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Hobbit Soup
- by Miranduviel

Disclaimer: Even though this is called 'Hobbit Soup,' no Hobbits were injured in its preparation, unless they burned their fingers frying the sausages!

Basic ingredients, meat-eater's version:
(alternate vegetarian version, below)

2 large onions, white or yellow;

14 or 16 oz. pkg. of Polish-style kielbasii cocktail wieners;

2 cans 14.5 oz. lo-salt, lo-fat chicken broth, or 1 can 28 or 29 oz

6 or 8 qt. stockpot.

14 or 16 oz. bag, can, or jar of sauerkraut;

sprinklings of dill weed, tarragon, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

13 oz. can of mushroom pieces, drained;

drizzle of olive oil for bottom of stockpot;

Additional ingredients, "parties of special magnificence" version:

15 oz. can baby potatoes, drained;

12 oz. can or jar baby carrots, drained;

15 oz. can or jar baby corn, drained;

Vegetarian version:

Substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth; Substitute non-meat breakfast links for kielbasii wieners;

Preparation instructions:

Do NOT steal your vegetables from Farmer Maggot's garden! This is a 'cheater' soup, made with mostly canned ingredients you can keep on hand for a nearly instant soup when friends come over to play "Lord of the Rings" Trivial Pursuit with you!

Drizzle 2 to 4 Tbsp olive oil in bottom of stockpot and set on lo-medium heat. Peel 2 onions, cut lengthwise, slice across (getting half-rounds); put onions into stockpot to saute, separate individual strings as the wilt.

Open the package of kielbasii cocktail wieners (the brand I use is Hillshire Farms' Lite Li'l Smokies), rinse them in cold water, pat dry with paper towels (put them in a towel-lined bowl so they don't roll around on the counter), then slice them lengthwise and add to the sauteing onions.

As soon as the onions are wilted and limp, but not beginning to caramelize, add the sauerkraut; you may drain or not, depending on whether you like the salty-sour taste of kraut or not.

Add the herbs now. Note--I use dried herbs and just sprinkle them right onto the sauerkraut and fold everything once; use less of everything if using fresh herbs. Use less dried sage than the other herbs--sage is the herb that makes turkey stuffing mix smell so distinctly, well, turkey. Rosemary is a tricky herb to use because of its pine needle-like shape; if using dried rosemary, add to onions and olive oil so the needles soften up to release their oil. I dislike adding caraway and dill seeds, but do if I am having a "party of special magnificence," but I grind them in a mortar and pestle, adding them to the olive oil and onions.

Add the chicken broth (or vegetable broth if making this for our favorite wizard), turning the heat up to medium.

If you're preparing the basic version, drain and add the mushrooms, stir with a large mixing or stock spoon to get everything mixed, put the lid on, and let it bubble away for 10 minutes, stirring once to keep stuff from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

If preparing the "parties of special magnificence" version, after adding the mushrooms, drain and add the baby carrots, stir them in carefully so as not to break them; drain the baby potatoes (I like the peeled ones, but you can get the skin-on type) and cut them in half lengthwise and add. Drain the baby corn; I use the type I can find in the Oriental food section of my supermarket; They're usually 4 to 6 inches long, though, so cut the little ears in thirds, then add to the pot.

Get a spoon and take a sip of the broth; if you're not pleased with the seasoning, adjust it now. Unlike Sam, who cherished his little box of Shire salt, I feel there's enough salt in the sauerkraut, so I don't need to add more; you can also use regular chicken or vegetable broth, instead of low-salt, low-fat versions. After adjusting the seasoning, stir everything carefully, put the lid on, and let it bubble away for 15 minutes, stirring twice to keep stuff from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Note the change in time! Additional time is needed to heat all the additional ingredients.

If preparing the vegetarian version, use your favorite non-meat breakfast link or non-sausage mix; for those of you who aren't familiar with these foods, they're made with dehydrated vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, and spices to imitate the appearance and taste of meat; it is the taste of the meat that is most important here, unless you do not miss it--your choice to add or not. I would advise adding all the vegetables ("parties" version) for their nutritional value.

This is best served with a dark, country-style bread, like rye, pumpernickel, whole wheat, or multi-grain (piping hot out of the oven if you can manage it), or a pre-buttered garlic bread that doesn't take as long if you're pressed for time. This recipe will feed four hungry hobbits two servings each, or eight normal persons one serving each. The soup also 'ages' well, and leftovers the next day are just as good, if not better. Ideal beverages are apple juice or cider, ciderjack, ale, or beer for adults, or any good German Oktoberfest-type wine.

The original idea for this recipe came from a leftover half of kielbasa and a half-container of sauerkraut in the fridge; I was watching FOTR and the lightbulb went on during the scene where Sam and Frodo meet Merry and Pippin in Farmer Maggot's cornfield. I had the cans of chicken broth and sliced mushrooms on hand; I peeled off the casing and sliced the half of kielbasa to make smaller pieces of meat (so it would look like more! Also the reason for slicing the wieners in half.).

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