(Ok, almost – it’s nearly soccer season and weekly soup again. But it’s also been cold, and I like soup when it’s cold.)

So if you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that I like to stretch the weekly chicken into as many meals as I can. If I’m really on top of things, I can make it through two an a half, the half being chicken stock that I’ll use for a meal at the end of the week.* I use Michael Ruhlman’s slow method to make the stock  over the course of a slow day when it can sit on the stove the full eight or nine hours,** and then if not using immediately (immediately being relative – I like it to sit in the fridge a day so I can separate the fat off the top), I freeze it.

So I’ve managed to make a variety of soups with the stock, including a lemon basil chicken and rice rice soup that rocks, some gumbo that I riffed into creation (the original recipe called for turkey stock, so I had to play around to get the flavors right) and a couple of Martha’s  variations of chicken soup. There’s also this really delicious artichoke and sausage soup that someone gave me the recipe for, and I wanted to do that the other night, but as it turned out, I didn’t have a bunch of the stuff that goes in it. But after rifling through the cabinets, I found some other stuff, and then this happened, and at least five people were really satisfied with the results \o/

Sausage And Okra Stewfeeds six, maybe more

2qt chicken stock
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbs basil
1Tbs oregano
1 Tbs hot pepper flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1 large onion, diced
3 Tbs garlic, minced
2 14-oz cans okra, drained
2 c parboiled rice
1# italian sausage, hot or medium
salt to taste
1. Break the sausage up into bite-sized pieces. I take it out of the casings and then roll out itty bitty meatballs, just because it seems to be easier to cook.
2. In a large non-stick pan, brown the sausage. About halfway into the process, dump in the onions and the garlic, and saute until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are transparent but not browned.
3. In a large pot, combine everything but the rice, including the sausage with the onions and garlic that you just cooked up, and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Allow to simmer for thirty minutes, and then add the rice; stir every so often to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom. When the rice is nearly done (about another twenty-ish minutes), take the pot off the burner, cover it, and allow to stand for ten to fifteen minutes, until the rice is finished.

This is delicious served with greens on the side, and/or fresh bread. Also, if you’re not into rice, you can forgo that business (still cook for the stew for whole hour-ish), and make pasta on the side to serve it over (it will be thinner, tho’, more of a soup than a stew).

A couple notes on the ingredients:
– Okra, canned v. fresh: I tried making gumbo once with fresh okra,. and was not delighted by the results – no matter what I tried, I could not get the texture anything less than slick (ok, slimy). I understand now when people tell me they don’t like okra. This is why I opt for the canned stuff. I find that Allen’s makes really good canned okra, the product not tasting of the tin can, and having a little bit of a tang to it.
– Parboiled rice: Do it, friend. Parboiled rice holds up much better in soups and stews than plain old rice. Uncle Ben’s and Carolina both do a good job of it.
– Sausage: this stew is only as good as your sausage, so it’s worth it to seek out the really good stuff.
– Onion powder: you can add it or not. Or you can add an envelope of dry onion soup mix (Nicole’s sausage soup, the one with the artichokes, calls for an envelope of the onion soup – Nicole swears up one side, down the other, that it’s the secret ingredient that makes the whole thing come together). Really, it’s all about what you like. If you’re not a fan of onions, kick it to the curb and carry on.

* The first meal being the roast chicken, the second frequently being chicken croquettes if it’s cool out. If it’s warm, hello chicken salad with apples and walnuts.
**I am not even joking. Best. Stock. Ever.