It’s very cold in Michigan. Perfect weather for soup. The secret ingredient in this soup is cudighi. Cudighi is Italian sausage that originated in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Most specifically it is said to have been invented by Italian immigrants in Ishpeming Michigan which happens to be where I was born. Cudighi is made using pork butt and dry red wine, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice. The cudighi I used came from a little Co-op in my hometown of Chatham Michigan. This sausage is very versatile. It is excellent in spaghetti sauce or lasagna, formed into paddies and fried for a sandwich, mixed with ground beef for meatloaf or meat balls, as a pizza topping. Your only limits are you imagination and, of course, your ability to access cudighi in the first place. It might just be worth a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to score a few pounds. Or Vollwerths cudighi can be shipped from U.P. Foods in Lake Linden (firstname.lastname@example.org). If a trip to the UP or waiting for a sausage shipment seems like too much trouble, substitute with a good Italian sausage available closer to home.
1 pound cudighi (or Italian sausage of your choosing)
1 head of cauliflower
3-4 stalks of celery rough chopped
2-3 carrots sliced
3 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
4-5 cloves of garlic diced
2 medium russet potatoes rough chopped
1 poblano pepper seeded and rough chopped
4 cups chicken broth
4 T flour
4 T butter
2 cups half and half or whole milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
In a dutch oven cook the Cudighi over medium heat until it is no longer pink. Drain and set aside.
While the meat is browning prep all of the vegetables. Slice the leeks and soak them in water. Leeks tend to hold sand and you don’t want grit in your soup.
Wash and cut up the poblano, celery and carrots.
Peel and dice the potatoes and cut the cauliflower into flowerettes.
Once the cudighi has been browned and set aside add the carrot, celery, and leeks to the drippings and sweat the vegetables over medium heat 3-4 minutes. Add in the leeks and garlic and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. If necessary add a little olive oil.
Add the potato, cauliflower and broth to the kettle. Season with salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the kettle and cook until the vegetables are all tender, 30-40 minutes.
While the vegetables are simmering make a white sauce in a heavy sauce pan. Melt 4 T of butter and whisk in the flour over medium heat. Slowly add the milk continuing to whisk until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheese.
Once the vegetables are fork tender purée using an immersion blender. The consistency is a matter of personal taste. You can leave some chunks in the soup or purée until smooth. Once you’ve done the blending add the cheesy white sauce to your dutch oven as well as the sausage. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Stir and bring to a simmer.
Garnish with additional shredded cheese, green onions and cilantro. And homemade garlic croutons.
Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy!
NOTE: Fresh parsley or basil leaves sliced, shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese, or some chopped roasted red pepper would all make excellent garnishes for this soup. Great served with a slice of good sourdough bread that you can use to clean your bowl.
I happen to think that soups are one of those things that taste a little better the second day. We will be eating this soup for lunch tomorrow.