I received a text from my host in Minneapolis yesterday afternoon informing that she would be later than planned by an hour or so.
“Shall I make supper?”
My offer came without much (any) thought. Tracy had been out of town for a week prior to my arrival, so I was pretty certain there would be little in the way of fresh foods other than the handful of things we had picked up together the day before at the Whole Foods.
I rummaged through cabinets, making a mental inventory of my findings. A box of organic chicken broth sat next to a bag of dried Northern Beans. With highs in the forties this week, hot soup sounded perfect! I would not have time to soak the beans overnight as I prefer, so I did a quick two-minute boil, then set them off the heat to soak for an hour.
In the spice cabinet I found rubbed sage and rosemary, in a bowl on the counter a yellow onion and a head of garlic, and from the fridge a couple carrots, a bunch of parsley, some lime juice, and the magic for my creation: Link 41 bacon I brought with me from home!
I went back to my computer for about an hour then jumped into action. I cooked the bacon to a slight crisp and removed it from the skillet, poured off half of the grease into the old fashioned aluminum grease can with which I travel, leaving enough for cooking the onions and carrots, then drizzled a tablespoon or so over Riker’s food. (Nothing makes a quicker friend out of a standard poodle than bacon grease!)
Since I was now getting into the real work, I retrieved a Bancreagie Peated Scotch Ale from the fridge and got down to business. (If you don’t know this Minnesota beer, look for it! Medium malty flavor, peaty smoke overtones, great head, and just a hint of wheat in a beer that one would expect to be much heavier than it is. Delightful!)
I put the beans back on the burner, added the chicken broth and turned up the heat. Meanwhile, I chopped the bacon into ¼” latitudinal strips. When the beans and broth neared a boil, I turned it back down to simmer and added the bacon. I then diced up the onion and added it to the remaining bacon grease. While the onions softened, I chopped up the carrots, adding them when the onions were nearly translucent.
Before the carrots became too soft, I dumped the contents of my skillet into the soup, shook in a little rosemary and sage, and retired to the couch for some writing and the rest of my beer. A half hour later, the kitchen smelled wonderful, but I wasn’t finished. Knowing I wouldn’t be turning the heat back up, I diced up a huge garlic clove, the equivalent of four or five average cloves (making me wonder what the hell they feed their garlic in Minnesota) and added it.
I went ahead and chopped up a fat handful of cilantro and left it on the counter with the limejuice for later, then gave the broth a taste. The bacon gave the soup a nice subtle saltiness, leaving no need for more, but I did add a modest dash of black pepper before getting back to my writing.
When the beans were soft enough to enjoy, I threw in the cilantro and limejuice—I’m guessing the equivalent of one juicy lime—and let it simmer for another 20 minutes or so. Served with a simple salad and a second beer, this soup was perfect for an early winterish day.
After supper and conversation, we ended the evening with a Caol Ila 12 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch that brought the smokiness of the bacon right back and complimented the Bancreagie perfectly.
From opening the bag of beans to serving, total cooking time was about 2 ½ hours, but actual work time probably wasn’t more than 30 minutes—an easy feat that impressed the hell out of my host. As the temps drop, give it a try. Your family and guests will love it and I’m pretty sure it will make great leftovers too!
Writing about that meal reminded me of a recipe I concocted about this time last year that I thought folks might enjoy.
Here is my Sweet Potato, Cheese, Whiskey Soup!
Dice a medium-large onion.
Saute the onion in a large soup pot with lots of butter, copious amounts of pressed garlic, and one chopped fennel until onions are translucent.
Chop up two humongous sweet potatoes and add them to the mix.
Fill nearly to the top of the potatoes with stock or water, increase heat to boil, then turn down a tad to simmer until potatoes are soft.
Reduce heat even farther.
Stir in chopped parsley and as much Sequatchie Cove Cumberland Cheese as you can afford.
Splash in enough Pritchard’s Tennessee Whiskey to sweeten it up.
Salt and pepper to taste. (Don’t over do it; it doesn’t need much.)
Simmer on very low heat for a half hour or so.
Lock the door, lower the shades, turn off the phone, pour yourself a dark beer into one of those tall, sexy glasses, and enjoy.