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From the SCCC Kitchen: Simmer Memories

From the SCCC Kitchen: Simmer Memories

The beer was always cold at Earl Wixted’s place. And the soup was always hot. Earl’s son David J. Wi
From the SCCC Kitchen: Simmer Memories
This is the B&amp;D Tavern, which was at the corner of Central Avenue and William Street in Mechanicville.

“From the SCCC Kitchen” offers Daily Gazette readers tastes from Schenectady County Community College’s nationally accredited American Culinary Federation culinary arts program. Today, assistant professor David J. Wixted offers three soup recipes from his family’s former business — the B & D Tavern in Mechanicville.

The beer was always cold at Earl Wixted’s place.

And the soup was always hot.

Earl’s son David J. Wixted used to make hearty broths for the family business, the B & D Tavern on Central Avenue at William Street in Mechanicville. Beef barley, Manhattan clam chowder and sausage, white bean, spinach and tortellini soup were among his favorites.

“All three we used at the bar all the time,” said Wixted, a professor at Schenectady County Community College’s department of hotel, culinary arts and tourism. “We’re bringing them back for the paper.”

Earl Wixted and his wife, Antonette, ran the neighborhood bar from 1974 until 1996. “It was ‘Cheers’ with food,” said David Wixted. “Everybody knew your name, and in Mechanicville, it was nicknames. There were some people I never knew their real names; I just knew their nicknames.”

Wixted said visitors to the B & D received good value, food and drink for their money. It was not a ritzy place. “We catered to the blue collar,” he said. “That’s what we were all about.”

After the Wixteds left the business during the late 1990s, another owner kept the bar open. But it didn’t last. The building eventually was torn down; it is now a parking lot for Joe’s Cycle Repair.

Memories survive, like the soup recipes.

Beef barley

The first soup course from the B&D is the beef barley. Wixted believes barley can be forgotten by home chefs and says those who use barley in beef soups should always remember red wine. Wixted said before people prepare components such as carrots, garlic, celery stalks and onions, they should dice their stew beef and give it a good soak in four ounces of red wine. “What the red wine does is breaks down the beef and makes it a little bit more tender,” Wixted said. “And it will pick up a little wine flavor.”

Forty minutes will be enough for the marination. Just over an hour’s simmer time on the stove will complete the soup.

“You can serve this with bread and butter on the side,” Wixted said. “You can really make a meal out of it.”

Chowder choices

When making clam chowders, home chefs should know the difference between Manhattan and New England versions. Manhattan shows up red, thanks to the tomato base. New England chowders are cream-based and will always be white.

And like the B & D’s beef barley soup, the clam chowder includes carrots, garlic and celery. Frozen peas and potatoes are also part of the mix.

Wixted uses three cans of clams in his recipe. “I’m not throwing that juice away,” he said of the fluid that helps preserve the seafood. “It’s going right into my soup.”

Chowder was popular at the tavern, especially during Lent, when Roman Catholics would eliminate meat from their diets on Ash Wednesday and Fridays. Even after Lent was over, chowder made regular appearances on the B & D menu. “People would look for it,” he said. “That’s just the way it was.”

People who have never tried clam chowder shouldn’t worry about a strong fish taste in the soup. Wixted said the vegetables in the stock pot are other flavors to consider. All chowder rookies have to do is try the soup.

“When I was making the soups at home, my son Matthew wanted to try them,” Wixted said. “He’d never had clam chowder before in his life, but he had two bowls. And he said he liked this one the best.”

Cinderella soup

The sausage, white bean, spinach and tortellini number was kind of the Cinderella in the B & D soup parade. It was never designed as a masterpiece; it started out as a way to clean out the cooler at the end of the week. One week, Wixted had to find a way to get leftover or surplus sausage, beans, spinach and tortellini back on the menu.

Vegetables used in the recipe — more carrots, celery, onions, garlic and tomatoes — are sautéd in the fat rendered by the cooked sausage. They pick up sausage flavor and give the soup an extra meaty flavor.

Hot sausage is another option.

“If you like a little bit more flavor, you can kick it up,” Wixted said.

He added that the recipe requires a little diligence. During the hour-plus simmer, fat will rise to the top and must be skimmed.

All three B & D soups bring more than flavor to home kitchens. Wixted said the soups — like all homemade soups — will fill the house with pleasant smells.

“The aromas that come off are awesome,” he said. “They’re in the whole house. It’s a nice, warm feeling, too.”

BEEF BARLEY SOUP

1 to 1 1⁄4 pounds stew beef, small dice

Garlic powder, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

8 ounces red wine

3 to 4 carrots, medium dice

3 to 4 celery stalks, medium dice

1 large onion, medium dice

3 to 4 garlic cloves, medium dice

3 quarts beef stock

1 can (10 1⁄2 ounces) of beef consommé

1 teaspoon beef base

2 cups beef stock

1 cup quick cook barley

Dice beef, season with the garlic and onion powder. Add 1⁄2 of the wine and marinate until all the prep work is done.

In a 6-quart stock pot, add the beef and sauté until browned, about 10-12 minutes. Then remove and set aside.

Add carrots and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add celery and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add 3 quarts beef stock, consommé, beef base, and the rest of the wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes.

As the soup simmers, place 2 cups of beef stock in a separate pot. Bring the beef stock to a boil, add barley, cover, reduce heat and cook about 10 to 12 minutes, until stock is absorbed.

After done simmering, add the barley to the soup and simmer another 10 minutes.

Serve immediately.

MANHATTAN CLAM CHOWDER

2 ounces olive oil

2 to 3 carrots, medium dice

3 to 4 celery stalks, medium dice

4 1⁄2 cloves garlic, fine dice

1 can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes

3 quarts seafood stock

1 teaspoon seafood base

3 cans (6 1⁄2 ounces) chopped clams

1 package frozen peas

2 to 3 potatoes, small dice

In a 6-quart stock pot add oil and heat for about 2 minutes. Add carrots and sauté about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add celery and garlic and sauté about 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add stock and base, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Add clams with the juice from the cans and simmer about 15 minutes.

Add peas and simmer about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

SAUSAGE, WHITE BEAN, SPINACH AND TOTELLINI SOUP

1 to 1 1⁄4 pounds loose sweet sausage

2 to 3 carrots, medium dice

3 to 4 celery stalks, medium dice

3 to 4 garlic cloves, diced

1 large onion, medium dice

1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes

3 quarts chicken stock

1 teaspoon chicken base

1 teaspoon chicken base

Garlic power, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

1 package tri-color tortellini

2 cans (14 ounces) white beans

1 package (10 ounces) fresh spinach

Olive oil, to taste

Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a 6-quart stock pot, place sausage in pot and sauté about 15 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove and set aside.

In the same stock pot, add carrots and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add celery and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add garlic and onions and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Return sausage and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add chicken stock, chicken base, garlic powder and onion powder, bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

During simmering time, cook tortellini according to package directions. After draining, add a little olive oil to coat tortellini to prevent sticking.

Drain beans and add to soup. Simmer about 10 minutes.

Wash and spin spinach, add to soup and simmer about 10 minutes.

To serve soup: Place about 5 to 6 tortellinis in a bowl. Ladle the soup over the tortellinis. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Note: If you like a little spice, you can substitute hot sausage for sweet sausage.

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