Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Winter soups and stews

   Three quarts of homemade free-range chicken broth going into the freezer.
One of the joys of living this far out is the terrific availability of local food and the possibilities for great eating. We buy our chickens from Fortune Smiles Farmstead a few miles down the road, and for the most part, we roast them, which means there are always great carcasses left for making stock.
I always start with the Trinity of soup bases: carrots, onions, celery (about one medium of each), all minced fine and sautéed in some good extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until the onions turn transparent. Of course what comes after depends on whether the stock is going into the freezer or the soup pot. Today’s batch is destined for the freezer and for partridge stew, which is a local delicacy that leaves those from away scratching their head in amazement or perhaps confusion. More on that later.
If I am just making good old-fashioned stock, I add in about three cloves of minced garlic that we grow here on the farm, a couple of parsnips (also home grown) scrubbed clean and chunked, a few fresh sage leaves finely chopped, and a sprig or two from the rosemary bush that lives in the master soaker bathtub during the winter and kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Don’t worry; we use the shower exclusively!
I let the garlic simmer over medium heat along with the other veggies for two to three minutes. Be careful not to burn it! Next add in a cup of dry white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Let that simmer for a few minutes, and then I throw in one or two chicken carcasses, add about eight cups of water, and bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one to two hours.
Now, remove the pot from the heat and let cool for a few minutes before pouring through a colander into another stock pot. Let the leavings – chicken carcass and veggies – cool, and when cool, pick the meat from the carcasses, discarding bones and skin, and any bits of cartilage that have turned up. You can either set the chicken meat aside to go into chicken soup later, or freeze it as I do. What you have left is lovely chicken stock, by half cheaper and quite possibly better for you, than what you can buy in the grocery.
Today, however, some of the stock is going for partridge stew, so we proceed a bit differently. Kate Krukowski Gooding  (  has about the best recipe I’ve found for this local delicacy, and does a great job of explaining just what partridge is. Our partridge comes from the spruce stands near our farm, and my recipe varies a little.
Bruce spends hours in the fall roaming the woods finding the birds, and if I’m not diligent, they stack up quickly in the freezer, which could violate game laws. The season for partridge ends with December, so I have four plump breasts from this year’s hunting that will be the backbone of our evening meal.
I've added Gooding’s recipe below, and you can also find it (and other good eating) at the link above, but I also add in a few extra ingredients. I again create the Trinity (onion, celery, carrot, minced fine) and add those in to the stockpot first and then brown the partridge breasts before adding in the bigger chunks of turnips and carrots that Gooding does, and a parsnip or two. Then I basically follow the directions she has included in her recipe. Removing the partridge breasts to bone them and reserve the meat is easy as they are small little things and a slotted spoon works well.
I'm making oatmeal rolls to go with this, and it will be a wonderfully hearty meal for a cold January night with the wind whipping around the house.
Good eating to you all! 

Maine Partridge Stew
Serves 6

2 tablespoons oil
2 onions, chopped
1 medium turnip, chunked
1 pound carrots, peeled and chunked
3 whole partridge breasts, bone-in
2 teaspoons thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound red potatoes, washed and quartered
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons flour
1. Heat oil in stockpot and add onions, turnip, and carrots and toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
2. Add Add partridge, thyme, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper and stir. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 1 hour.
3. Remove partridge and remove meat from the bone. Add potatoes, cook 20 more minutes.
4. Combine melted butter and flour to make a roux. Add to stew and stir until combined and a little thickened. Add the partridge meat back into the pot, heat through and serve.

Partridge (ruffed grouse) from the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife page

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, my chicken stock recipe came from a Jewish woman, and yours looks even better!