There is something about the month of November that I love. It is a quiet month of sorts. It is a busy month but an entirely different sort of busyness than that of October. October beckoned us to hop in the car almost every weekend and race against time to delight in everything seasonal unwrapping the gift of fall foliage color sensations that New Hampshire rightly holds dear. From the few highways that run through this state to the one lane winding country dirt roads, the soft sweet October scenes are as comforting and spectacular as that first bite into a pillowy warm cinnamon laced apple cider donut or the feel of a newly rediscovered favorite plaid scarf snuggly wrapped around your neck.
But, then all this is followed by lovely November. Quiet subtle November…with the bright coral, red, and yellow leaves blown off by the big bold November winds and the somber rich tones of sage, dark chocolate, and smokey grey cloaking the landscape anew as it edges in to center stage. Farm stand visits for the last of the late summer produce wind down until finally the quaint ramshackle stands are shuttered for the season. The last of the apples and pears have been picked, chopped, simmered on the stove top, and poured into little glass jars to become like capped jewels …waiting to be taken out one by one during the long winter months ahead to flavor scones, muffins, or thick slices of plain ‘ol toast. November brings a closing satisfaction of feeling so fortunate to have enjoyed another round of fall foliage up here in the northeast. And then, with November now present, the realization hits. After all that October play, November chores abound around this old rambling farmhouse. Winter is a’comin…as the saying goes. But, we are ready for those November chores that were pushed aside during the hustle and bustle of October.
The time…just seems right. Time to get to work.
The sounds of November could be described as harsh…but I don’t mean harsh in a negative way. The sounds of November are harsh because all of the work entailed results in a satisfying word like “complete”. But the chores take muscle and muscle takes loud harsh machines at times. We tidy the recently dumped pile of wood and get it stacked neatly and within arms reach during the freezing winter months when each chunk of wood means warmth inside. We ready the wood piles. There are loud chopping sounds and thumping thudding sounds as the wood flies through the air and gets moved, stacked, thrown and jostled into place. This year, November is stretching out like a big wide yawn giving us seemingly endless beautiful days, even though all the while, eyes are on the sky looking for that steely grey brightness that accompanies the first veiling of snowfall.
And then there is the next harsh sound…Patrick’s new chain saw. You’d think it was Christmas…come early. Our farmhouse sits way up on a hill. It would overlook our sweet little pond down below, just across from the tumbling Warner River, if a slew of trees hadn’t grown over the years to now obstruct the pond view. We have a handful of old tattered black and white photos from about 100 years ago showing the farmhouse, sitting up on its granite studded hill, overlooking the sparkling little pond below. In those old photos, the pond is in full view from the back porch of the farmhouse without the small forest of trees blocking it. We imagine, during the fall months, children that lived here might have tumbled down that hill in the fall rolling in the leaves to end up at the bottom where a canoe or two was tied up and ready to take them for an adventurous paddle around the pond. Or, in winter, those little children from long ago, might have hopped on their wooden sleds, slid down the hill in a spray of snow ready at the bottom to tighten on their ice skates and glide back and forth across the little pond creating a sweet post card winter scene.
So the chopping, cutting, and sawing sounds of Patrick’s brand new shiny chain saw have provided the playlist for our cold and crisp November days. I have my own November chores cut out as there’s the fruit orchard to prune with their scraggly branches to cut and stack to be used as kindling for the fire. Speaking of fires, chimneys have to be cleaned, gardens tidied for the winter, herbs snipped to be dried, and my gladiola and hollyhock bulbs to dig up from the earth. Sore muscles and aches accompany these wonderfully crisp days filled with hard work. At the end of the day, there is always the promise of a hot oil bath in one of our old claw footed tubs left in the house by previous owners followed by a never ending rotation of steaming bowls of hot soups, chilis, gumbos, and chowders. This week…roasted root vegetable chicken soup. Soup for the soul…and aching muscles of November.
- 3 to 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 quart Roasted Winter Vegetables, recipe below
- ½ Roast Chicken mix of white and dark meat (or as much as desired)
- ½ c Any pasta on hand (optional). I had some Gemelli pasta
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Roasted Winter Vegetables:
- 1 pound carrots, peeled
- (optional) I threw in a chopped onion
- 1 pound parsnips, peeled
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled
- 1 small butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and seeded
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Brioche Croutons (optional):
- 6 ounces brioche loaf or challah
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large saucepan, heat 3 cups of chicken stock. Coarsely puree the Roasted Winter Vegetables and the chicken stock with a handheld blender). Pour the soup back into the pot and season, to taste. Add shredded pieces of roasted chicken and any pasta you like. Thin with more chicken stock and reheat. The soup should be thick but not like a vegetable puree, so add more chicken stock and/or water until it's the consistency you like.
- Serve with Brioche Croutons and a drizzle of good olive oil.
- Roasted Winter Vegetables:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Cut the carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, and butternut squash in 1 to 1¼-inch cubes. All the vegetables will shrink while baking, so don't cut them too small. Add the vegetables to a large bowl, drizzle them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix gently.
- Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer on 2 sheet pans. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender, turning once with a metal spatula.
- Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste, and serve hot.
- Brioche Croutons: Heat oven to 350˚F
- Slice the bread about ¾-inch thick. Cut off the crusts and then cut the slices in ¾-inch dice. You should have 3 to 4 cups of croutons.
- Place the croutons in a large bowl and gently toss them with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour them onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing once, until they're nicely browned on all sides. Cool to room temperature before using and store in a sealed plastic bag.