Yesterday’s snow made me crave something warm and filling; a quick trip to the store yielded crosscut beef shank at the bargain price of $1 per slab. Along with a few fingers’ worth of trimmed brisket, it was an good foundation for beef vegetable soup. While the bones browned in bacon grease with onions, I scoured the fridge for other ingredients.
I like it best when my fridge is stuffed with odds and ends, stimulating improvisation rather than slavish adherence to a recipe. Carrots, celery, onions, garlic–these items are almost always lurking in my kitchen, so I chopped up a healthy measure of each and added it to the browned bones, along with several quarts of water, salt, red pepper flakes, chopped tomatoes, and the brisket pieces. After two hours at a steady simmer, the broth was edging toward goodness.
Now for the fun part: tossing in everything else. Green peas, more garlic, leftover cauliflower, shoepeg corn, a few shakes of Angostura bitters, cubed red potatoes, d’italini pasta and chopped fresh parsley and sage from the garden. (Our freak snow didn’t bother either plant, and the radishes looked happier under their dusting of white). After two and a half hours, the soup was thick and luscious. No recipe, no measuring, and enough leftovers to freeze in anticipation of other cold winter days.