cookies.

Last Sunday was my very first Sunday actually living in the house that my husband and I bought in November.  It’s a large Victorian with great bones, but the previous owners had covered her insides with terrible wallpaper and mustard yellow paint on most of the extensive wood trim.  She’s a 127 year old beauty, but needed a makeover, so we spent a full three months prettifying the primary living quarters.  During that time, in addition to the three months before that, we were living with my in-laws.  It’s not as bad as most people make it out to be.  I like my in-laws.  A LOT.  But you know what else I like?  Walking naked to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

eva tempOne of the lovely things about living with [most] parents is that no matter how old you are, they’re still inclined to take care of you as long as they are able.  I was frazzled and busy getting the house ready along with herding a wiggly toddler, all while my husband is on the road for work, so my mother-in-law very graciously handled dinner most nights (thank you, Linda!).  She often self-deprecatingly says that she’s not much a cook, but I’m here to tell you that’s nonsense.  My MIL knows her way around the staples.  And while having evening meals entirely handled was wonderful and helpful, I missed cooking, particularly in my own kitchen.

I’m not usually one for tradition, but Souper Sunday has been a favorite for the duration of my relationship with my husband.  Prior to moving back to Pennsylvania last summer, we lived in Seattle for number of years.  Winters in the Pacific Northwest are much milder than those the Northeast, but the Long Dark with the constant rainy drizzle that lasts a full 75% of the year can be a bit much.  A big pot of soup on Sundays goes a long way to smooth out the wrinkles of the week.  So during last weekend’s winter storm, I relished a return to comfort cooking in our very own home.

We’re really into cooking from scratch, so I started by making soup stock.  It’s a moderately hands off endeavor, perfect for a lazy weekend day.  Throughout the week, I chuck vegetable scraps (onion ends, carrot peels, garlic skin) into a freezer bag, then just dump them into a pot and simmer with water for a few hours on the day I want to make soup.  Stir occasionally, strain out the limp veggies when it’s done, and you have a great soup base that’s free, eliminates food waste, and is more flavorful than box stock.  That said, don’t think I’m up on a whole foods high horse.  Box stock or bouillon are great and I use those if I’m time crunched.  You do you.  In fact, for the sake of full disclosure, I use the $6 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store waaaaay more often than I can be bothered cooking chicken.  It’s delicious and I’m pretty sure that I can’t improve upon it.  Such is the case with last weekend’s soup.  I shredded the chicken in advance and added the carcass to the soup stock.  The Housewarming Gods were smiling upon me, because last weekend’s soup base was the best I remember since the Totally Terrific Thanksgiving Turkey Stock of 2012 (ahhh, a fine vintage).

While the soup stock was simmering away, I got a hankering for homemade bread.  I love the smell of bread dough.  LOVE IT.  And since I was already gleefully bouncing around a kitchen of my very own, why not really do it up?  I have a great recipe for challah (holla!) that I practiced many times over a couple of years ago during the last trimester of pregnancy with my son.  Losing baby weight was not yet a blip on my radar, so I was eating at least a loaf of this braided homemade goodness per week.  The memory of guiltlessly enjoying sweet white bread with a tall glass of whole milk makes me smile.

Anyway, while I was prepping the dough, I happened to taste the wet mixture, as is customary while I cook almost anything.  The salty + sweet combo made my tastebuds sing and I thought to myself, “Self, do you know what might improve upon the already pretty amazing challah?  Honey butter.”  You’re a frigging genius, Self.  So I pulled a stick of butter out of the fridge to come to room temperature and patted myself on the back for remembering to buy a tub of honey while we were at the store Friday night.

eva bread

Now you know the journey that brought me to my dinner last Sunday.  Along the way, you’ve probably noticed that I babble.  Alas, it’s a habit that is not limited to my culinary musings.  Anywho, if you’re interesting in reproducing any of the fare that I’ve been nattering on about for the past 800 words, you’re about to learn that I don’t measure anything unless I’m baking, so the soup and butter recipes are just guidelines.  If you can eat, you can surely cook without precise measurements, so I have every confidence that you’ll do fine.

 Eva’s Chicken Soup

·        3+ Tablespoons of butter/olive oil

·        1 large (or 2 small) onion, chopped

·        3 celery stalks, diced small

·        3 to 7 cloves of garlic, pressed (as garlic fiends, we use 5 to 7 cloves, but feel free to use less)

·        Thyme (a teaspoon if dried, a Tablespoon if fresh)

·        3 or 4 carrots, sliced

·        Cooked, shredded or diced chicken (I use a whole rotisserie chicken, but a couple of breasts would be fine)

·        A couple of quarts of soup stock of your choice

·        1 box of frozen spinach

·        Salt and pepper to taste (I use Kosher and freshly ground, respectively)

Sautee onion in butter/olive oil until just soft.  Stir in the celery, garlic, and thyme.  Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste (for reference, I start with roughly a palmful of Kosher salt and 9 turns of the pepper mill).  Once you’re happy with the flavor, add the chicken and carrots, being sure to thoroughly mix with savory ingredients.  Once chicken is heated through, add stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, then add frozen spinach.  Once spinach “melts” and soup comes back to a bubble, taste soup, then add salt/pepper according to taste.  Serve over rice or noodles and enjoy.

 Holla fo’ Challah

(Recipe adapted from A Forest Feast)

·        1 packet of yeast

·        ¾ cup very warm water

·        1/3 cup brown sugar

·        1 egg

·        2 Tablespoons honey

·        1 teaspoon salt

·        ½ a stick of melted butter

·        4(ish) cups of flour

Mix yeast into water, let stand for 5 minutes.  Add brown sugar, egg, honey, salt, and butter.  Using your hands or a stand mixer, gradually add flour to wet mixture until dough is smooth, but still very pliable (for breadmaking novices, the dough is probably good to go once it isn’t sticky).  Place dough in a large, well oiled bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a non-drafty spot for about 2 hours.  Once the dough has risen, divide it into 3 or 4 even parts, roll into doughy snakes, and braid onto a baking sheet, tucking under the ends (I’d recommend checking YouTube if you’d like a more specific tutorial on challah braiding).  Allow the braid to rise for 45 minutes before brushing the top and sides with an egg wash, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  I’ve learned the hard way that this bread is just dense enough that the inside can still be a bit gooey even when the outside is a perfect golden brown, so use the toothpick test to ensure doneness.

 Honey Butter

·        1 stick of salted butter, softened to room temperature

·        ¼ to ½ cup honey

Place butter in a deep bowl, pour honey over butter.  Use hand mixer to blend thoroughly.  Taste.  Sweet enough?  You’re all set.  If not, add a bit more honey … lather, rinse, and repeat until the honey butter tastes just right.  Spread on whatever bread you have handy and consume with gusto.

Thanks, Eva! You can read more from Eva at http://getthatinwriting.blogspot.com