You have made it abundantly clear that you are sick of hearing about food, and I’ve got nothing ready to go under the Only in Maine theme so I’m going to go completely off topic and write you a funny dog story, because, well, I can. The dog in question is not my current mama’s boy, Rocky, but his predecessor and opposite in character, Raleigh.

Raleigh was part corgi and part keeshond. In short, a corgi is a long low dog with a sense of humor and a huge stubborn streak and a keeshond is a square and extremely hairy Dutch barge dog bred to live in close quarters with its family and guard the family barge, which was essentially a cargo/houseboat. If you need to know more, GOOGLE it and leave me alone. I’m busy here.

So Raleigh had a ton of hair, was long and low, about as tall as a cocker spaniel, and had a very dry sense of humor. And he was WAY smarter than I. Most of the time. If you keep reading Only in Maine, you will hear more about Raleigh from time to time and you will see that I am not some crazy dog owning anthropomorphiciser, that he really was smarter, and that he really did have a sense of humor.

We were living in Los Angeles and one day went to visit friends who lived all the way out by Universal Studios. Which in LA terms is “the country.” Sometime after dinner, Raleigh was outside in the fenced in yard with our host’s dog and we humans were sitting on a balcony off the dining room enjoying the late night air and the view from the hill the house is built on.

At some point we heard loud barking so I went out front to check and I see Raleigh confronting what could only be a skunk. Why do I say “could only be a skunk?” Because I’m a city girl and wouldn’t think I’d know a skunk if it bit me, but this cute li’l animal looked EXACTLY like Pepe le Pew and had all its hackles raised and looked ready to strike.

Definitely a skunk.

I yelled for Raleigh to “come” – which he always considered a request, not a command. This time he figured that since he’s smarter than I he knew something I didn’t – this was a small animal and he was absolutely sure he could take him so coming at my “request” was out. I knew this was going to end badly from the get go and watched frozen in horror as the skunk sprayed my beloved dog.

In the face.

At which point “for some unknown reason” I got the bum’s rush – I found myself and my dog neatly packed in my car and driving down the hill before I could even say “boy, that stinks!” or even “goodnight, and thanks for having us.”

It was very late, about 1:30 in the morning. I made the freeway in no time with all the windows wide open and breathing through my ears (mouth was out, that stink even had a TASTE!). By the time I hit the highway I was already driving with my head out the window it was so unbearable, and I distinctly remember wondering if it would be possible to safely rig the dog to the roof for the rest of the ride. Unfortunately the logistics of how to do that never revealed themselves to me during that ride or he surely would have arrived home with flies in his teeth.

I don’t know how I knew (because as I said I’m a city girl) that tomato juice is what is commonly used to counteract the stench of skunk-spray. I resolved to race to the market as fast as possible, buy out their supply and bathe him in it.

Did I mention that this was Los Angeles? What’s the first thing that comes to mind? You guessed it. Even at 1:30 in the morning, the inevitable happened. There was a major accident on the 405 and almost as soon as I made the interchange from the 101 we came to a grinding halt. And I was stuck in traffic with a dog so horribly odorous that adjacent vehicles were giving me wide berth.

Some 2 hours later, after leaving the supermarket with 15 1-gallon cans of tomato juice, I closed myself in the guest bath with the dog, the juice and a clothespin on my nose. 30 minutes later I came out covered head to toe with tomato juice with tears in my eyes from the fumes, a stinky wet dog and a bathroom that looked like OJ & Nicole had just played their out their last scene in my tub. Floor to ceiling tomato juice. I am here to tell you today that the juice solution doesn’t really work. He now smelled of skunk and juice, a sort of rotten Bloody Mary without the celery stick.

I won’t even go into how I survived the night (thanking the powers that be that he was not a bed sleeper). The next morning I rushed him to a groomer who bathed him in a shampoo designed to eliminate skunk smell but is only 50% effective. Which was still better than nothing. I was grateful even for that.

The following week is a blur of fumes and separatism. Him over there and me as far over here as I could possibly get. All was well until I had to spend the entire day at the same friend’s house once again – only now it was business and I had to go. And since it was all day I had to bring the dog or he would be holding it in for 12 hours. So, I tossed the dog in the car and off we went (notice how he was “Raleigh” until he was skunked and now he’s “the dog?”).

Do I need to finish this or can you fill in the end on your own?

Raleigh is now ashes residing in a hermetically sealed box in a place of honor on the top shelf of a closet way in the back of the basement. No, I didn’t have him put to sleep over the second skunking! What do you take me for? He died a natural death some years later, peacefully, and before losing any quality of life.

I on the other hand lost all quality of life during that second visit to the house by Universal City and the ashes stink so bad of skunk I still can’t bring him in the house!

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Before I moved to here, my Los Angeles friends regaled me with their idea of life in Maine: “you know, you won’t be able to get a decent meal there.”

This is funny on so many levels.

First, it is almost impossible to get a good meal in LA. By that I mean reasonably priced unpretentious food in regular sized portions in a pleasant atmosphere. You either pay through the nose, eat garbage, or the atmosphere is too weird for words (assuming you can get past the velvet rope at the door in some cases) like disco-loud music, or ridiculously bad acoustics or frightening decor and funny seating – it’s always something.

And “service” isn’t even a word in the dictionary anymore.

There is just no such thing as going to a decent place with interesting well prepared food that that doesn’t rape your wallet or strain your taste buds (shrimp salad with strawberries? Come on! Especially when the shrimp is canned) or your back (with the funny seating).

Second, I have to say that since I moved to Maine I haven’t had a bad meal (except for a dinner I burned and that one mistaken visit to the chain “Italian” family style joint). If you stick to locally owned businesses, you’ll do great.

Mainers believe in buying local, and restaurant food reflects that. Fresh local food, well prepared, unpretentious menus, decently priced. No strange seating – like tall tables you stand at or sofas you eat on while bent over a coffee table or floor seating or bed seating whatever other crazy ideas they come up with in a place like Los Angeles to get people in the door. I guess good food is passe` as a marketing concept on the west coast.

OK, so we’ve had a good laugh at Los Angelenos’ idea of a “decent meal.” 

This is not a food blog per se, and I hesitate to write about food again so soon but I have to mention a place I ate at yesterday, for the third time this month. Normally, I rarely eat out. Mainly because my favorite food is my own. I’m on a budget. And I like to keep my health up and my weight down without dieting which means making my own foods – low in fat, almost no sat fat, and lower in salt without sacrificing any flavor or texture. And without resorting to “fake foods” like margarine. Or anything with creative spelling on the label, like “Bac-o-bits.” Or “cheese product” in a green can (you know who you are, and don’t write or sue. When you package synthetics as food, you can’t complain if people don’t like you and say so. Repeatedly).

Back to the topic at hand: Paciarino. Enough has been written about this place that I don’t need to repeat. Suffice to say that the owners, Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero are from Milano (Italy) where they owned 2 restaurants. They fell in love with Portland while visiting and moved there a few months ago, opening a little place downtown called Paciarino. Fabiana explains to me that Paciarino is Milanese dialect for – near as I can translate to English – a homemade “nosh” – not really a full on meal, not kids fare, and not something out of a box. Think “pacifier” in the Jewish sense – food that’ll make you very happy ’til your next meal.

This is Fabiana:

Fabiana de Savino - her food makes me want to cry

Fabiana de Savino - food so good it makes me cry!

Fabiana makes her own fresh pasta and sauces at Paciarino which is more of a store with a few tables than a restaurant. Fresh pastas and sauces are for sale alongside other Italian delicacies. They list 4 or 5 homemade pasta dishes on a chalkboard which can be had as take out, or you order and pay at the counter, find a place to sit, family style, and they bring you your food. Hot lunch with table service for well under $15. Not only hot but heavenly. I miss real Italian food and Fabiana hasn’t had a chance to be corrupted by what American customers think they want in an Italian dish (let’s hope she never is) – so her recipes are pure unadulterated Italian. The lasagne I had there made me want to cry it was so good. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere in the USA. It’s hard to find it that good even in Italy.

And this is her food:

Oops, (*urp*) delizioso!

Delizioso!

 

Or it would have been had it not been so good it disappeared before I could get out the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Paciarino is located at 468 Fore Street in Portland right by the Portland Harbor Hotel. Tel: 207-774-3500, e-mail: info@paciarino.com. Closed Monday. Take out or eat in, not yet open for dinner.

Today I got to looking through a bunch of old correspondence from my school days. Yes, those oh so many many years ago. Not just back when people the world over used to correspond via handwritten letters, I mean back when we used to write notes to each other – even when we were going to see each other within the hour or we were actually sitting across from each other while writing.

I’m sure that today those notes have been completely supplanted by text messages. And I’m equally sure that today the word “notes” probably only refers to something you attach to your Facebook page, not to those short dispatches written on a piece of scrap or notebook paper carefully folded to conceal the writings inside from the prying eyes of potential unintended recipients, or sometimes even on note cards in their own little envelopes.

First of all you have to marvel at the sheer prolific nature of all these writings. There is a ton of it. An entire banker’s box. All written in longhand. No keyboards of any kind were used here. And full English words are used (no text abbreviations). OK, so it wasn’t all dictionary perfect, after all, we were kids. But we were trying to be so grown-up and we even over-formalized some of these writings with salutations and flourishes. As if they were precious scripts to be kept through history. And, indeed they were, because all these years later I still have them. 

These were extremely important communiques, messages like:

“I love Joan and tell her please” 

I have no recollection of any person named Joan!

How about cryptic ones like this:

“Please read the other note”

What other note? What did the other note say? We’ll never know – the facts being relegated to history and this cryptic missive the only residue of whatever critical information was contained in the so-called “other note.”

And then there are those silly notes that only adolescents can possibly take seriously – and we did:

“Guess who likes me now?”

The idea then being to circle one out of the four names written underneath, one of which was Yogi Bear. Who probably also had kooties.

Or the notes upon which all your future happiness rested:

“Job doesn’t know if he likes you or not. But most likely he hates you. Well isn’t class boring.”

Nice segue, huh? Very smooth. Job, if you are reading this, I didn’t mean to drag you into my blog madness, but, hey, there you were. You didn’t write this one, so no need to feel outed in any way.

Folks, Job was my very first boyfriend, and also my very first kiss and now possibly my oldest friend. It was a relationship fraught with verbal sparring and what we thought was witty repartee, as in this note from him (sorry Job but your father should have taught you never to commit anything to paper…..):

I  will not talk to you again. 

When you talk to me then I might talk back.

Love,

Job

That he signed with love is the true measure of the boy. So no matter how angry he was at me, apparently he still “loved” me.

People, we were 12 and 13. This was serious stuff!

So do any of you still have a cache of precious notes from those early years? Do they make you laugh, do they make you cry, do they just make you cringe or do they fill you with the warm and fuzzies?

More importantly, do any of you know who Joan is or what was in that other note?

Michelle over at Bleeding Espresso has a regular weekly feature called “Love Thursdays” on her blog that she writes from Badolato, Calabria (in Italy for those of you that are geographically challenged).

She’ll usually post a photo of something heart shaped that isn’t usually heart shaped or thought to be heart shaped. Like a christmas ornament or a grape tomato or a pebble or some other love “related” photo or story that usually involves “P,” her other half.

It is really very sweet and not icky at all. Plus she gets a post out of it every Thursday. As far as post topics go, Michelle is the queen of finding stuff to write about.

One night, inspired by one of Michelle’s “What’s Cooking Wednesday” features (I told you she was the queen of blog topics, right?), I set to making an artichoke pasta dish that I now rightly call “Carbonara Michelle” since one of her recipes inspired it (I’ll post that recipe someday too, just not today).

As a second course, I butterflied a chicken breast and lo and behold, this is what happened:

I heart chicken.....

I heart chicken.....

I immediately thought of Michelle and her “Love Thursdays” and took photos and emailed them to her on a lark. I didn’t think she’d actually use them! But she did because she’s extremely cool like that and has mentioned me on her blog more than once. Also because she knows a free post topic when it falls on her lap. So today, she posted my chicken photos, giving me yet another plug on her very widely read blog. Michelle is a true pal, and I owe her.

To boot, I now have a topic for today thanks to her, because it only seems fitting that I now post the recipe for said chicken.

Which I hereby dub “Chicken Bleeding Espresso.” But I promise, folks, that there is absolutely NO espresso in this chicken.

I didn’t think I was going to post this recipe and don’t have a “Cast of Characters” shot so you’ll just have to take my word for it:

  • One boneless skinless chicken breast (multiply by number of servings)
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • A good sized drizzle of olive oil
  • A fat dollop of brown mustard (teaspoon of Guildens is fine)
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice
  • A few turns fresh coarsely ground black pepper

Method:

Butterfly the chicken breast (by cutting in half horizontally) and set aside.

Crush the garlic in a press and into a small bowl, and mix with the oil, the mustard and the thyme leaves (take the leaves off the stem by running your fingers down the stem in reverse, and chop them roughly to release the oils), the lemon juice and the pepper. Brush the chicken breast all over with this mixture and let sit for 20 minutes – not in the fridge. The chicken needs to be close to room temperature when you cook it.

I heart Bleeding Espresso!

I heart Bleeding Espresso!

Cook the chicken using your favorite dry method – on a barbeque, in a hot iron skillet, under a broiler or whatever your method of choice. The chicken is done when it is no longer soft to the touch – a few minutes (3 or 4? never timed it) for each side*.

When done, this is what you get:

Now go check out Michelle’s “Love Thursday” for this week and you get to see the now world renowned Chicken Bleeding Espresso as a vehicle of love….(too corny? too bad)!

* Folks, my blogged recipes are not for beginners. If you don’t know how long to cook a butterflied chicken breast, you need to start somewhere else, not here.

My boy Rocky (you met him in my first post) isn’t much for making doggie friends. He was adopted from a shelter (shh, he doesn’t know, he thinks I gave birth…..) when he was already fully grown so I don’t know much about his past. I think he never really learned proper dog manners as most of his problems with other dogs seem to stem from miscommunication.

All my neighbors have dogs and I was hoping when we moved here that he would make some friends among them. It was not to be. He didn’t like any of them, some he downright hates.

It is said that if a dog is removed from its mother too early, it can fail to learn the necessary communication skills to get along in a dog world. I think that is indeed what happend to Rocky. He was removed too early, but to what I didn’t know. Where was he raised? It was a mystery to me.

Imagine my surprise to learn that he was raised in a manger……..

"Are you my mother?"

"Are you my mother?"

So his first friend in Maine isn’t a dog. Things never go like you imagine they will with your children, do they?

Dear State Representative,

I am a voter of age in your district.

I urge you to vote yes on Senator Damon’s Marriage Bill.

It is high time that the concept of equal CIVIL rights be applied to all American citizens.

A marriage license is a civil document applied for through local government, not through the applicant’s church. It is a legal document that confers certain CIVIL rights, not moral or religious ones. It has nothing to do with adopting children, is not about eroding family values, or any moral or religious objection being raised by the religious right. If God made us all in his image I think He would not be happy to see us discriminating against any one group of His children.

Enough.

Give same-sex couples the right to file joint income tax returns, to share health benefits, to be able to sit by a hospital bedside or make funeral arrangements etc.

I cannot see how conferring these rights will affect “family values.” If one has certain values and teaches them within one’s family and lives life as an example of those values to one’s family, then one needn’t be worried about one’s children being negatively influenced by outside sources. 

With or without the sanction of state licensing, same-sex couples will continue to live together. If it is prohibited by a religion to marry a member of the same sex, then that church will most likely not be performing these marriages and same sex couples would probably not be welcome in that congregation. Why then the hysteria?

Why in this time of national crisis and world economic and political turmoil is this the issue worth making a stand against with such venom?

Sincerely,

Only in Maine

PS: I tried to leave a message on the state House of Representatives messaging system tonight but was informed that “the mailbox is full.” I take that to mean that I am probably not the first voter you will have heard from tonight. Any other explanation for that would just be too awful.

During a trip to the Whole Foods in Portland the day before this year’s Super Bowl, I found they were hosting what amounted to a rollicking party, buffet style.  

Taking advantage of the uniquely American tradition of stuffing your face with finger food while watching the grandaddy of all football games, Whole Foods was featuring Super Bowl party fare – New England Style. That is to say, not New England style foods, but foods made or grown in Maine.

We may think of a lot of things when we think “Maine” (like “snow”), but I’m betting “salsa” is not one of them. Well, guess again. I was truly amazed at the selection of locally made salsas – and after having lived in Southern California for 25 years, I like to think that I know a little something about good salsa. Well, this selection blew my socks off.

I thought I might make a regular feature showcasing local foods, and you can consider this the first of many such posts.

Here is the best of what I found at Whole Foods that day:

Roy Guzman of Guzman's Gourmet Salsa

Roy Guzman of Guzman's Gourmet Salsa

This is Roy of Guzman’s Gourmet Salsa. I ate enough for a whole first quarter at this one table alone. They have enough flavors to start their own Salsa Supermarket. Flavors like Tequila Lime and Mango Tango and Black Bean Corn, which you would expect in a salsa and most likely have seen before, but Guzman’s takes that extra step and has flavors like Tropical Passion, Blueberry and Cranapple. All fresh tasting and truly divine. I was loathe to leave, plus Roy was a nice guy and didn’t mind feeding my endless pit of a stomach. Hi Roy! Guzman’s has a whole line of foods made right here in Maine, check out the link above.

 

John Farnsworth of Tiger Teeth Pepper
John Farnsworth of Tiger Teeth Pepper

Meet John from Tiger Teeth Pepper. See that hat he’s wearing? That’s not because he’s a chef. It’s because the top of his head has been blown clean off by the Fiery Habanero Salsa he makes. Boy that stuff had a kick! I adore spicy but am not one of those people that lives by “the hotter the better,” to me flavor is very important. Heat alone just doesn’t cut it. This stuff is sublime. Not only is it spicy but you can really taste the pepper flavor. Delicious. John is homegrown, and his salsa is produced right here in Maine too.

 

Pam Granese of Pam's Black Bean Salsa

Pam Granese of Pam's Black Bean Salsa

This is Pam, of Pam’s Black Bean Salsa. This stuff was awesome and I don’t even like beans!! You can really taste the “fresh.” Let me interject here and inform you that my cellphone was doubling as an inferior camera that day so you (and Pam) will have to forgive the glaring, well, glare, right smack dab in the center of her logo sign… Pam is a nice lady too and I know she will forgive me. Pam’s isn’t Maine produced – she’s from a bit further south in some state we don’t like to mention. But it is still New England, and she helps prove that the western states don’t have a lock on salsa!

 

So with all these salsas, we really need some chips. I found these while meandering through the market that day:

Fox Family Potato Chips

Fox Family Potato Chips

How about that? The only Maine made potato chip. These were yummy. Very crispy and fresh tasting, more substantial than your regular chip (strong enough to dip) but not as thick as some kettle chips. The result is crunchy and light, very tasty but not too salty. De-licious. It’s really hard to believe that they have no cholesterol, no trans-fat and no preservatives as advertised on the label – they are that good.

Not everything I tried that day was delicious. Some stuff was OK, but wasn’t worth writing about and I wouldn’t waste your time or mine. But these foods were truly special – check out the links for complete product lines and information on where to find them near you.

Did your team win on Super Bowl Sunday? Mine sure did – Team FOOD that is.

Yesterday I posted my recipe for homemade beef broth as a base for the soup recipe I’m posting today. By now you’ve made the broth, you’ve let it sit in the fridge overnight, defatted/descummed and reduced it by half and are now ready for the next step…So lets make soup! 

Cast of Characters:

Now appearing in Only in Maine's production of "Soup" the new must-eat hit of the season!

Now appearing in Only in Maine's production of "Soup" the new must-eat hit of the season!

1/4 cup or less of olive oil

4-5 large sweet onions and 2 medium brown onions

5 stalks of celery* and 5 carrots, chopped small

1/4 tsp salt and 2 large bay leaves

1 lb. lean stir fry beef (optional) cut in small cubes

Parmigiano Reggiano rinds**

1/2 cup Marsala wine

 

Not shown in the photo is the pre-cooked barley and 8-10 cups of your homemade broth.

I use quick cooking barley (15 min), make the whole box in advance, and then freeze whatever I’m not using right away in quart size Ziplocs for later use in other dishes – which I’ll also probably be showing you how to make, but some other time. Use however much or little barley you like in the soup (see photo below for reference). 

You want the broth simmering hot when you are ready to use it so have it in a pot on the stove over a low flame while you are preparing the soup.

Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of a large soup pot, peel and cut all the onions into very thin half rings, toss into the pot, drizzle a little more olive oil over the top and sauté over medium low heat. You need very little oil here, the onions will give off a lot of their own liquid. Yes these are A LOT of oinons:

Yes, these are ALOT of oinons.

Yes, these are ALOT of oinons.

But do not freak out. They will melt down to nothing given time and heat and pressure (as in “hurry up and melt darn it!”).

Add a pinch or two of salt to draw out the onion juices. Cook slowly, stirring frequently until wilted all the way down and transparent and a soft beige-brown. Sauteeing the onions is the longest process here, everything else is fairly quick, so make sure your broth is simmering at this point.

Add the meat and sauté until browned. Add chopped carrot and celery and sauté just a bit more until just starting to soften (2 minutes, maybe). Seperately combine the 1/4 cup Marsala wine with about 3/4 cup of your simmering beef broth and use this mixture to deglaze the soup pot, scraping up all of the delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pan. If you don’t mix the wine with the broth first the sweet wine will evaporate and burn immediately before you have a chance to draw your next breath. And if you burn the soup at this point you will be mighty unhappy. Trust me. And don’t ask how I know this, I’ll burst into tears.

Add the rest of the heated broth, and stir. Add bay leaf,Parmigiano rinds, celery leaf*, and cook for another 30 – 45 minutes to allow the flavors to meld skimming off any scum or fat with a spoon. Remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop. DO NOT EAT NOW even though you might think it tastes pretty good. You’ve come this far, trust me and wait.

Voila` Zuppa Patrizia!

Voila` Zuppa Patrizia!

The next day, to serve, bring to room temp over low flame then heat on medium low ’til hot (not boiling), add cooked barley, stir and let heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning.

When all is hot and just at a simmer, serve it up with some toasty crusty peasanty or whole grain bread and a nice salad. The soup should be rich in flavor, fairly low in fat, and will warm your toes! And it will be incredibly delicious – so delicious that you will thank your trusting stars that you waited overnight before eating. Be sure to avoid the Parmigiano rind and bay leaves when serving. When you do serve your Zuppa Patrizia, it will look like this (see picture above).  

Then within minutes, this is what happens:

All gone.....!

You should be able to feed 6 for dinner and still have leftovers. This soup is very dense and filling. To recap: Day one, several hours simmering broth. Day two, a few hours reducing broth. To make soup: at least an hour to reduce onions properly, another 30 – 45 minutes cooking once soup is put together plus prep time. Total: Too long for any other recipe but totally worth it for this one. Anyone you feed with it will be your slave for life.

*Reserve any celery leaf whole with their little stems, and add them to the soup with the Parmigiano rind and the bay leaf. Avoid any larger pieces when serving. Adds wonderful flavor.

**Note on the Parmigiano. Only cheese labeled “Parmigiano Reggiano” is the real thing. Anything else is a poor substitute and not worth buying. Really. If you buy that stuff in a green can, skip this recipe altogether and just buy a can of beef barley soup and be done with it. The difference between Parmigiano and that stuff in the green can is that Parmigiano is cheese, and the stuff in the green can is, well, not.

Special Tip: Don’t buy Parmigiano already grated, it goes stale immediately – when you pay that much for cheese, buying it pre-grated is just a low down dirty shame. A whole chunk will last about forever in your fridge, and the best part is that you end up with a rind which you can then save in a Ziploc baggie in the fridge. Add one or two rinds to the pot when making soups, stews, and sauces. The rind doesn’t melt away (it will need to be fished out before serving or avoided when dishing out), but will soften during cooking, imparting the most incredible flavor to whatever dish you are making. It also adds salt, which is why there is almost no salt added in the making of this soup – so please adjust any recipe to which you add a rind accordingly. Any hard cheese rind can be used in this manner.

TA-DA! Finally, the long awaited beef-barley soup, as promised many days ago. I call this soup Zuppa Patrizia, named after my mother. Not because she makes it (far from it, she’s still trying to figure out which appliance in her kitchen is the stove), but because she loves it so. So much that she always wants a cut of every batch, and since she’s such a loyal fan (and wields guilt quite effectively), I very happily make sure she always gets her share – like a tithe!

So without further ado:

This soup is made in 2 stages. Stage one is homemade broth, stage two, at least one day later, is soup made from that broth. This recipe will also be posted in 2 stages (hence the post title). I am very tricky and am not above using any means to get you to keep clicking back to my blog, but enough about me and more about homemade broth…….

There is really no substitute for making your own broth, it is the only way to control the seasoning in your finished dishes. All commercially available broths that I’ve managed to find, even those labeled “stock,” are basically cans of salt. When you figure the per “portion” sodium, allow for reduction in cooking, and then for actual serving size, you are eating a week’s worth of salt at one sitting. Never mind the artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Making your own broth is really easy and definitely worth the trouble.

Broth needs to be made at least a day prior to use so that it can be properly and easily de-scummed and de-fatted (more on that later down the page) and also so that the flavor has a chance to “bloom.” It can also be made as far in advance as you like and then frozen for future use if need be. Trust me, I’m all about the “easy.”

Tip: You may want to get into the habit of saving and freezing any bones from roasts for future broths – leftover bones with whatever attached meat give additional layers of flavor that raw bones do not.

Cast of Characters:

Cast of Characters from Only in Maine's new production of "BROTH" - the new must-eat hit of the season!

Cast of Characters - Broth

 

Beef soup bones (at least 2) and any other beef bones.

4 or 5 brown onions, halved, whole if small.

4 or 5 celery stalks, cleaned and cut in thirds.

4 or 5 large carrots, cleaned but not peeled, cut in thirds

Optional: a few bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few allspice berries.

 

I happened to have a leek in the fridge that was close to past its prime, so I cleaned and tossed that in as well. I’m a big believer in using what you have.

Throw everything into a stockpot and fill to within a few inches from the top with cold water. You can leave  any clean brown skins on the onions, which will supposedly add a little color to the broth, but this is not necessary. 

Everyone into the pool....

Everyone into the pool....

Put the pot over a medium flame until it boils, then turn it down and let it simmer for a minimum of 3 or more hours and up to “as long as you like.” The idea is to leach every last ounce of flavor from the beef, the bone, and the marrow. When the bones are removed, they should look like they’ve been bleached by a desert sun for weeks and everything else in the pot should be falling apart.

For those of you that have a dog, well, he’ll be very lucky tonight! Note that the only bones recommended as safe for dogs are the big soup bones (thigh), discard any others, as they can splinter and severely injure your dog. Enough about dogs. Back to the broth.

Strain the solids from the liquids. Do not taste the broth, do not try to season the broth, and do not be alarmed that it looks like greasy dirty dishwater – this is what you want. Let it cool, and refrigerate (I place the pot in my unheated garage with outside temps below 32 degrees). You cannot skip this overnight step. Because the next day, when you remove the pot from the fridge (or your frozen garage), all the fat will have risen to the top bringing any scum with it and will have formed a nice soft crust that you can lift off like a loose layer of wax, using a slotted spatula. Toss this layer in your fat jar for later disposal (when it gets to room temperature it will liquefy so probably not best to toss directly into the trash unless you are absolutely sure that your bag won’t develop a leak). If any bits of fat or scum are left, skim off with a spoon. You will end up with a broth that is virtually completely fat free with very little effort. I told you, I’m all about the “easy.”

After de-fatting, back on the stove it goes over medium heat until it comes to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until it reduces by half or you end up with about 8 to 10 cups of liquid. It will darken a bit as it becomes more concentrated.

Voila, beef broth. It will smell better than it tastes. This is fine. Remember that this is basically just watered down extracted beef flavor with virtually no seasonings – so far not even one milligram of salt. This is what you want, don’t worry. You will be adding all the seasonings while making the soup. Which will have to wait until tomorrow, after all your fat rises to the top, solidifies in the cold, and you remove it with a slotted spatula. Isn’t it too bad that this fat removal method doesn’t work on humans?

 

See you tomorrow!

Any questions or need clarification on the finer points? Leave your question in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.

I’m caught a bit short, the next few posts I have planned need a ton more work between uploading, downloading, photo editing, and let’s not forget actual writing – but I’m being relentlessly hounded by a few readers – and you know who you are – to post something RIGHT NOW (jeez, get a life!) so I thought I would oblige because I’ll do almost anything for my dear loyal readers (read: will pander shamelessly at the least provocation).

One of the (many, many) things I love about Maine are the colors. They are never static. Every time you look outside, the view changes. There is always something new and the colors are constantly changing. I swear I feel like I stole something every time I look out the window because how can it be that the whole world isn’t beating a path to this door? Or am I the only one that sees these things?

This post is almost like cheating because I’m letting Maine do the work for me.

'Shrooms!!!

'Shrooms!!!

These were new last fall – they weren’t there the previous fall. I had never seen mushrooms quite this color – not shown to it’s best advantage (the color), but such a bright, almost fluorescent orange that I had to run and get the camera. These appeared only in this spot. Maybe there’s something special about the rotting host tree, I don’t know.

The Bushes in Fall

The Bushes in Fall

This bush is one of two just outside my living room windows at the front of the house. I have no idea what they are called but the leaves turn bright fuchsia every fall, and when the leaves finally fall off small red berries develop that cling to the bush until spring. Perhaps one of you could enlighten me.

Little red berries.....

Little red berries.....

I am fascinated by these bushes. When I bought the house it was summer and the bushes looked a little silly and forlorn sitting under the windows with no other surrounding landscaping except the lawn. They are twiggy at the bottom and not very attractive, or so I thought.

Meanwhile I now have more pictures of these bushes than any other single object, living or dead. I cannot stop snapping away. Because in winter, other things happen and they are beautiful all the time. Except summer, when they are nondescript – and were almost ripped out as the first “improvement” I was going to make to the house’s “curb appeal.” Thank goodness, in this case, for procrastination. Because once I saw what happens in the fall – well, they’re still there, modeling for my camera through the seasons. Except summer.

All covered in snow...

All covered in snow...

Did I mention that these bushes fascinate me? My biggest disappointment this year was that I could not for the life of me take a decent shot of these bushes after the ice storm when every single twig and each berry was completely coated with ice, making it shimmer like diamonds.

I guess if that’s my biggest disappointment I don’t have much to complain about, huh?