My husband and I got married five years ago this month. On my bachelorette weekend, friends, seeking to figure out just how well I knew this man, had orchestrated a questionnaire à la The Newlyweds game show. My husband had answered the questions in advance and as we prepared to go out on Saturday night, it was my job to give the same answers. The more answers that matched-up, the better suited we were for each other.
Aside from the fact that the game was played (and I did not do very well), I don’t remember many of the questions from that evening with one exception. When asked what my greatest fear was, my husband had answered that it was leaving the coffeemaker on. And there it was. For all my protestations that my fears were of a higher nature, I couldn’t deny that what causes me the most anxiety in life is being able to remember whether I unplugged a household appliance before leaving our home.
I made this classic French stew back in December. My parents and grandmother were coming into town and I wanted to make a special dinner to celebrate the occasion. I also had to work the day that they were coming for dinner and as such, didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.
Bouillabaisse fit the bill. I spent a little over an hour on the fish stock and broth the day before and on Saturday night, while everyone sipped cocktails, chunks of fish, jumbo scallops, tiny clams, juicy shrimp, and lobster went into the pot to cook. A memorable and delicious dinner was ready in minutes.
After a week of overcast days and dismal weather, today blue skies and a warm sun are making me want to put on shorts and eat ice cream. A steaming bowl of belly warming, cream of broccoli soup couldn’t be further from my mind. Unfortunately, that bowl of soup is exactly what I whipped up this morning for a segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today show. Let it be known that I’ve never claimed to have good timing.
Raise your right hand. Now repeat after me. ”I do solemnly swear…that if I…decide to make this soup…I promise to make it…with the pesto.” Do we have an understanding? Good. We can move on.
Brrrrrr! While we don’t have snow, it’s pretty darn cold in Charlotte today. The temperature is just above freezing and I’ve spent the day in woolly socks and a bulky sweater. Our dog, Lady, has been my only impetus to go outside and I’ve consumed far too many cups of peppermint tea. In short, it’s soup weather.
My friend Jon requested a soup recipe from Minced last week and I had plans to make a hearty chili or an elegant bisque today. However that would require going to the grocery store and frankly I would prefer to stay inside. Thankfully, I remembered my mother’s recipe for French Soup that was one of my favorites growing up.
Call me tacky, but all I wanted to make for Valentine’s day was a red soup that could be garnished with a heart made from cream. A soup like this, I thought to myself, would be the ultimate culinary expression of my love. Borscht, the soup made from fresh beets that originated in Russia and Poland, is red and thus became my soup of choice. This despite the fact that my special valentine hates beets and would not be compelled to eat them just because I used them in a soup that was cute and holiday-appropriate.
When it begins to get cool, I fall in love with cooking again. It happens every year around this time. I love the bounty of summer for its delicious flavors that require a minimum of preparation. However, it’s autumn, with its shorter days, cooler temperatures, and changing leaves, that makes me want to cook. In the summer, cooking means slicing a ripe tomato and sprinkling it with salt. In the fall, the heat from the stove is no longer my nemesis and I look forward to filling my house with the smell of food simmering, roasting, and braising.
A week or two ago, I saw a display of pie pumpkins at my local grocery store and couldn’t help but pick one up. The orange globe sat on my counter as I impatiently waited for a day cool enough to make my first soup of the fall.
When I cook, I’m afraid of being creative. Sure I substitute ingredients or leave something out, but the idea of cooking from scratch leaves me trembling. What if it turns out terrible?
Fortunately, the more I cook, the more I try to go out on a limb and make something from nothing. My confidence is thankful that these forays usually result in something good and as a result, I’ve kept at it.
I’ve found that one of the easiest things to make from scratch is soup. It’s also a great way to use up ingredients which is what I set out to do this weekend. Continue reading
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With temperatures below freezing and still some snow on the ground, I’m dreaming of consomme. Who cares if it is not even 8 a.m.! You have to give credit to a soup that can look so simple yet makes you feel like royalty. This is not a soup that you feed to someone with the sniffles. This is a soup that you present as a gift. It’s laborious to make and love makes the whole process a little more enjoyable.
Your time, precious as it is, is the primary ingredient of this soup. First you make a stock. I made a roasted beef stock and let it simmer for close to 8 hours before straining it and storing it in the fridge. You can make the consomme immediately after finishing the stock, but I prefer to let it sit overnight and come back to it fresh the next day.
After making the stock, the next step is to prepare the ingredients that will be added to the stock. These ingredients will serve two purposes. They will clarify the stock and remove impurities and they will add flavor to it. Finely chop two medium onions, 1 stalk of celery, and 1 carrot. Prepare 1 tomato concasse. I mix these ingredients with 1 lb of ground beef and about 5 egg whites. I even crush up the egg shells and add them to the mix. Next step is to combine these ingredients with your stock. I use approximately 2 quarts of stock when making my consomme.
Combine the stock and ingredients in a large enough pot and put over med-low heat. The stock should be at room temp or colder when put on the stove. Stir gently and continue stirring until the mixture comes to a simmer (this may take up to 20 minutes). As soon as the mixture begins to simmer, stop stirring and let the soup simmer gently for one hour. What’s happening at this point? The ingredients you added are adding flavor and the albumin from the egg shells and egg whites are bringing impurities to the top. As it simmers, you’ll notice that the ingredients have floated to the top of your soup and have formed a raft. This is what you want to happen, so don’t try and break it up with your spoon.
At the end of the hour, gently ladle the broth out of the pot and strain the liquid through wet cheesecloth into a separate container. When ladling the broth, do your best not to disturb the raft. Notice anything different? Your beef stock should have gone from cloudy in color to a brillant, translucent gold. Now, ladle up some broth, garnish your soup with finely diced tomato concasse or carrots, and serve it to someone you love.