Most people think that my mother taught me how to cook.
We have a lot in common.
She cooks a lot, I cook a lot
I have lots of cookbooks, she has lots of cookbooks.
She did not teach me how to cook, however.
I’m sure I could’ve asked her to teach me.
She did try to teach me how to make bread one time
and I didn’t try to make bread for years afterwards.
It was not her fault.
I was one of those kids who liked to cook everything over high heat
then wonder why the crust was burnt and the inside raw.
I’m much better about that
(most of the time)
but my mother and I are still very, VERY different cooks.
My mom never met a recipe she loved for how it was
and cakes are her sworn enemy
…probably due to her recipe aversion.
I taught myself how to cook when Trevor was studying for the MCATs.
The standardized tests for entrance into medical school warranted serious attention
and 8 hours of studying on top of 3 hours of daily college classes
didn’t leave him a lot of room for cooking
or for eating.
I decided to cook for him.
That way, I figured,
he wouldn’t one day find himself unable to get out of his swivel chair because of malnutrition.
Scared to waste food and money by mangling perfectly fine ingredients,
I started cooking out of the few cookbooks I had
mostly chicken dishes.
Trevor didn’t waste away
and I got really good at cooking chicken.
I never stopped cooking after that.
People always tease Trevor
saying that he must be a really shitty cook
but he’s actually a very good cook.
(We won’t mention the one time he made cornbread that I privately dubbed ‘cornbrick.’)
He doesn’t cook because he loves my cooking
and PROBABLY because it’s significantly less work for him.
Different though we are
Trevor also loves my mom’s cooking.
Every now and then I will unwedge a binder from the crammed bookcases
a binder full of notes and printouts
scribbled half-recipes and ingredient lists cut from packages
and pull out one of my mom’s recipes.
Of course, I use the term ‘recipe’ loosely;
like everyone elses beloved family member
her recipes are ‘a little of this, some of that, a few of those.’
A recently added recipe to the binder is another one of my mother’s.
It’s recipe for soup with a lot of kale
some sausage and potatoes
something fitting for the cold day that appeared out of nowhere.
We’ve had a weird fall here, with snow last month
one side of our yard home to blooming yellow flowers
the other, trees with fiery leaves.
It’s quite the technicolor show.
When I went to go collect the greens from the garden for the soup
I also brought in a few branches from a very red bush outside.
I’d like to believe I got all of the caterpillars out of the kale.
I haven’t run into any while eating the end result
Such is a hazard of cooking from the garden.
I like kale a lot.
(You know this because the last recipe I posted had kale in it.
Sorry about that.
We have a lot of kale in the garden.
Next year: less kale.)
Since I like kale so much
I decided I was going to put a lot of it in the soup this time around.
Like the kid who wanted to cook everything with the equivalent energy of the ENTIRE SUN
I realize, in hindsight,
that I need to learn moderation.
Flexible cutting boards are not my favorite cutting boards.
They get the job done
but I’d much rather thick plastic or wood under my knife.
I don’t feel like I’m cutting on anything when I use these.
I didn’t have enough small potatoes for the soup
so I grabbed a big potato
and cut it in half lengthwise before slicing it crosswise.
More on the cutting board topic:
the trick of putting a wet towel under your board really, really works.
You can even use a scrinched up paper towel
(one is just fine)
and you’ll find that you’re not battling your board from dancing off the counter.
The easiest way to take sausage out of its casing is to take a sharp knife
run it along the length of the link
then peel the casing off.
I remember that a few times when my mom was working on this soup when I was younger
she didn’t remove the casing from the sausage
and the slices ended up looking like I feel after too much Tex-Mex–
(I figured I should clarify that statement as it could have different meanings to different people.
I broke down each link into about 6 meatballs.
Incorporating the sausage into the soup is the hardest part
(after eliminating kalerpillars).
Like casing issues
I kept running into broken meatballs
since they would stick to the bottom of the pan when I tried to brown them
then crumble when I tried to stir.
I wanted the fond
so a nonstick pan or boiling them were out of the question.
Using more oil didn’t sound appealing, either.
The dumplings I made the day before came to my rescue.
The previous night
I steamed pork dumplings and had been off in lala land for a while
thinking about the texture of the filling and how it transformed
from globby to cohesive– all from steam.
I’ve made dumplings several times
I’ve made this soup several times
but for some reason
the two finally came together this time around
UNITED AS ONE to solve my broken meatball problem.
That’s how I like to think of it, anyways.
I chopped a large sweet onion
then threw it into a big pot with some olive oil.
Once the onions were soft
I placed the meatballs on top of the onions
turned the heat down to low
and covered the pot.
After a few minutes
I lifted the lid off
and there were steamed meatballs
keeping it together.
I stirred them to see if they would continue to hold their shape
and sure enough
I increased the heat to let the meatballs brown some.
I would’ve liked for them to brown more
(the lighting in my kitchen was weird here and shows the meatballs more golden than they actually were)
but my onions were in danger of burning.
Garlic and flour went in
one after the other
and after each was toasty
I added chicken stock, potatoes and a bay leaf.
I brought the mixture up to a boil
then left it to simmer for about 20 minutes.
The potatoes were soft
the sausage long since cooked through, but not dry.
Since the sausage I used was sweet
I added crushed red pepper to the pot.
You know what’s too much kale?
THIS IS TOO MUCH KALE.
This was after half of it had already cooked down.
I ended up taking out a good quarter of the kale once everything was cooked.
After I finished kale fishing
I stirred in the cream
and the soup was done.
Like many other soups
it benefits from a night in the refrigerator
warmed up the next day for lunch
preferably with some crusty bread
and fall colors all around.
Kale, Sausage, and Potato Soup
A recipe based on one of my mothers, I’ve played around with it a little because I guess I still have a hard head about following directions from my mom. If you have a recipe for an Italian sausage mixture that you like, use it in place of the purchased sausage. You want a little bit of fennel seed in somewhere in the soup, though. A Parmesan rind in the broth while the potatoes are cooking would probably be very good. Grated Parmesan on top is not a bad idea, either.
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1 large yellow onion (about 12 oz), chopped
- 2 TB olive oil
- 2 lb potatoes, scrubbed and sliced crosswise into medium rounds
- 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 TB flour
- 9 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 3/4 lb kale, stemmed and chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- Remove sausage from casings and form into medium-sized meatballs.
- In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onion.
- Sauté onions over medium high heat until just beginning to soften.
- Reduce the heat to low and gently place the meatballs on top of the onions.
- Cover the pot and let meatballs steam for 3-4 minutes until the sausage mixture lightens in color and begins to firm up.
- Once the meatballs are firm enough to stir, increase the heat to medium-high and brown the meatballs as much as you can without burning the onions.
- After the meatballs have browned, add the garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it smells toasty.
- Pour in the chicken stock and add the bay leaf and stir well well, scraping the bottom of the pot to release the fond. Make sure the stock covers the potatoes. Supplement with water if you need.
- Increase the heat to high and bring soup to a boil.
- Once the soup boils, reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pot.
- Cook until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart completely, about 20 minutes.
- With the heat still on low, add crushed red pepper and mix well.
- Place the kale in the pot, stir, and cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes until wilted but not mushy.
- Take the pot off of the heat, stir in the cream and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, garnished with crushed red pepper if you like.
If you don’t want to use heavy cream, you can use milk (of whatever fat percentage you’d like) and potato puree to thicken the soup. Once your potatoes are cooked, remove a few rounds to a blender with a bit of the broth and milk and blend until smooth. Add everything back into the pot and repeat until you have the desired thickness. Just remember not to puree all of your potatoes.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 6-8