The other night our great friend Megan Ketch took Carter and I out to dinner. It was such a treat and we shared a fennel and bacon soup. I have no idea what they put in theirs beyond the titled ingredients, but I made up one of my own without any diary. It easily can become a vegan recipe by using olive oil in place of the bacon. But unless you have a religious reason have the bacon, it is such a small amount, but it really makes it.
4 slices of bacon
1 medium sweet onion chopped
3 bulbs of fennel- cut thinly
2 carrots- peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery- chopped
3 cans of chicken stock
2 small Yukon gold potatoes- peeled and chopped
7 cloves of garlic minced
2 bay leaves
1 T. fennel seeds
2 t. thyme
2 t. salt
1 t. sugar
Cut the bacon into lardoons, by stacking up all the slices and cutting them into half inch pieces. Place all the raw bacon in a soup pot and cook on medium high heat until brown and crispy. Make sure you are stirring it towards the end. Remove the crispy bacon from the pot and set aside, leaving the fat in the bottom of the pan.
Turn heat back up to high and add the onions, carrots, celery and fennel. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring often. Add half the salt, fennel seeds, thyme and the garlic and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potato and the Bay leaves. Cover the pot and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using an immersion blender puree the soup. Add the sugar and a bunch of black pepper. Taste for salt, it will need more.
Serve and sprinkle a spoonful of the bacon on top.
Now that the house is decorated for Christmas the next thing on my normal schedule of holiday preparedness events is to make or cook my hostess gift of the year. In my please-don’t-confuse-me-with-Martha-Stewart because I don’t think she has much of a sense of humor, yet I still am very crafty/handy/culinary talented way I like to make a different item from year to year. Last year I made homemade vanilla, which I put into really cute apothecary bottles I ordered from a bottle manufacturer. It was not a hard gift to make, but I had to start making it in September so it had the requisite amount of time to age.
Since I have been busy writing this blog and trying to create new healthy recipes I have done no advance planning for the Holiday season. I usually would have my Christmas shopping done by now and I have barely made a dent in that so far. I clearly have been spending too much time on me this year.
So here is my dilemma. Is it kosher for me to make a hostess gift that is something fattening, decedent and really yummy in a year that I have been promoting weight loss? I think that I am disciplined enough right now to make something that I am not tempted to eat, so I am not in fear for the number on my scale. But is it hypocritical to give others something I clearly would not eat myself? Not that most of the people I might give these gifts too need to lose weight, but I hate to pile on to the holiday calorie mountain.
I am thinking about making some fleur de sel caramels, which are absolutely worth every calorie because they are a moment in heaven. They are a little tricky, but not that time consuming. I have all the right cute containers, labels, wrapping and bows. If I give just a few sinful morsels would it be so bad?
If only I had started some vinegars a few months ago I could have kept my diet themed year. But alas I am too late and I don’t have enough free time to sew, needlepoint or cross-stitch enough non-food items. If only I had not set the bar so high over the last thirty years. I can’t turn into a total Scrooge and not give gifts. Or almost worse, give soaps or lotions, which no one ever uses.
I also would like to give something from a local producer. That gives me a really grinchy-Grinch idea. I could get local bacon and make my famous candy bacon. It is doubly hedonistic being both a sweet and a fat, but then again I could support a local farmer and pork is one of North Carolinas top products.
So weigh in on my ideas and please feel free to suggest others. At this point I am not beyond trolling the Internet, if only I had the time.