by Elizabeth Norcross

It has been a very very long time since I have been in the Muddy Water Kitchens.
The overhead rack and the six-burner double oven double broiler makes my heart sing.
It's so easy to cook and be inspired. The first thing to be done was stock the kitchen so prep work wasn't interrupted by lack of ingredients. Homemade Chicken stock is a must-have for any kitchen. I used a couple of chicken carcasses in a big stock pot with mostly dried herbs. The herb gardens were finished but I did get to grab the last of the parsley. For
this particular stock the herbs were dried.

Chicken Stock

two chicken carcasses
2 carrots chopped
1 leek chopped
1 1/2 onions
3 bay leaves
garlic (optional)
several sprigs of fresh parsley
1 ½  tsp. basil, dried or fresh
1 ½  tsp. chervil, dried or fresh
1 ½ tsp. tarragon, dried or fresh
1 ½ tsp. herbs de provence
1/8 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (optional
1 tsp. sea salt
10 peppercorns

Put all ingredients in large stockpot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a high simmer and when froth begins to form skim it off. Lower the temp, cover and let cook for three hours. The longer it cooks the more concentrated it will be. When chilling in the refrigerator overnight a layer of fat will form which can be removed then – or saved for something else.

Ways to test if your stock is done: after a couple of hours taste the flavor, see if it is pleasing to you. About 3” of water should have evaporated. When the stock is done to your satisfaction put through a sieve into a large bowl. I make a soup out of the vegetables while it's still hot right out of the pot. Then when the bones have cooled I take the chicken off the bones and use for something else – like adding to my dog's food.

Put the bowl of stock in the fridge and the next day remove the layer of fat from the top. Let it come to room temp and using a measuring cup pour the liquid into ice cube trays. After it's frozen, put the cubes into freezer bags (sandwich size); and voila, a much tastier way to make couscous, haricot verts, anything that requires water, but it's a little go-to taste trick for delicious flavor, and it's always on hand.

Set a quart of the stock aside in the refrigerator for the Butternut Squash Vichyssoise.

This soup turned out to be so awesome that I am sharing it with you. A cold or room temp soup isn't what it started out to be, but it was so simple, amazing, refreshing and tasty that I left it that way. You could heat it up, your preference.

Butternut Squash Vichyssoise

1 lb. cubed butternut squash
3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
sprig of sage or tsp. dried
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ tbsp. butter
½  cup heavy cream

Step 1:
Take 1 lb. of cubed butternut squash, cover with 3-4 inches of water. Add bay leaves, sage & sea salt and cook until a fork pierces. When done drain. Put in a medium size bowl, add 1 ½ tbls. of butter. Mash with a big fork, add 1 tsp. cinnamon and ½ tsp. nutmeg. Mix until smooth. Put in the fridge for a couple of days so the flavors can meld.

Step 2:
The squash should be flavorful as well as the stock. They've both had a couple of days to meld. Take two cups of squash and add three cups of stock. Bring to a simmer, cool and whisk. Then, whisk in the ½ cup heavy cream. Cool, put in blender and puree. Serve warm or cold.

The perfect accompaniment was my friend Joan Nathan's Apricot Feta Bread from her most recent book and tenth book: “Quiches, Couscous and Kugels; My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” which was voted one of the ten best cookbooks of the year by NPR. Joan has an energetic and inspired imagination when it comes to food. I met her here and had the opportunity to talk to her. Never have I tried as many recipes with a single cookbook and not one was a disappointment.

Quick Goat Cheese Bread with Mint and Apricots

1/3 cup olive oil plus some for greasing
3 large eggs
l/3 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 oz. grated Gruyere aged Cheddar or Comte cheese
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tbls. roughly minced mint leaves or two teaspoons dried mint

Preheat oven to 350* and grease 9x5” loaf pan with some of the oil. Line with parchment paper.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat well. Add the milk and oil, whisking until smooth.
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in another bowl, and add to the wet mixture, stirring until everything is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan, sprinkle on the grated Gruyere, Cheddar or Comte. Crumble the goat cheese on top, and then scatter on the apricots and the mint.

Pull a knife gently through the batter to blend the ingredients slightly – I repeat - Pull
a knife gently through the batter. I didn't do it the first time. It does make a difference.
Cool briefly, remove from the pan, peel off the foil or parchment paper, slice and serve warm. Since I didn't use it the first time because it wasn't in the directions in the galley book, it didn't make a difference, it came from the loaf pan easily, do what you are most comfortable.

It's beautiful to look at and satisfying to eat!

It's so good to be back with you. I've done a lot of cooking in the last couple of weeks, so I'll be seeing you very soon with some great holiday recipes.

And thank you Joan Nathan for my favorite quick bread.

As always, Julia says, Bon Appetite!

"...been wadin' through the high muddy water"
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