AND THEN THE WIND BLEW AND THE LIGHTS WENT DARK

I had a nice set of posts planned for this evening until the wind came up and the lights went out. We got a lot of wind which, apparently brought down some trees and although it is usually dark here at night, it was even darker than usual. A few minutes ago the lights came back. We really do need to get a generator. We don’t need one that will run everything in the house, but it needs to run the well pump, the boiler, the hot-water heater, two refrigerators and a small freezer, and a few lights or maybe the television, though the odds are that if the power is out, the cable is also out.

This was going to be a cooking post. I got myself into kitchen “go mode.” I made soft pretzels and potato soup that is close to vichyssoise, but somewhat less delicate and more toothsome.

It all started because we inherited a 5-pound bag of small potatoes. There are not many things I hate doing in the kitchen, but peeling potatoes is one of them. I’d rather wash the floor. It’s that bad. So, in the end, we moved the potatoes to a new home, bought a few big potatoes and I made potato soup.

SOUP INGREDIENTS:

  • Peel and cut-up into little bite-size pieces about 5 cups of potatoes. IF you are going to cream the soup completely, you don’t have to worry about making all the pieces the same size. If you like chunky soup, you can have process the potatoes and put the rest in as pieces. Or, you can leave it all as pieces. I like creaming the whole thing, but sometimes it depends on what I put into it and how much I want to chew. Also, depending on the size of the spud, you’ll need between three and five large Idaho potatoes. We needed three. The remaining two are going to become potato salad to go with dinner tonight.
  • Chop a medium size ( about 1 cup) of onion
  • Chop up one bright pepper. I went with yellow, but red or orange would have been fine too. Anything but green. They are bit acidy for this soup.
  • 3 cups broth (we used lamb broth because we had some frozen, but you can buy broth in the grocery. Get the low-salt variety. It’s easy to add salt, but hard to make it go away.
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chicken base (powdered chicken stuff)
  • 1/2 pound finely diced bacon. Owen sprung for the expensive stuff that’s more meat than fat. I actually had to add some olive oil because there was very little fat coming off the bacon
  • 1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream or sour cream
  • half a stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

IN A 3 TO 4  QUART SOUP POT: 

  • Fry the chopped up bacon. When the bacon is cooked and nearly crisp, add chopped onions and pepper. Cook until soft.
  • Add the broth, water, and soup base. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the potatoes. Lower heat and simmer from 10 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft to a fork. Try not to overcook the potatoes. Leave a little life in them.

PROCESSING

Set up your food processor — you know, the one in the closet you never use? You might want to let the soup cool a bit. It can be rather lava-like. Pour half the soup into the food processor and crank it up. Pour pureed soup into a big bowl. Add the rest of the soup to the food processor plus the cream or half-and-half or sour cream. Some people use cream cheese. That sounded too sweet for me. Pour it all back into the pot. In theory it needs to be thickened, but it’s already very thick. Nothing liquidy about it, so I didn’t thicken it at all. Any thicker and I could have used it to lay bricks. I turned on the cooker (induction cooker) to very low (simmer is at 2 usually) to keep it warm. It was served with fresh chopped dill and my fresh, soft and salty pretzels. Perfect this time.

Generally you can serve this soup as is. You can also add other spices. I threw in some rosemary for the smell more than the taste and some Za’atar. Salt and pepper are up to each eater. None of us needed any. I chopped the chives to put on top of the soup for decoration. Other toppings include sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, scallions (green onions) or some pretty chopped peppers. You can use whatever you want. We just had it with the chives and forgot about the cheese and sour cream. Oops. We did NOT forget the pretzels.

You can serve this soup chilled or at room temperature. Hot one day, cold the next. This recipe is for one night, four people and it’s really a meal. Very filling. Do NOT serve it before the roast turkey. You’ll wind up with an awful lot of leftover turkey.


SOFT PRETZELS

I’ve modified the recipe a bit. They are softer and a bit stickier. Perfect. The egg “wash” at the end makes the pretzels crisper or softer. I used a lot of egg (and I still had a lot left over). I think ONE egg would be more than enough. The recipe calls for two, but it’s the egg of overkill.

DOUGH

  • 1-1/2 cup of warm (tepid) water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2-1/2 teaspoons dry yeast)
  • 4 cups of white flour (down from 4-1/2)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil (up from 3). Use 2 in the dough and save the other two to put on top of the dough while it rises

Add the dry yeast (1 packet or 2-1/2 teaspoons) to the warm water, salt, and sugar. Let stand for five minutes until it is frothy. Add everything else into your (I hope KitchenAid) mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix 4 or five minutes on low. It will form a dough and you don’t have to knead it. Leave it in the mixing bowl (why get another bowl dirty?). Use the remaining two tablespoons of oil on top of the dough, then cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place (note that SOME recipes refrigerate the dough which makes it much crispier. I don’t. If you’ve been to Philadelphia, these are classic Philly soft pretzels. Add your own favorite mustard or cheese or (ta-da!) soup!

Go sit for a few minutes. Your ankles are probably swollen by now.

BOILING

  • 1 beaten egg for washing the pretzels before adding salt and baking. More eggs means softer pretzels. If you want a little crisp, leave off the egg wash
  • Coarse (Kosher) salt
  • Large pot of boiling (rolling boil) water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda mixed into the water. I have no idea what the baking soda does but I assume it does something.

About an hour after you leave the dough to rise, dump it out of the mixing bowl onto a flat surface, knead a few times (you might need to add a little bit of extra flour) and cut it into 8 pieces. Pretend it’s play dough and roll it into ropes. If you feel creative, you can try to make them look like “real” pretzels. Personally, I gave up and just twist them a bit for decorative purposes. It’s easier to get the twisty ropes onto a big tray. When the water and baking soda are boiling, boil each pretzel into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then lay each piece on the try. When you’re done, paint with the beaten egg and add a lot of coarse (Kosher) salt. We like them very salty, but if you don’t, use less salt. Some people put sugar and cinnamon on them, but if you do that, add a little extra sugar into the dough — at which point you have dessert.

BAKING 

  • 450 F (230 C) (Preheat your oven if it requires preheating) for about 15 minutes. I had to turn the tray so the pretzels browned evenly. I use a countertop oven that run a big cooler than the big oven, so it needs the fifteen minutes. In the big oven, closer to 10 or 12 minutes.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes. Mine need 14 or 15. I also turn the tray around so they come out evenly browned all around.

I made the pretzels first because they needed more time for the dough to rise and also, if I turn on the induction cooker and the countertop over at the same time, the lights go out. Who knew the lights were going out anyway? Dinner was great and we have leftovers, but not a lot. This recipe is for 4 people and can be doubled or tripled. It’s filling — the essence of comfort food.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

19 thoughts on “AND THEN THE WIND BLEW AND THE LIGHTS WENT DARK”

  1. I put leeks in my potato soup…love it. Do you have a recipe for carrot soup? I used to have one and can’t find it now. It had ginger and orange in it too. It was wonderful.
    Leslie

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  2. I am fascinated by your countertop oven. I looked up the product name and they don’t seem to have that model anymore. Is it really a good product because I may be in the market for a new toaster oven soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s pretty good. As a convection oven it’s mediocre, but it uses half the electricity of my big oven in the range. It’s made in China, so they make others exactly like it using different names. I needed one that was big inside — big enough for a 10 to 12 pound turkey — but not tall because my cabinets are too close to the counter. I also wanted one with regular dials rather than digital controls because they seem to last longer. There are ones a lot like this that have other functions. This one came with a rotisserie I will never use. When it’s working it is lit inside. This is good because I unplug it when it’s off. I have this fear of fire and I’ve had other things — a coffee pot for one — catch on fire. But it does mean that if I turn everything on and I can’t figure out why nothing is cooking — until I realize I forgot to plug it in. No fire that way, though.

      It is MUCH bigger than a toaster oven. They come in all kinds of shapes. Some are more square — and taller. Others are wider and big enough for a 14″ pizza. Many are digital. MEASURE the space you have and make sure you have room for it and room to keep other items away from it while it’s cooking. It does get quite hot. They all get very hot.

      It is definitely NOT a toaster oven. I have a separate toaster.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marilyn, a delicious and filling meal. The pretzels were superb. I like them when they are soft and easy on the teeth. Nice layer of salt. Yummy.

        Like you, we used to have potato soup for dinner when I was a kid. Mom would throw in some special fillers from time to time.

        As for the blackout: I got to read almost a full chapter of my Louie B. Mayer book. It’s still in the early section, the 20′ as Mayer was building MGM. Author Scott Eyman really has done his homework. He closely examines all the details of deals between Mayer, Fox, the Schoenick Brothers, Thalberg, Lasky, and all the pioneers of old Hollywood. It’s much more than another glossy tabloid tell all of Metro’s great stars. It more like “The Art Of The Deal”. Fascinating stuff. I have to run my fingers along the lines to make sure I’m getting everything. The stuff between Mayer, William Randolph Hearst and Herbert Hoover would be grist for Wolfie Blizter’s “breaking news” segments. So much grease on those secret transactions between Hollywood, New York and Washington. DIGNITY, always DIGNITY!

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  3. I drove to the Cape last night, following the storms wake. There were a lot of lights out and trees down the entire way. It was quite the storm, and not enough rain…

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          1. Most power outages here occur during the summer months. I wasn’t much of an issue if the electricity went out when we were living in San Francisco because it rarely got that hot there. But now that we’re deep inside the East Bay, we had about a month’s worth of 100+ degree days this past summer and we wanted a generator with enough juice to power up the A/C if the electricity failed. Hence, a whole house version.

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  4. I think it is highly unlikely that Garry has forgotten how to peel potatoes, more likely he remembers how much he disliked doing it in the marines. 🙂
    We had wind most of the day too and the lights flickered. I thought the power might go out but it didn’t. We ought to think about a generator too, at least to run the water pump.

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    1. I think we are going to try and find a small one that plugs in rather than needs a whole new set of circuits. Much cheaper and as long as it keeps the well, refrigeration, and boiler running, all is well. We’ve never lost power for more than a few hours, but other people in our area have lost power for a week or more.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds so good, Marilyn. I don’t peel spuds anymore but just cook them with the skins on. Even in mashed potatoes, once they are mashed, you can’t notice them. Try it.. especially with small new potatoes.

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    1. This particular meal, I couldn’t do that. I don’t peel for potato salad OR mashed potatoes, but for this, they needed peeling. Garry was a belligerent Marine, so he did a lot of KP and peeled a LOT of potatoes. I pointed this out to him and he said it was a long time ago and he had forgotten how to do it. I told him it was like riding a bicycle: you NEVER forget how to peel a potato.

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