Pop Poppa Original Recipes: Kielbasa & Cauliflower Soup

kielbasa soupAs I mentioned a few weeks back, I found myself in a dilly of a pickle one night when my slow cooker failed to cook slowly and I needed something to feed my family. I looked in my fridge, saw a packaged kielbasa sausage, some chicken stock, half of a head of cauliflower and figured I could make something work.

My initial idea to make a soup with the kielbasa was partly influenced by a slow cooker recipe I’ve made from Good Housekeeping called Kielbasa Stew. I had an idea that these basic flavors would work together. The red wine vinegar and ground mustard just came to me and wound up working really well to add some tang to the recipe.

Kielbasa & Cauliflower Soup Ingredients:

1 lbs. kielbasa sausage, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves diced or grated on a rasp (my new preferred method)
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 celery stalks, cleaned & diced
Half a head of cauliflower, diced
2 cups of orzo
Enough chicken stock to cover (about 4 cups)
2 Tsp. ground mustard
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
Sauerkraut to serve

As always, I did all of my prep first which meant chopping up the vegetables and then the meat. I got the veggies cooking in a few tablespoons of olive oil as well as the red wine vinegar until tender in a Dutch oven which took about five minutes.

Then I added the sausage and cooked that for another five minutes, until it browned. After that, I covered with chicken stock, added the ground mustard and brought to a boil.

Once the liquid started boiling, I added in the orzo, gave the mixture a few stirs and then popped the lid on for 10-15 minutes until the orzo was cooked through. Once it is cooked, you’re good to go. I happened to have some canned Sauerkraut in the pantry, so that seemed like a natural accompaniment.

Cooking Good Housekeepings Kielbasa Stew

I know what you’re thinking: what kind of fool makes a stew in the middle of one of the hottest New York summers he’s ever experienced? This one, apparently. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past few weeks, we’re working off of a budget lately, so I’ve been a lot more conscious about using up everything I have on hand as far as ingredients go. Last week I happened upon Good Housekeeping’s recipe for Kielbasa Stew in my Big Blue Binder, realized I had almost everything already on hand — I only had to buy the sauerkraut and kielbasa, which was on sale — so I decided to give it a shot.

As far as preparation goes, this is a pretty simple recipe, but you’ve obviously got to have the time to get it together in the middle of the day (or morning depending on if you’re cooking on high or low). I cooked the celery, onion and caraway seeds in a pan and then threw it in the bowl with the cubed potatoes and all the other ingredients. The only change I made was using a pour of apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider because, you know, it’s the middle of summer. With all that together, I put the slow cooker on high and went back about my day.

I’ve got to say, even though I made this on a hot day and it’s a stew, this wound up being a really wonderful meal. The potatoes and chicken stock turned into this creaminess that worked so well with the kielbasa and the added sauerkraut. It all came together for a very German dish that made me think of a soup version of the kind of dog sausage you’d get while walking around NYC. My wife had the genius idea of putting some deli mustard on top, taking up another level of greatness. I will one hundred percent serve this again, though I might wait around until the temperature takes a bit of a dive. I will say, though, that a slow cooker is a great way to keep your kitchen from heating up too much.

I will also add that this was a great dish to make with my three year old helping out. She loves to stir things, so I had her do that and add in the new ingredients as I was done cutting them up. It gets an extra thumbs up for that!

New Hampshire Bonus Food Pics: Steak Bombs, Cinnamon Buns & Breakfast

Two weekends back, we headed to New Hampshire to attend the surprise birthday of my wife’s long time friend. While there we hit up a few restaurants and ate some food I just had to brag about.

Just take a second to behold the glory that is a New England steak bomb sandwich. I don’t even know what’s in it, but I love it and want to eat one every day of my life, a life that would probably be all the shorter for such an experience. Anyway, this particular sandwich of the gods came from a place near my inlaws’ house called Giovanni’s and I highly recommend getting this food in your face if you can. Even after sitting in a bag on the way home, this was still a wonderful, cheesy thing of goodness.

Before heading home on Sunday, we went to breakfast at my inlaws’ favorite place, Janie’s. We’ve been there lots of times and I like that they always have a list of specials in addition to their regular menu. This time I got a bratwurst and sauerkraut filled omelet that was pretty tasty, but probably could have used more kraut. The real spotlight of the meal for me was that giant cinnamon roll I only ate half of so I could eat the rest for breakfast the next day. Man, I really need to get my oven fixed so I can figure out how to make these things, they’re my one real dessert weakness.

Cooking Brats

When I think of summer, I think of eating cheeseburgers and bratwurst cooked on the grill by my dad. That’s a staple meal we would have growing up either at home or up at the cottage we spent many a weekend at. So, with the weather getting nice every now and then, I decided to do a quick meal of brats last week.

I decided to prepare them in a way that my wife taught me. You basically pour a few beers into a pot, add some butter and a chopped onion. Let them boil until their white and then grill them. That’s what I attempted to do, but apparently I do not have the same success with brats that I did with steak and they wound up a little pink on the inside. I think I just needed to go 15 minutes instead of 12 in the boiling beer and I would have been fine. I just ate mine, but my wife nuked hers and was good.

Aside from that, I warmed up the Tuscan Rice I made to go along with the aforementioned steak which made for a very horesradish-y side. I also set out a series of mustards (we have a bunch in our fridge) and ketchup. I forgot that you can add the onions from the beer and eat those as well until my wife reminded me.

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Food Pics

In the past, I’ve had less than great luck with corn beef and food on St. Patrick’s Day. For a while there, it seems like gnarly corn beef was attracted to me like a magnet and bad metal. It’s okay, though, I’ve gotten past it and actually had some amazing CB in my life, especially this week. I didn’t bother making anything St. Patrick’s themed because it landed on the weekend and I tend to take those off for cooking. We wound up heading to a few of our favorite restaurants this weekend, all of which had wonderful Irish-themed food. You know you want to see the pictures, so scroll on down! On Friday, we headed over to King’s Pommes Frites in Cornwall and got their corn beef specials. These weren’t Reubens because they didn’t have sauerkraut and the bread was a sesame roll, but they were still quite tasty. Obviously, Reubens aren’t Irish, but they do utilize corn beef, so there’s the connection. But who cares! I went to Ireland about 12 years back and the food wasn’t all that great. In fact, this was one of two German dishes I had last weekend. Oh, my wife and I got the same thing, but we also tried a pair of new sauces: Horseradish and Basil, both were fantastic and highly recommended.

On actual St. Patrick’s Day, we headed to Fiddlestix, also in Cornwall, for breakfast or lunch, whichever you please. I went with lunch because they had something called The St. Patrick’s Day Sneak Peek or soemthing along those lines. This was all Irish (as far as I know). The corn beef was tender and juicy, some of the best I’ve ever had and those mashed potatoes actually had horseradish in them and were super tasty (I’m gonna have to remember than one in the future). The cabbage was a little bland, but with all those other flavors going on, that wasn’t such a terrible thing. Lastly, but in no way least, you can see a thick piece of Irish Soda Bread. I haven’t had a lot of this in my life, but this piece was MAGIC. It actually tasted a bit like French toast and I’m a little surprised that wasn’t on the menu. Maybe next year! Billy Joe’s Ribworks also had a series of Irish themed meals on Sunday, which was nice. We decided to go on a whim and weren’t even expecting that, so it was a nice surprise. I thought about getting some more corn beef, but instead I went with kielbasa which came with some amazing sauerkraut and Irish soda bread as well as two sides–I went with macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes because I love both of those things in my mouth. We also got out first and only…green beer! It’s Bud Light which probably explains why they were able to get such an electric green. Everything was super tasty. Again, I know I was eating German food while celebrating and Irish-themed holiday, but I do not care. Any time I can get quality kielbasa next to mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, I am golden.

Bonus Food Pics: Oktoberfest Eats

A few weekends back, the missus, the baby and I met up with a group of friends at the Bear Mountain Oktoberfest. My wife and I had gone about five years before with my parents on a visit and it was a pretty small-potatoes operations. We hadn’t been back since, so we were pretty surprised to discover it was a much better attended event nowadays. I’m sure that’s good for the parks system or whoever puts this thing on, but it’s not so good for attendees. See, the problem I had was that we wound up spending most of our time in line for beer and then food. The lines all snake through this large stone pavilion which is really nice, but not conducive to smooth line progression. But, hey, this is a food blog, who cares about lines, right? Well, the beer was absolutely worth waiting for. I went with a Wiesse beer, because that’s one of my all time favorites. I also decided to purchase the big ass mug, which I will admit taxed my arm and wrist as I carried it around, but on the plus side, it was a lot of beer without having to wait in a lot of lines and you can use them year after year. The food was another story. It’s not like they have legit German food vendors come in (as far as I can tell). I believe they just order in a bunch of bratwurste, knackwurste, pierogi and other dishes, heat them up and serve. The wurstes were good (can’t remember which I had and which my wife did, but I think I went with the knack), but the pierogis were clearly frozen, thawed out and then fried. I’ve had and actually made better, so I wasn’t super impressed with that.

So, next year, I think we’ll take our steins to get filled, but maybe bring our own food and a grill (or get one of the ones at the park) and make our own food. I bet I could scrounge up some better German sausage and other food around here and take them with us. But, I’m always down for some of that awesome German beer on tap!

Bonus Food Pic: Chicken Schnitzel Applewood Smoked Bacon & Melted Brie

Olive’s Sour Kraut
118 Main Street
Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 358-3122

I remember three things about our meal from a few weekends back at Olive’s Sour Kraut, which is owned by the same woman who owns my favorite bar in Nyack, Olive’s. One, I got the sandwich with the longest name on the menu: Chicken Schnitzel Applewood Smoked Bacon & Melted Brie. Two, the beer was fantastic. And three, the sandwich made me wish I lived closer to Nyack so I could eat at this excellent, new German restaurant on a regular basis. The friends we ate with are no stranger to German food and really liked what they got, so there you go. If you’re in the area, check out Sour Kraut.

Cooking Pasta Godjabuda & Braised Red Cabbage

Tuesday night’s dinner was an interesting one. I had spent a part of the day flipping through cookbooks to find some good, fun and new recipes for the week. I turned to a few books I haven’t gone through in a while like Best Of The Best From New York Cookbook and Cooking With Mickey And The Disney Chefs among others. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I stumbled upon the recipe for Pasta Godjabuda in the New York book (page 109) and happened to have everything I’d need already in my kitchen. As I was planning on cooking that, I realized I still had half a head of red cabbage left over that still looked good and remembered I had seen a recipe for Braised Red Cabbage in the Disney book (page 9). Again, I happened to have all the ingredients, so I was good to go. My only concern was whether braised cabbage would go well with pasta as it’s kind of a mix of German and Italian.

The first thing I did (but didn’t bother taking a picture of because it’s boring) was boil some salted water pasta and get that going. After that, I got to work on the cabbage because it was supposed to cook for 35-40 minutes. The recipe basically calls for mixing some white vinegar, sugar, salt, caraway seeds and ground cloves in a pot with chopped up cabbage and cooking with the lid on. I didn’t have a full head of cabbage like the recipe calls for so I didn’t use quite as much of any of the ingredients as it called for. No worries, though, it turned out great.

While the cabbage boiled away, I got to work on the sauteed onions and garlic, which involved chopping the onions (I only had a dinky one instead of the two they recipe called for) and garlic in olive oil and then tossing in some oregano, thyme, basil and cayenne pepper (I skipped the crushed red because I didn’t want it to get too hot). You put a lid on that while the pasta cooks in the pasta water (about 10 minutes or so), then uncover and toss with the pasta after draining and reserving some pasta water. The recipe suggests using part of the onion sauce to mix and then adding it on top when you serve, but I just mixed it all together. Add some Parm and you’re good to go.

I was pleasantly surprised that these seemingly disparate tastes wound up bouncing off of each other really well. The cabbage tasted like the sauerkraut from every good Reuben I’ve ever had. As I bit into it I could practically taste the rye bread and corn beef, it was that dead-on. I was shocked that I made something so tasty so easily. The pasta itself wasn’t packed with flavor, but I think that’s a result of not having the correct amount of onions and using a wheat pasta which always has a little bit of a mealy taste to me. I tried to balance that out by adding a few more fresh herbs into the mix and I think that helped. At the end of the day, the cabbage added a nice tastebud combo punch. My wife liked it so much she wanted me to store the leftovers together in the fridge, but I decided against it because I didn’t want the cabbage to overpower things while sitting in the refrigerator.

I love when a meal comes together, especially one that uses up a bunch of stuff I’ve had lying around for a while. Now I want a Reuben…