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December 30, 2009

McCray: Cutting corners results in not so soup-er effort

Bee food writer Kerry McCray has had her triumphant moments in the kitchen. Making Christmas soup was not one of them. Herein she explains how cutting a few corners on the recipe did her in.

I've become one of "those" people.

You know, the ones who substitute just about every ingredient in a recipe then say they don't like the dish.

They use margarine instead of butter, milk instead of heavy cream, reduced-fat cheese instead of the real thing. It's no wonder they don't like the finished product.

That pretty much describes my cooking effort when I made this week's recipe, Christmas soup. I chose the recipe because it didn't seem to take much work (wrong!) and looked as if it would be tasty (wrong, again!).

The soup would have been better if I had taken the time to shop for the right ingredients. But it was the day after Christmas, deadline was looming, and I did not want to drag my children through yet another store.

I ended up using ingredients I had on hand. I substituted leftover Christmas ham for the kielbasa and russet potatoes for the red bliss.

I did use dry kidney beans and soaked them for four hours, as the recipe called for. Even so, they were a bit — well — crunchy in the finished product. Next time, I'll soak them longer or take a tip from one of our testers and buy beans in a can.

I used the kale, too, and wished I hadn't. Like the beans, the kale was a bit tough, even after cooking. Maybe spinach would have been better?

Or maybe I'm just not cut out to labor over a long-simmering soup. This dish took much more time than I anticipated — nearly 90 minutes. I admit I grew a bit impatient and cut down on the cooking time in several steps.

While the crunchy beans and kale weren't to my liking, the soup had a nice earthy flavor — one that I'm sure would be enhanced with kielbasa. The vinegar — a ¼ cup seems like a lot — gave it a strong bite.

If I try the recipe again, I'll be sure to take my time. And go to the store.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at kmccray@modbee.com or 578-2358.

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