Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nanny's Potato-Frankfurter Soup

(Minor brag: The cloth the recipe's sitting on? Is a blackwork Star of David challah cover that I made some years ago. It's one of my favorite stitchery pieces ever.)

This is a recipe my mother sent me for our family cookbook (you know, the one I've written about before, but never actually put together? yeah, that one...). I'd never made it before. I'm not sure I'd ever looked at it before. Because if I had, I'd have noticed that little "Jack's mom's recipe" up there in the left-hand corner. Jack's mom having been my father's mother, my Nanny, who died about a decade ago, maybe a little more. My mother and my father having been divorced when I was 11, after being separated from the time I was 8. So, yeah. I'd have raised an eyebrow at that one.

In any case, it was absolutely perfect for the night I made it, an unseasonably cool--oh, who am I kidding? it was FREEZING by LA standards--April night. And it was also a breath of fresh air. Most of what I cook these days, the new stuff at least, is ethnic and spicy, sprinkled liberally with cayenne or garam masala and almost never EVER without garlic or ginger. This was potatoes and hot dogs (does anyone call them frankfurters any more?), and very little else.

We all loved it.

Nanny's Potato-Frankfurter Soup [with my changes in bracketed italics]

5 to 6 cups of water [I used chicken broth, which I think is sort of an essential change if you want the soup to have any real taste; I also upped it to about 8 cups, because that was how much broth I had frozen in the two plastic bags in my freezer]

3 to 4 potatoes [I used white potatoes, rather than the russets I'm sure Nanny used, and I upped the number to (I think) 6]

2 to 3 tablespoons flour [Apparently, Nanny wasn't big on certainty!]

Salt to taste [I used kosher salt.]

2 to 3 tablespoons chicken fat [I actually had chicken fat; I skimmed it off the frozen broth, which was from the last time I made chicken soup with matzo balls. But if I didn't have chicken fat, I'd have probably used whichever neutral oil I had around.]

1/2 small onion, diced [I used one medium onion]

4 frankfurters [Since I'd bought the jumbo franks, I did only use four, but there was plenty.]

Bread [Not in Nanny's recipe, but this soup almost literally called out for warm, crusty french bread to go with it.]

As for the instructions...Well, Nanny was no more precise about these than she was about her measurements. So, again, I'll give you her instructions, with my modifications/additions in italicized brackets.

1. Place potatoes in water. [First of all, I placed them in the defrosted chicken broth. Secondly, I chopped them into nice big chunks. Because they were thin-skinned white potatoes, I didn't peel them first, but you might want to peel yours, depending on what kind you use.]

2. Let water boil. [I salted the chicken broth a little here.]

3. Combine chicken fat and flour; let heat over low flame and get brown. [I did this in a separate, small iron skillet. The flour never did get especially brown, but it did combine nicely with the fat to form a paste. In retrospect, I'd have upped the amount of fat and flour, since I'd upped the amounts of everything else. I assume the point is for it to slightly thicken the broth/water, but it didn't do much of anything. At least, I didn't notice it doing anything.]

4. Brown onions. [I did this in the same skillet after removing the fat/flour combo; I added a tiny bit of canola oil, since the chicken fat had been all soaked up by the flour in the previous step.]

5. Put paste and onions into water with salt. [I actually put the paste in when I removed it from the skillet so I could brown the onions, then put the onions in the chicken broth when they were done.]

6. Let cook for one hour.

7. Cut frankfurters in half and put into soup. [I cut them in half and then sliced them so that there were half-moons of hot dog throughout the soup.]

8. On small flame, let cook another 20 minutes. Taste.

That last bit I did without a single change from the original instructions. It was really, truly, comfort foodingly good. Baroy's already requested it make a return when and if the temps dip again. I second that emotion.

(That's just a wooden spoon over there to the right, by the way. Not some mutant, mottled hot dog.)


  1. Looks good. I think my kids would like this, too, which is saying a lot.

    I had a Nanny, too, a great-grandmother whom I loved dearly and who had a way with soul food.

    One thing I do with that fat/flour combo is to add in some broth a little at a time after there's a good melding and whisk until I get a nice, thick sauce (I think in the South we basically call that "gravy"). Then I whisk that in to the rest of the broth, and it gives it some sensory oomph.

  2. My favorite general thing about our posts is when we assemble the ingredients and photograph them, like a family portrait.