I just have one question for you today. ARE YOU SAVING THE RINDS OF YOUR PARMESAN CHEESE?
Sorry if that's a little loud, but I just really need to make sure that all of you have gotten the Parmesan rind memo, okay?
I'll try and calm down now. Alright.
Now, have I told you about my freezer? (Okay, fine, two questions.) There are many, many things that I love about living in Europe. But I'll tell you one something: European freezers are not one of them. They are A LOT to get used to and by A LOT I mean not much at all. I have shoe boxes larger than my freezer. Not even kidding!
My freezer. It is the home of a few forlorn Chinese dumplings, some tortillas purchased in Boston in 2019 (sob), a couple of boxes of frozen veg, my KitchenAid ice cream attachment (wheee! It was one of my birthday presents in December and it is brilliant) and about 15 foil-wrapped Parmesan rinds. We go through a lot of Parmesan cheese in this house, as it must top almost every plate of spaghetti (not Hugo's, though, who loathes melted cheese in all forms yes I'm talking grilled cheese and gratins and lasagne and nachos and PIZZA why God whyyyyyyyyyy) and because it is the only cheese that the boys will eat thin slivers of, after dinner, like sophisticated little creatures destined for a life of pleasure and harmony.
Every time we get to the end of a wedge of cheese (and I mean the very end, we're talking just a few millimeters), I wrap them up in a piece of aluminum foil and throw them into the freezer. This way, the next time I make soup, I know I have a little umami flavor bomb just waiting to be pulled into active duty. Straight from the freezer, I unwrap the rind, plop it into the pot of broth and let it do its magic.
As it simmers away in that pot of soup, the rind miraculously continues giving up huge amounts of flavor, enough to scent the house and make your soup taste very, very good. Then there is the added bonus that the rind is entirely edible. As it cooks, it softens and mellows. Upon serving the soup, you can fish out the rind and, depending on the size, either share it with your fellow diners or eat it all yourself, a very well-earned cook's snack.
My mother and I love the rind and always share it. My husband and children do not (it's a textural thing, as it's a little rubbery, which is pleasing to some and not to all), so I get to eat it all myself.
Now, on to this particular soup. It comes from the way back, dusty depths of this very blog, having first been published in November of 2005, when baby Wednesday Chef was just a few months old. A wee bairn! It comes from Lidia Bastianich, grande dame of New York Italian cooking, and it features the absolutely wonderful pairing of potatoes and rice, which will strike some of you as too much starch! and others as just enough. I am firmly in the there is no such thing as too much starch camp and so this soup is one of my very favorites.
It is nourishing and a balm, to make and to eat, and you can, as with Rachel's squash and rice soup, play with the amount of liquid you use to make a looser or stewier soup. If you err on the side of stewy, and there are leftovers, they will cool into risotto, which will please (no, let's be real, may please) the children in your home. The parsley, I feel, is essential because it brings a bit of brightness and the faintest touch of acidity to the soup, balancing out the flavors nicely. If your children are the kind to fall over in a dead faint at the sight of something green in their soup COUGH COUGH, leave it out of the pot and just sprinkle it on your own portion.
One of the oddities of a life in food blogging is the fact that you have the pleasure of eating so many delicious meals that rarely get made again, because there are so many other recipes to get to. This is hardly a hardship, though Max has been known to beg me to remember certain dishes while he's eating them. I'm happy to say that this recipe is one of those rare ones that comes around again and again, lamination-worthy, as I have been known to say. These beloved favorites now have their very own category over there in the sidebar on the right.
Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the categories in general have been cleaned up and clarified a bit, so that now you can quickly navigate your way to quick weeknight dinners, vegetarian main dishes or gluten-free recipes. I hope this helps you navigate all the good food available here. In fact, in the coming weeks, I'll be featuring other favorites that I first wrote about long ago, but that I feel deserve some fresh sunlight and a little love.
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Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan
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3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 to 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup long-grain or arborio rice
8 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if desired
2 2-inch-squares Parmesan rind
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
A handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well to coat the vegetables.
2. Add the rice, broth, cheese rinds and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring well, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 18-20 minutes. Check the seasoning. If you'd like a looser soup, add a little more broth. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Remove the rinds, cut into pieces and distribute among the serving plates. Ladle the soup on top and serve.