Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 71 - Chicken Soup with Spring Vegetables and Leek Frisée

After a wonderful, long weekend in Santa Fe with FNBF, I awoke with a sore throat, which deepened to a full-blown cold by the time I got on the plane. 3000 tissues later, I got back to my apartment late on Tuesday, where I've been holed up ever since, only leaving long enough to get the ingredients for this remedy recipe. I had plans with my cousin Harriet tonight, but I didn't want to cancel because seeing Harriet always makes me feel better. So I invited her over for soup.

Chicken Soup with Spring Vegetables (p. 45)

This is a variation on the basic Chicken Soup recipe. Funny that I've done the variations first, without having done the main recipe, the other variation being Matzo Ball Soup.

Harriet is a Reiki healer, the president of her synagogue, and a domestic goddess from East Brunswick, NJ, and she has made her share of chicken soups. She's always subscribed to the belief that to cook a successful chicken soup, one must boil for hours and hours. She's curious to try the sparkly Martha soup, simmered for merely a fraction of the time. She's skeptical, so I'm intent on doing Martha proud.

The recipe is very straightforward - it's the old standards: carrot, onion, celery, parsnip, parsley, etc. However, this time, instead of putting in fresh carrot and parsnips at the end, you put in a different array of veggies, specifically peas, green beans, and watercress.

I made a couple of small changes to Martha's recipe. It seems as if she intends for you to either discard or save the back of the chicken, but I added it to the pot. Also, my understanding is that this variation is to be served without adding the cooked chicken, but I wanted that chicken in there, so I put it in.

Because my taste buds are out of whack with this cold, I had to trust Harriet that it tasted good, because I knew I was only tasting a fraction of its flavor. Harriet loved it! She said that she could understand my description of this soup as "sparkly," how fresh it tasted. I think that because there was no extra added carrot at the end, as in the Matzo Ball Soup, this broth didn't end up as sweet as the Matzo Ball Soup broth did. The peas and beans and watercress gave it a very specific flavor, which was delicious, but not as sweet and sparkly as I remember the Matzo Ball Soup being. Harriet and I were fascinated how the heat of the soup tamed the watercress. We were expecting its bitterness to overwhelm, but it didn't at all.

The only thing I missed in this soup was color. It was all green and beige. I think some carrots would have gone a long way....

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Leek Frisée (p. 75)

Here's another one of Martha's soup add-ons. This was the only one that seemed like a decent match for this soup.

I had a bit of a disaster while trying to make this. I got the oil all hot (300°) in a small saucepan, just like Martha said, but when I put a handful of julienned leeks in there, the oil basically exploded, bubbling over the top of the pot and spilling all over my range. Not a small amount, roughly a cup of oil, lying in the well around the burners. Ugh. So I cleaned that up and tried again.

I think my leek explosion happened because the leeks I added were still a little wet, so it was probably the water in there that reacted to the hot oil. I dried the rest of the leeks, and the oil behaved after that. It still bubbled up when I put the leeks in, but not as much. Also, the oil line was much lower at that point, so less likely to overflow.

These didn't drain that well on paper, so they ended up somewhat oily. They sort of reminded me of Durkee's Fried Onions, only more refined. When added to the soup, they softened up and disappeared in the broth. There was nothing lost by adding them, but I'm not sure there was anything gained.

I have a feeling this would be better paired with a soup that has more body, like a pureed soup. If added to that kind of soup, the leek frisée would sit on top as an interesting texture, retaining some of its crunch, unlike here, where they got soggy immediately.

Probably won't try this again. I hate frying.

Jeff: B (For the Exxon Valdez moment)
Martha: A

Until we eat again....

My Cousin Harriet, first Kazouist of the East Brunswick Orchestra, with the soup and the leek frisée

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