Retired_Guy's Fennel, Sausage, Potato and Onion Bean Soup.
It occurred to me one day a couple of years ago that I had never cooked anything with a Fennel bulb. These things look like a cross between an onion and a celery thingy. I have no idea who or where they were invented. But that's ok. In addition, they have a very prolific green fuzzy bunch of leaves. Or fur. I'm not sure which. So I've been working on this recipe for at least two years now. It's starting to come together.
Anyhow, as I was saying, I decided to cook something with fennel. Turns out there are plenty of recipes on the "net" that sort of point the way as to what should be done with a fennel, other than merely walk past it in the supermarket.
Nutritionally speaking, these things are really good things. High fiber, no fat, low cal, lots of vitamin C, lots of minerals, low glycemic, on and on and on. Therefor it couldn't possibly taste good, could it? Further research suggests fennel tastes like licorice. Well, it does sort of. But that won't really take away from anything you cook it in. It is magnificantly aeromatic. That means it smells good when you slice it up and cook it up. The licorice aspect to it results in leaving you with a really nice fresh aftertaste in your mouth when dinners done. It will make you go back for seconds or thirds however.
Back to the soup.
A cup or two dry beans. I like Cannellini beans for this project. They're sometimes called a white kidney bean, but they're really a little longer than your average kidney bean. Rinse and soak them overnight. If you forget to do that, put them in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then take them off the burner and let them just sit around for an hour or two. They'll be fine.
1 fennel bulb. (maybe 2 if they're little).
1 nicely configured Leek. That means fresh, clean and not too big around.
1 large onion or a couple of small ones
3 or 4 potatos. Medium sized. You could use red or white, or even blue if you want to be real festive. I like to use leftover potatoes for this. It is afterall "soup."
4 or 5 cloves of Garlic
3 or 4 mild Italian style sausages - the big link things in natural casings. About 1 pound --- which is .453592 Kg, or 453.592 grams, or .0714286 Stone (I don't even know what that means...). Or some mild Italian ground sausage if you wish.
Whatever spices you have laying around such as:
bay leaf or two
You could add some nice mushrooms, but I don't.
5 or 6 cans of Chicken broth (I use 14 oz low-sodium Swanson's. Still plenty of salt, so don't plan on adding any additional)
1 can of Beef broth primarily because it's sort of pretty.
Whatever else you think might be nice.
Peel the garlics, then squash the cloves one or two at a time with the flat side of your chef's knife. Then chop them up. You could use pre-squashed and chopped garlic if you wish, it's just not quite as much fun. Do not squash pre-squashed garlic with your chef's knife. It makes a heck of a mess.
Dump a little olive oil in a nice big skillet. Remove the skin casing from the sausages and cut them in little chunks, or make little chunks out of the ground sausage. Start browning the sausage in the skillet, but don't let it get too cooked before you do some other stuff.
Wash the fennel bulb really good. You may have to remove a stalk or two from the outside. Chop off the end, then chop the fennel into thin slices, then chop those into slices. Kind of like you would do to an onion. As a matter of fact, do that to the onion also. Dump these into the browned sausage, and let it start to cook along with your squished garlic. Hang on to the fuzzy green stuff from the fennel bulb. Optionally, you can brown the sausage, remove & clean out some (not all) of the nice grease drippings, then dump in some olive oil along with your squashed garlic and allow it to sizzle around awhile. Then take the garlic out and poke it into the soup stock pot. Then dump the other vegies into the skillet, cover and cook until everything gets nice and squishy.
Now drain the water off your beans then dump in 5 or so cans of chicken broth. That's about 70 ozs of chicken stock. To convert to Canadian measurements, I belive this is equivelant to 3 1/2 plethoras. If you're also adding the beef broth, do that now as well.
Wash, cut and cube the potatoes, and add them to the chicken broth. Cook them up until the potatos are done. When I use already cooked up potatoes I just throw them in with all the other stuff. Because by definition they are already cooked up. At this point you have an option. If you like a thicker, creamy soup, then use your potato squasher and squash the potatos. Carefully, as they're kind of hot at this point.. ...and with all those beans swimming around it's a bit tricky too. On the other hand, if you'd just as soon have a more-clear soup with lots of lumps, leave them alone.
Add all the stuff from your skillet, cover, bring to a simmer, and let it simmer along for couple of hours. Or days... Whatever is your preference.
Oh, the fuzzy green stuff: That part of the fennel is really nice too. Chop some of it up as small as humanly possible and let it float all over your soup as it cooks. Small as possible, because it definately looks like cooked eyebrows when you're done. But it does add a nice flavor to your soup, so it's worth it.
As are most soups, this soup gets better as it ages a little, so be sure to make enough to have left overs for a few weeks. It freezes very well in nice dinner sized containers for use later.
Serve with a nice sour-dough bagette, and your good to go for a cold winter night.