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  • Tommy Centola

Perfect weather to make soup

Today is a perfect day for soup. As I write this, looking out my office window, the street is covered with ice. (I write these articles a few weeks in advance). As cold as it has been, my wife and I have been eating soup to help keep warm.

Most grocery stores offer upscale refrigerated soups. While those soups are a step up from canned soups, which are still very tasty, nothing is as good as a homemade soup. Today, I am sharing with you two soups that star ingredients that were often found in my mom’s kitchen. The first is Stuffed Artichoke Soup and the second is Crawfish and Mirliton soup. As always, all of these ingredients can be found locally. Let’s head to the kitchen.

To prepare stuffed artichokes are a labor of love. It is one of the most time consuming appetizers to make. Bringing all those flavors together in a soup reduces the time tremendously. You still get the feeling of stuffed artichoke while warming up your body.

Stuffed Artichoke Soup

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

4 cans artichoke hearts, quartered

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 quarts chicken stock

1 to 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs

1 pound parmesan cheese, grated

1 1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot and add garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and artichoke hearts and simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Blend in flour, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. While stirring, add stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Whisk in bread crumbs gradually, stirring constantly until thickened. You may not need the full amount of bread crumbs. Lower the heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until blended. Taste and add Creole Seasoning. Serve hot.

Many don’t know what a mirliton is. Locally, you can find it in the produce section as a Chayote pear. It actually belongs to the fruit family not a vegetable. Whether it’s stuffed or made into a soup, mirlitons are a welcome addition to any meal.

Crawfish & Mirliton Soup

6 mirlitons

Salted water

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup onions, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup red bell peppers, diced

1/3 cup garlic, minced

1/2 cup tasso, julienned

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 pound crawfish tails

2 1/2 quarts seafood stock

1 pint heavy cream

1 cup green onions, sliced

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Creole seasoning

Split mirliton lengthwise through the center and poach in lightly salted water for approximately 45 minutes or until tender. The mirliton will be perfectly cooked when a fork can be inserted easily into the pulp. Remove and cool. Once cooled, scoop the meat from the mirliton using a teaspoon, discarding the seed and shell. Drain and set aside. In a 2 gallon stockpot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and tasso. Sauté 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Add nutmeg, tarragon and flour and using a wire whisk, stir until a white roux is achieved. Do not brown. Add crawfish. Add stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until all is incorporated. Add mirliton, blending well into the mixture. Bring to a low boil, reduce to simmer and cook 30 minutes. Add heavy cream, green onions and parsley. Allow to cook an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste with Creole seasoning. Serve hot.

Often, I will eat soup on a hot day. I do, however, feel that soup taste better when there’s a chill in the air. That first spoonful warms the body as it comes off the spoon into your mouth. So on a day that you are iced in, like today, head to the kitchen and make a pot of soup. Your family will thank you.

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