Aport in Portugal

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By default, a good Portuguese fish monger will have a decent extra virgin olive oil from that land. Indeed, extra virgin olive oil is fundamental to southern Portuguese fish cooking. But first, you have to find a decent Portuguese fish monger.
In East Cambridge, Massachussets, there is Courthouse Seafood. If you love fish, go there.

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Here are my raw materials for making my own home made “bacalao”, or salt cod. I should really try to source Portuguese sea salt. But I am more than happy to use Irish sea salt. Both countries have the Atlantic ocean as their neighbour. And share the same time zone.

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There are as many different recipes for salt cod as there are families making it at home. I used thyme picked from my garden, as well as a hot chile pepper I had saved and dried from the summer. I used a micro-plane to grate the lemon zest, which shows it’s hue nicely. I like to make my own salt cod over buying the commercial/industrial varieties on sale. It’s a seasonal thing. I’m ready for a New England winter .

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The cod sits in the salt cure for up to 4 days, depending on how thick the cut of fish is. Afterwards which, whatever I am not using immediately, gets frozen right there and then. To be revived and rehydrated another day.

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The fundamentals for a peasant soup……………leeks and carrots from my garden, rosmary and garlic too. Dried chile pepper, smoked paprika, sweet bell pepper and bay leaf with smoked chorizo sausage. Hello, Portugal.

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What Do You Call The Chicken Crossing The Road?

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The answer is poultry in motion. I bought a chicken today, the whole thing, a refugee from an organic farm someplace. Like the fella said, I don’t eat a lot of chicken but when I do…then I suffer “Anaconda Syndrome”. That’s enough chicken for six months.
The first thing I did was make chicken stock the classic route, onion, carrot, celery, bay, thyme, parsley and black peppercorns. I added a couple of garlic cloves for fun.
I simmered the chicken stock for two hours and got a quart. Plenty.
I brined the two chicken breasts in a simple brine with aromatics for two hours, drained and dried them and now they rest in a marinade for another evening. My brine included bay, thyme and blackpeppercorns. My marinade otherwise, on this day, is extra virgin olive oil, garlic, spicy pepper flakes, lemon zest, thyme, scallion and parsley.
From the drum sticks, thighs and chicken stock, I have enough for a couple of soups for the week. Chicken all week long, folks.

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This is my version…today… of a peasant style chicken soup. Of course, there are thousands of versions and thousands of variations on how to make this. I spent 10 bucks on that bird and I want value for my disposable chicken dollar. For the base, I sweated my “soffrito” of smoked prosciutto, onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Into this, I added one thigh and one drumstick, skin removed and bone in. Stirred this about in the pot with everything. Poured  in a pint of chicken stock. Loaded it with rutabaga and celery root. Brought it to a boil and let it simmer slowly. I did mine on top of the stove. You can also do it in the oven.
Later, I added some cooked pole beans from my garden that I had frozen. Then, I added parsley and scallion. I picked the chicken off the bone and returned the meat to the soup.  At this point, all it really needs is some Parmigiana cheese and some good extra virgin olive oil to finish.I liked this because, firstly, the soup was more about the vegetables even though they were cooked in chicken stock. The rutabaga and celery root were very sweet. Secondly, the smokiness of the “prosciutto affumicato” permeated lightly throughout the broth and it was absorbed by all the components. I used no wine though one could. Something dry. In the classical French kitchen, it was the “Saucier” or sauce chef that had responsibility of the raw materials for stock-making, hot and cold sauces, soups, stews, braises and more. A saucier trained in the traditional style was a senior member of the kitchen brigade and well on his way to being a sous chef. A proficient saucier takes years to develop his or her skills. But I digress. The point is to keep it all the flavors clear and direct in your home kitchen. A few humble ingredients in a well-made homemade stock can go a long way. The entire supper tonight set me back about 5 bucks or less. Definately worth it and I would make it again. Would it be the same….probably not. So many vegetables, not enough time.

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I got lucky. I had pizza dough in the fridge. I made it about 10 days ago and kneaded it down twice in the interim. I saved a little bit of the dough to include in my next batch of pizza dough. As long as I keep feeding that little bit of dough, by and large, I can get half-way decent homemade bread on a shoe-string for little or no effort. And I have an inexpensive oven that I beat up. If, in the winter, I am home, then that thar oven will be on. And to make it worth my while to have the oven on, I’ll make bread.
This focaccia will be great alongside the soup. It has rosemary and chunks of sea salt as a topping. And generous too with the olive oil. Eat like a peasant. Thanks for looking.