Today it's going to nudge 80 degrees. It's January for goodness sake! What is going on here? Last week it was cold and a touch rainy. Today doesn't necessarily feel like soup, but a couple of days ago it surely did.
Thanks to the outstanding Silver Lake Farms C.S.A. I belong to, I had a smallish bunch of young collard greens in the crisper and a tempting bunch of purple Russian Kale, and the desire for something warming in my toes. I had glanced up at the teetering stack of aging issues of Saveur magazine piled on top of my old wood filing cabinet, when I spied a spine that promised recipes for collard greens. Flipping through, I discovered a recipe from Brazilian food-blogger Neide Rigo unlike any I had tried before. Sopa de Fubá, a robust Brazilian soup of collard greens, cornmeal and kielbasa sausage, looked to be just what I craved.
I luckily found myself in the Fairfax district later that day so a visit to the seriously lovely ladies of the Lindy & Grundy butcher shop was in order. I picked up a few gorgeous plump kielbasa that turned a wonderful soup into a knock-out. Spicy!
Always the skeptic, I had doubts about the lack of garlic or onions, the absence of any spices or herbs, and the apparent watery quality of the soup during the early stages of cooking (it didn't look like the picture in the magazine!). The recipe is really quite simple. The main ingredients are cornmeal, kielbasa, chicken stock, collard greens, eggs, and a garnish of green onions. I was stumped as to how this was going to evolve into something marvelous.
The trick is toasting the cornmeal. This results in a richer flavor for the soup and perfumes the house with a toasty sweetness. The other thing to remember is the intense flavor of the kielbasa sausage. You don't need any spices competing with the boldness of kielbasa.
I've never made a soup with cornmeal. I expected the soup to thicken up markedly, but when you are using only half a cup of cornmeal to seven cups of chicken stock, this clearly isn't going to happen. It's actually the two lightly beaten eggs that provide most of the body to the Sopa de Fubá. And there's plenty of body at that. The soup is hearty and thick, laced with the green collards (I used half kale and half collards, contentedly), and peppered with spicy chunks of sausage. The flavor is powerfully delicious. Just be sure to taste before you salt!
A few notes. The cornmeal I used took only thirty minutes to become tender, so be sure to taste along the way. Also the greens took closer to ten minutes to wilt. This will depend on the size and age of your greens.
The recipe suggests that it will feed six. Perhaps. As a first course, you'd be fine serving six. I served this as an entrée with a salad and loaf of crusty bread to a hungry man and a very hungry pregnant woman (me!) with only enough left for one. I was wary of reheating the soup, but was pleasantly surprised by how good the soup tasted a few days later.
Sopa De Fubá - Collard Greens, Cornmeal, and Sausage Soup
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 ounces kielbasa sausage, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices
7 cups chicken stock
4 ounces collard greens, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Heat the cornmeal in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat and cook, swirling pan constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer cornmeal to a bowl; set aside. Heat oil in skillet and add sausages; cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Bring chicken stock to a boil in a 6-quart pot over high heat. Whisk in reserved cornmeal, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking often, until cornmeal is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in reserved sausages and collards and cook, stirring occasionally, until collards wilt, 15 minutes. Place eggs in a medium bowl and add 1 cup cornmeal mixture; whisk until smooth. Return mixture to pot and stir until incorporated; cook for 1 minute more and season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with scallions; serve hot.