Tonight I’m hosting dinner for some friends. We try to get together at least once a month and usually eat out. I think I’m probably the only one in the group that enjoys cooking and every once in a while (…well this is only the 2nd time…) I convince them to have dinner at my place.
It’s kind of a hodgepodge of food tonight. Collectively my friends have requested my version of Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden. I haven’t mastered Olive Garden’s breadsticks so we will surely be lacking that goodness to sop up the soup. Also requested is my Mississippi mud roast which has once passed the muster of my super picky friends. Then there’s rice for the meat, and roasted potatoes (also requested), and a salad. The friends are on salad duty.
So first up is the Mississippi mud roast which will cook in the slow cooker ALL DAY. ALLLLLL DAY. This is a Paleo recipe and it’s one that I make on a fairly regular basis. It’s also very forgiving IMO and you almost can’t mess it up. I just eyeball the ingredients and it turns out fantastic.
Forgive the lack of photography skills (and I seem to always lack at least 1 ingredient in the photo)!
Start with about 5.5lbs of some kind of roast-y meat. I usually go with round roast but the store didn’t have any so we’re going with a pot roast cut (5.75 lbs to be exact). Pop the meat in a slow cooker along with about 1 cup of the beef stock, half a jar of the pepperoncini juice (and about 10ish or so peppers…though for this meal because some of my friends are picky, I omit the peppers), 3-4 TBSP of Ghee, 1 TBSP of coconut-aminos (left out of the family photo on accident) and a generous ~1/4 cup of the homemade ranch seasoning. Set your slow cooker on high and let it go for about 6 hours. After that, I take out the meat, shred it, put it back, and set the cooker on low until its time to eat. I will get an actual recipe together that’s much easier to follow than my ramblings.
Main. Course. Done. We serve this over rice and have a side of roasted veggies (usually potatoes, brussel sprouts, and carrots).
Later today the soup will cook. This is NOT Paleo in case anyone was wondering. I try to be on the Paleo wagon but there are some things that I just haven’t worked out a good substitute for.
The Olive Garden version of this soup calls for bacon and sausage. My significant other (Mark) doesn’t eat pork so I effectively leave out the bacon and substitute ground turkey (with some doctoring) for the sausage.
Doctoring up the ground turkey just requires the addition of 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, and 3/4 tsp dried fennel seeds per every pound. I grind the fennel seeds with a mortar before adding to the meat.
You will also need to dice your white onion, have a few teaspoons of minced garlic (the garlic was hiding at picture time), count about 10-12 bouillon cubes, 1 – 2 cups heavy cream, and a bunch of kale. Oh, and the potatoes – they are kind of the star of the show here. You can use russet potatoes or Yukon golds. Whatever floats your boat.
I’ve made this soup so many times I eyeball everything in it too. I think it’s pretty forgiving though fair warning – don’t put too many red pepper flakes in the soup, you can’t take away the heat. I prefer the soup more chunky than soupy so I tend to add more meat and potatoes than the recipe calls for.
Start with cooking the sausage (real or “fake”) and add 1.5 to 2 tsp of red pepper flakes (yes in addition to what you already added if you’re substituting ground turkey). BTW, if you do use pork Italian sausage add the red pepper flakes if you use mild or add the red pepper flakes with caution if you use hot.
Remove the meat and drain any fat. Set aside and refrigerate while you work on the rest of the soup. Add the diced onion and garlic (and bacon pieces if you choose to use), and saute until the onions are soft and translucent. Add water, approximately 10 cups, and add the bouillon cubes. I typically go 1 cube for each cup of water for more flavor. While you wait for this to come to a boil, you can work on slicing potatoes. When using russet potatoes in good shape, I tend to leave the skin on. Your choice – I just don’t like to peel them.
Add the potatoes to the pot and cook until soft. This takes probably about 30-ish minutes. When the potatoes are soft, add the cream and cook until heated through. Then add the meat you set aside earlier and mix it well. Add the kale just before you serve and viola! Soup is done.
I will add the recipes shortly for easy reference and printability.