I returned a couple of days ago from a particularly tiring and trying holiday week. There was not much in the way of food left that I didn't have to throw away. I did manage to toss a few things in the freezer before I left, and it was from this small amount of food, along with the usual staples from which I decided to create today's lunch. (Note: Photos are all cell phone pics, so they're a little blurry and the color's a little weird in some of them).

I spent the morning of New Year's Day at IKEA, buying some new book and DVD shelves, plus a wine rack, which I have been assembling and filling. I didn't want to have to leave the house for anything during the day. Thus was the requirement set: Lunch must be from the random ingredients left from before the trip.

A quick look around and I determined that I would need to use the chicken thighs that I pulled from the freezer last night. They were left over from the Thai Green Curry I made before I left. I used half the package and froze the rest. I recently purchased James Peterson's Splendid Soups, and I've been leafing through it. Inspired by my readings, I decided to attempt a Chicken and Sausage soup, using the leftover chicken, some Cajun sausage I had in the fridge, and two of the four good carrots left in the crisper drawer. I also had a large quantity of leftover rice, so I decided to make a soup to be served over rice, like a gumbo. However, as I'm up from my usual 20 pounds overweight to about 50, I did not want to make a roux. To solve the problem of how to darken up the soup, and replace the flavor of a dark roux, I decided to brown some onions to use as a base with the stock.

I started, as always, with prep. I sliced the chicken thighs into thin strips, across the grain, chopped the two carrots, sliced two of the Cajun sausages (now the pack's open, I have to find something to do with three more in the next couple of days), sliced two onions into 1/2 inch or so thick slices and sliced up two cloves of garlic.

With my ingredients at the ready, it was time to begin cooking. First, I heated a saucier and added a very small (about 1 tsp) amount of olive oil. Just enough to coat the pan, really. to this, I added the sausage. I browned all the slices for a couple of minutes on each side, rendering out much of the fat, then removed to a paper towel covered plate.

Then, I added the onions to the fat left in the pan from the sausage, stirring every couple of minutes to keep them from burning.

It soon occurred to me that I was going to have to deglaze the pan to get the onions as dark as I wanted to without burning the fond on the bottom of the pan. I added a small amount of stock three or four times and scraped the fond from the bottom of the pan, then left the onions to continue to brown.

With the onions nice and dark, I added the carrots and garlic and cooked for a couple of minutes.

Next, I added three cups of chicken stock from the freezer. This wasn't quite as much as I wanted, so I added a cup of vegetable stock I had in the refrigerator, which not only made up the amount I wanted, but added some complexity to the broth.

I simmered the stock and carrots, skimming off any fat and foam that rose to the top. After about 30 minutes, I added the chicken. The chicken, being sliced so thin, cooked quickly.

I wanted a spicy soup, and while I knew the Cajun sausage would add some, it was not quite as much as I wanted. So, I pulled out the Vietnamese chili garlic sauce and began adding it to the broth in small amounts. I ended up adding three tablespoons.

Once I had the spiciness level I wanted, it was time to add the sausage and the finishing ingredients: a little butter (about 2 tablespoons) and a 1/2 cup of dry sherry.

I cooked the soup for about another five minutes.

While the soup was simmering, I put some of the leftover rice in a bowl and put it in the microwave for a minute.

The finished soup.

I ladled some of the soup and over the rice and served.

The Verdict: The soup came out very well, particularly for being whipped up from what I had kicking around. The biggest thing that would have improved it would have been to use a nice medium grain rice like Valencia instead of leftover long grain. That will be the biggest change if I make this again, which I most likely will as it was quite enjoyable and not particularly difficult to make.