After breakfast and elevensies, which were both sweet, it is time to turn to the savory for luncheon, afternoon tea, and dinner. Time management has never been my strong suit, but in order to make cooking 6 courses for 16 people work, it is absolutely key! So for lunch, I chose a soup I could start the night before and stick in the refrigerator, then heat up add the final touches in a short time in between The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. I thought of Sam making stewed rabbit in Ithilien when he wishes for po-tay-toes; “The Gaffer’s delight and rare good ballast for an empty belly,” as he educates Sméagol.
The soup recipe I used is from The Pioneer Woman. It is perfectly balanced with fat, brightness, and saltiness and will draw you back for seconds… if there is any left once you pass the pot around!
Creamy Potato and Onion Soup
6 slices Thin Bacon, Cut Into 1-inch Pieces
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 whole Carrots, Scrubbed Clean And Diced
3 stalks Celery, Diced
6 whole Small Russet Potatoes, Peeled And Diced
8 cups Low Sodium Chicken Or Vegetable Broth
3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
Black Pepper To Taste
1/2 teaspoon Cajun Spice Mix
1 teaspoon Minced Fresh Parsley
1 cup Grated Cheese Of Your Choice
Add bacon pieces to a soup pot over medium heat and cook bacon until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pot and set it aside. Pour off most of the grease, but do not clean the pot.
Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 2 minutes or so, then add the diced potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper, and Cajun spice.
Pour in the broth and bring it to a gentle boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to get tender. Whisk together the flour and the milk, then pour into the soup and allow the soup to cook for another 5 minutes.
Use immersion blender to partially blend the soup leaving some chunks. (OR remove half to 2/3 the soup and blend in batches in a blender/food process until completely smooth. If possible, allow the soup to cool before blending. This is the part where I put it in the fridge overnight to make prep easier the next day.) Pour it back into the soup pot and stir to combine. Let it heat back up as you taste for seasonings, adding more of what it needs. Stir in cream, then stir in parsley, reserving a little for garnish.
Serve in bowls garnished with parsley, grated cheese and crisp bacon pieces.
Frodo, Sam, and Gollum in Ithilien by Sergei Iukhimov
For afternoon tea, I had my husband put together a cheese and sausage platter. “Little things” is one of Joe and my favorite meals, which is comprised of cheese, cured sausage, pickles, olives, fruit slices, bread and oil, and wine. You could also add boiled eggs, roast chicken or other finger food. Growing up, my family called this “snack supper” and we usually had crackers instead of bread and oil. At this point in the movies, people were still grazing on the cakes from earlier and the treats that some of the guests had brought.
For dinner, I wanted something really hearty. Although stew is often referenced by the characters, I felt that stew was too close to soup which was already served for lunch and chose to have a roast, instead. I put this in the crockpot before people arrived for the first film, which meant that it was ready just in time for dinner at the start of Return of the King. I found the recipe on Taste of Home and decided to use it in honor of Mrs. Maggot’s “mighty dish of mushrooms and bacon, besides much other solid farmhouse fare.” The original recipe says it is award winning, and I agree that it gets 5 stars in my recipe book!
Mushroom Pot Roast
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 to 4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1-1/2 pounds sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (I used half shiitake and half baby bella, since shiitake are $$)
2-1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1-1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1-1/2 cups dry red wine or additional reduced-sodium beef broth
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
3/4 cup chopped peeled parsnips
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrots
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Mashed potatoes, to serve
- Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, brown roast in oil on all sides. Transfer to a 6-qt. slow cooker. Add the mushrooms, onions, broth, wine, tomato sauce, parsnips, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and chili powder. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.
- Remove meat and vegetables to a serving platter; keep warm. Discard bay leaves. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with mashed potatoes, meat and vegetables.