Monday, February 2, 2015

Joey's Sausage and Escarole Soup

 So, a couple weeks ago, I was texting with my friend, Sparky. It was the usual "how are you, what are you up to" sort of a conversation and then I said that I was planning on making soup. Whenever it snows or when it gets bitterly cold outside, I always want to put on a big pot of soup. It's how I was raised, it's just what you do! Anyway, I had planned on making another pot of my latest favorite, Sausage and Spinach Soup, but then Sparky mentioned that his favorite is Escarole Soup. I thought oooo now THAT sounds like a good idea.... Maybe I'll do escarole instead of spinach. So I tweaked the recipe a little and came up with something new!
 OMG it turned out so good, I've already purchased the ingredients to make it again! It's SO delicious! I made little tiny meatballs with the sausage, added some aromatics, some broth and a couple heads of escarole, and that was it! Nailed it on the first try! The sausage flavors the whole pot of soup, and I love how the escarole leaves don't just cook down to nothing. They stay just as hearty as the meatballs. It turned out to be just the thing on a cold wintry night!
 So, give this one a try. It's easy to make, feeds a crowd, and will warm you up on the coldest days.
 Thanx again, Sparky, for the idea! I promise I'll make it for you sometime!

2-3 pounds mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion
3 or 4 ribs of celery
3 cloves garlic
2 heads of escarole
2 large (46oz) cans of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, (optional)

 Remove sausage from casings. Form sausage into tiny meatballs. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet, and bake in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. While the sausage is baking, roughly chop the onions and celery. Add it to a big soup pot with a little oil over medium heat. Saute until they begin to soften, and then add the minced garlic. Saute a few minutes longer. While the veggies are cooking, cut off the core of the escarole heads and wash the leaves thoroughly of any sand or grit. (see washing tips following the recipe!) Roughly chop them and then add them to the pot along with the chicken broth and the cooked meatballs. You can drain the meatballs of any extra fat, or you may choose to add a little of it to the soup for a little extra flavor and richness. Add salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if needed. That's all there is to it! Serve with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 To wash the escarole leaves, fill a big bowl or pot with cold water. Place the leaves in the water and swish them around until they are clean. Ok, now here's the important part: Do NOT dump them into a colander the way you would drain a pot of cooked pasta. If you do that, you'll be dumping all the sand and grit right back on top of your clean escarole leaves. Instead, swish them around and let the sand fall to the bottom of the bowl. Then scoop the clean leaves out of the water with your hands or a slotted spoon, leaving all the dirt at the bottom of the bowl. Smart, huh?
 When you make the meatballs, make sure you don't make them too big. You want to make them small enough to be able to eat a whole meatball in one bite, about the size of a large marble. I chose to bake them on a sheet because I didn't want to stand there frying tiny meatballs all day. This seemed like a faster way to accomplish the task. I wouldn't throw the raw sausage balls into the soup. Yes, they would cook in the broth, but that might make the soup too greasy.
 The amounts of the ingredients are just guidelines. If you like a lot of something, add a lot!
 If you want a little heat, try using hot Italian sausage instead of the mild, or use a combination of the two. You could also add a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes for just a little spicy poke.
 For a little variation, and to feed and even bigger crowd, add a can of cannellini beans. Just rinse them, drain them, and add them to the pot with the escarole and sausage. Easy!

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