Asymmetrical Information - Megan McArdle

11.09.12

Your Friday Gadget Chef Recipe: Two Day Soup

A simple beef soup made over two days to reduce the active prep time and let the flavors develop. It's spicy, warming, and easy to make, a family favorite updated for the slow cooker.

Other people may measure the seasons by the writing on the calendar, but for me, the first day of fall is the one when I pull out the slow cooker.  Like some estivating desert creature, it spends the summer huddling immobile under the shelter of our counters.  But then one day there's a nip in the air, and I start thinking of soup.  

You may have seen the headline and thought: two day soup?  Too complicated for me!  But in fact, making it over two days reduces the prep time, so that it's actually a very simple soup to make--less than thirty minutes of active time.  Doing it over two days also gives the meat time to release all of its rich flavor into your broth, so that you get almost all the meaty goodness of homemade beef stock, with about an eighteenth of the work.  And for those of you who absolutely must have their soup in one day, I've included instructions to do it that way--a bit more work, but still worth it.

This is a slightly spicy, tomato rich beef soup.  It's is based on a recipe that my family has been making for years, spiced up a bit with Aleppo pepper and cooked in a slow cooker using methods I learned from Julia Child and the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook.  It was delicious: rich, meaty, but not heavy, and perfect for a cool day.  When I tweeted about it, I had several requests for the recipe.  So here it is; I hope at least a few of you will enjoy it as much as I did.  

This is not one of those "dump everything in the slow cooker in two minutes and come home to something that is ready to serve" dishes, I'm afraid; there's prep at the beginning, and prep at the end.  But the end-prep should not take you more than fifteen minutes total.  And this soup is wonderful made ahead.  

It uses Aleppo pepper, a smoky, moderately spicy pepper from Turkey.  Amazon carries it, but I like to order it by the pound from Penzeys, because it's good in almost everything.  I've used it in Szechuan bok choy recipes, a Greek pasta based on pastitsio, and even tacos, all with fantastic results.  It doesn't scream "I'm here!!!!"; it just punches up the other flavors and adds a subtle heat.  

In many recipes that call for it, you can substitute crushed red pepper flakes or paprika and cayenne, but not this one; it's the smoky, mellow flavor that really makes this recipe work.

As always, I've got instructions for Full Gadget Mode, and also for those of you who may not share my insane obsession with acquiring kitchen equipment, the normal way of doing things.  I've also specified Pomi boxed tomatoes, which are steam-packed, rather than canned, because canned tomatoes always have a metallic taste.  

The vegetables are a guideline: my family never makes the same soup twice, as it's heavily dependent on what veggies they have on hand.  If there are other vegetables you like in soup, they will probably taste good in this one.  Cauliflower is delicious, potatoes can be good, and I've been thinking about experimenting with bok choy stems.  Anything solid and hearty goes well with the beef and tomato.

You will need:  

Gadgets  

1 slow cooker  

1 Thermomix food processor  

1 fat separator (optional)

Pans  

1 stockpot  

1 skillet if you do not have a Thermomix  

1 broiler pan for oven or toaster oven

Ingredients  

2 slices thick-cut bacon, or 4 slices regular

1 stalk of celery  

1 carrot, or a handful of baby carrots

1 medium/large onion  

2 cloves of garlic  

2 tablespoons butter 

3 to 4 pound  chuck roast, flat packed (not cut into stew chunks, or tied into a roll)

1 to 1.5 boxes of Pomi chopped tomatoes, depending on how much tomato you like in your soup.  I use 1.5, myself, but I want to make allowance for taste.

1/3 cup soy sauce 

Two boxes low-sodium chicken broth  

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper  

1.5 teaspoons dried marjoram  

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried parsely  

Salt and pepper to taste  

1/4 pound green beans, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks  

1 cup baby carrots

4 ounces orzo


Step One:  Brown your meat.  

I use the McArdle Method, which is a combination of tricks I learned from Julia Child and the Slow Cooker Revolution.  From the latter, I learned that you don't need to brown all the meat, just some of it, in order to get that rich flavor.  From the former, I learned that you can broil pot roast instead of browning it in a skillet.

So now when I make beef soup or stew, I take an uncut flat-packed chuck roast and stick it in the toaster oven on broil while I put together the rest of the ingredients, then cut the meat into chunks after it is browned.  This takes about 10-15 minutes a side in the toaster oven.  If you want it to be faster--I do not move all that quickly in the mornings--it would be about 5-8 in a regular oven.  Broil one side until it is brown, and then flip.  When the other side is brown, remove from oven and slice into 1.5 inch chunks.  Place chunks in slow cooker.  

This step can be done the night before, if you want to get a jump start on your morning.  Unfortunately, you still need to cook your aromatics the morning of.  If you try to cook them ahead and store overnight, they lose flavor and acquire a very peculiar texture.  But meat is very forgiving; just broil, cut into chunks, put in the slow cooker insert, and pop in the fridge.

Step Two: Cook your aromatics.  

Skillet method:

  • Dice the bacon.  
  • Saute in thes skillet until fat is fully rendered (liquid), 5-10 minutes.  
  • Cut the tops off the carrots and celery and peel your onion, then dice them.  
  • Cook in the bacon fat for five minutes.  Crush or mince the garlic and add at minute five.  Cook for five more minutes.  

Thermomix method:  

  • Chop bacon on Speed 7/5 seconds.  
  • Cook at 100C/Speed 1/5 minutes.  
  • Add garlic and mince on Speed 8/5 seconds.  
  • Add in onion, carrot, and celery.  Dice at Speed 5/5 seconds.  
  • Cook at 100C/Speed 1/10 minutes.  

Step Three:  Place aromatics in slow cooker

This instruction really speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Step Four: Add liquid and spices  

Stir tomatoes, chicken broth, soy sauce, aleppo pepper, marjoram, bay leaves, and parsley into the pot with the beef.   Add 1/2 teaspoon salt--we'll correct the salt later.

Step Five: Slow cook

Cook on low 9-11 hours.  If you are in a rush, cook on high, 5-7 hours.  If you are really in a rush, and cannot wait one extra minute for this mouth-watering soup, you can do it in a stock-pot on the stove over a mediumish flame in perhaps 3 hours. (Do not boil madly, just a gentle simmer.)  But the slower you cook, the more delicious and tender the meat will be, and the better-melded the flavors.  

In fact, what I really like to do is make it to this stage a day ahead, and then pop it in the refrigerator to let the flavors develop overnight.  The next evening, you have an unbelievably rich-tasting soup.  Also makes de-fatting easier.

Step 6:  De-fat the broth

This is the most annoying and time-consuming step.  You can avoid it by using a binder such as Minute tapioca or cornstarch to keep the fat from separating, but of course, that makes the soup more caloric by adding starch and retaining fat.  It also gives it an oleaginous mouthfeel that I don't like in soup.  

Refrigerator method:

If you refrigerated overnight, de-fatting your broth is easy.  Just use a spoon to remove most of the hardened fat before you re-heat it.  

If you didn't refrigerate overnight, it's not so hard, but a little messier.  

Fat Separator method:  

Separate broth from solids by pouring through a strainer.  Put solids in a stockpot.  Pour broth into a fat separator, aka a gravy separator.  Wait five minutes until fat rises to the top.  Because the spout is located higher on the cup, and fat rises, when you start pouring out the liquid, the broth will come out first. Pour into the stockpot, being careful to stop before the broth is all in and the fat starts to come out.  

Traditional method:

Separate broth from solids by pouring through a strainer.  Put solids in a stockpot.  Pour broth into any relatively tall and thin container: an unlidded drink pitcher or a huge measuring cup will probably work fine.  Wait five minutes until fat rises to the top.  Skim off most of the fat with a spoon: just dip in, get a spoonful of fat, and remove.  Repeat until most of the the fat is gone.  

Non-traditional method:

Decide that you're okay with fattier soup.  Many people actually don't care. If you're among them, don't bother.


A word on fat disposal: just in case you don't de-fat a lot, this is a Public Service Announcement reminding you that if you do decide to de-fat, you should put the removed fat in an empty can or other disposable container, then throw the container away.  Do not give into the temptation to pour it down the drain or garbage disposal.  That's 100% animal fat, which hardens at room temperature, and hardens very fast when it comes into contact with cold water.  People who make a habit of pouring animal fats down the drain generally come to (very expensively) regret this decision.

Step 7: Finish

Pour slow-cooker contents into a stock pot on the stove.  Yes, we are not taking out the mirepoix.  No one will notice, I promise.  Salt and pepper to taste.  

Bring the contents to a rolling boil and add your carrots and green beans.  Cook until they are just barely tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Add Orzo and boil for another 6-8 minutes, until almost done.  

But that's less time than it says on the box! I hear you cry.  That is correct.  Remember, you're not taking the Orzo out of the hot liquid, so it's going to continue cooking while you serve it.  

Step 8: Serve  

If I need to tell you how to do this, you probably need a different cookbook. I will note that if you have leftover (I always make enough for at least two days), the Orzo will tend to absorb the liquid, giving it a more stew-like consistency.  Add in a bit of boxed chicken broth, tomato juice, or water when you reheat if you want to make it soupier.