Spoonin' some slurpy stuff about the world's drippiest drool

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Fisherman's Soup. You gotta think like a fisherman to do this soup justice. Use fresh ingredients. Keep it simple - it should be about the fish. I like James Peterson's recipe for this soup.

Start building a flavorful liquid. Onions, garlic, white wine, fresh herbs. If you're cooking bivalves do it now, them pull them out but keep all the cooking juices in the pot.

Pick a liquid. Peterson says fish stock, chicken broth or water, absolutely no clam juice. Cooks Illustrated says fish stock or water with clam juice but no chicken broth. I say no fisherman is cooking his fresh caught fish in chicken broth, and clam juice is too one dimensional and strong. I went with fish stock, but frankly with all the flavor and cooking juices, water would be fine.

If you are using lobster or crab, steam them separately, but be sure to capture all the internal cooking liquid in the soup pot as well a the shells. The meat will go in at the end.

So what flavors the liquid? Shells, fish heads whatever is from the seafood you will be cooking. Simmer it all till it smells fabulous - about 30 minutes.

How could something this ugly end up tasting so good?

Next add tomatoes. I'm guessing if there weren't tomatoes available the fisherman would use whatever veggies were available - soup is a great way to use up vegetables! I like the tomatoes because they add a bit of acid to the flavor - gives it more dimension and strength. I suppose lemon would work too, but it would be a much different soup. The tomatoes add a lovely color too.

Now that you have a delicious broth, you can cook the fish and seafood. Start with what takes the longest, adding the bivalves and
any other cooked seafood at the end. Finally, turn off the heat, add salt and pepper as needed and whisk in some fresh flat leaf parsley. And don't forget the crusty bread!

Incidentally, hard crusted bread is the rough translation of my husband's family name. Hmmm...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lunch with my Honey - Pho sure. Pho 75 is a fabulous Vietnemese soup restaurant in Rockville, MD. Long tables, capable of seating multiple groupings, sparse decoration and CASH ONLY. The place is packed, so it must be about the soup.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

French Onion Soup

Gooey, tangy cheese, melted over carmelized onions, a generous dose of sherry, rich broth and french baguette - this may be my desert island food.

Not a soup to make if you are in a hurry. I started with Cooks Illustrated (a favorite source for recipes because every step and ingredient choice is analyzed).

Step one - carmelize your onions - I did this by putting about 4lbs of sliced onions in the oven at 400 degrees with about 3 - 4 Tbsp of butter and a tsp of salt. The oven works better than the stovetop - you can stir the onions every hour or so (and scrape the bottom and sides of the pot) instead of constantly stirring and adjusting the flame, you will get more flavor out of the onions this way too. By the way, caramelization is the oxidation of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color.

The process took about 2 3/4 hours. The result are rich brown onions in a fabulous, slightly thickened, caramel colored juice.

Once the onions have carmelized, you can cook them on the stove for about 20 min over medium -high/medium (keep and on eye how fast the liquid evaporates) heat. Keep cooking it until you evaporate the liquid, making the onions even yummier and browner, and forming a wonderful dark, brown crust.

Using water, 1/4 cup at a time, deglaze the pan. Pour in the first 1/4 cup - scrape the crust off the bottom and sides. Don't worry - it probably won't all come off the first tiime. It took me 3 goes with the water to get all the crust back into the onions.

Now it is time for the sherry. Just like cooking with wine, if you wouldn't want to drink it, you shouldn't cook with it. I added 1/2 Cup. Cook off the alcohol - about 5 minutes. Next add in about 6-8 cups of liquid. Recipes I have seen use some combination of chicken and beef broth - the more beef, the richer and browner the soup - but if you are using store bought beef stock, I would say go 50 -50 - you can even add water for the last two cups - that way you don't lose the flavor of the onions. For my soup I used 4 C homemade brown chicken stock, 2 Cups store bought beef stock (I ran out of homemade) and 2 C of water.

I add fresh thyme - 6 healthy sprigs - I like the flavor of thyme in this soup, 1 bay leaf and salt to taste. Make sure all the crust is scraped off the sides and bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Toss the herbs add salt and pepper to taste - go slow with the S & P - too much of either can really throw off the balance - keep tasting until it is right.

Now for the fun part. Figure 2 slices of baguette per bowl - toast the baguette slices (or bake at 400 deg for about 10 minutes until crisp).

Fill individual broiler safe bowls with about 12 oz of soup, top with two baguette slices and sprinkle with shredded Gruyere. Cover the bread evenly - at least one ounce of cheese per bowl. Broil for about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbly add nicely browned. Let the bowls stand for a few minutes and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Yook Ke Jang Korean Spicy Beef and Scallion soup

Cold days and warm, spicy soup are a great combination. A good question to ask yourself when you first encounter a bowl of soup sporting an orange/red colored liquid: where did that color come from. If the answer is red chili peppers, the experience may be a good bit different, than if it is, say, from tomatoes.

On my way to class recently, I stopped at a favorite Korean restaurant - Arisu, in Georgetown, DC. I was wet and cold, so naturally I thought soup. I settled on a traditional spicy beef and scallion soup - Yook Ke Jang (in researching the soup after the fact, I found at least one other spelling Yukgaejang - but the recipe appears to be basically the same - boiled brisket (water and onion), vegetables including scallions, a Korean mountain fern (gossari) and bean sprouts, garlic and a boatload of chili powder. The soup I had, also had shiitake mushrooms and glass noodles.

The color is rich, and aroma of spice hits you well before being rounded out by the beef and vegetables. The meat was tender if a little bland - I'm not sure that isn't how it should be, however I did find a recipe that marinated the beef with a chili paste:


so, of course, I will try it and report back. I also found this wonderful step by step video:


It is about eight minutes long but will get the soup in your bowls if you follow along.

One interesting ingredient - gossari - is a mountain fern - apparently available in Korean markets. I'll report back on my findings there too. We have a local Korean market here in Rockville, MD - Kam Sam so I am hoping to find all necessary ingredients. The soup was served with rice, kim che and a pickled carrot and sprout salad - a deep spoon and chopsticks were necessary to get through this meal!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


What to do with leftover turkey? Last night I made turkey chili. It was chock full of spice and kidney beans and tomatoes and, oh yeah, as much leftover turkey as I could push into the pot. Even so, it was definitely more about the tomato and spices than the turkey - this time the protein was mainly for texture. Quite frankly, I was more than ok with that.

Since I was remiss in my duties and did not take a photo of said chili, I will move on. I have started collecting soup cookbooks as well as recipes, and thought I would mention one of my favorites. There are so many cookbooks out there - where do you start to find one that works for you. For me it was easy - I had James Peterson's "Glorious French Food" and loved his writing style. He provides clear, insightful instruction in french cooking technique, and then shows how each approach can be applied in various recipes.

"Splendid Soups - Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World's Best Soups" works the same way. A good bit of time is spent on the basics and the basis of good soup making - stock. The photographs are excellent, and he provides lots of ideas for variations. The chapters are logical, and I have yet to use one of his concepts in a recipe with negative results.

Our Thanksgiving day soup was from this book. Smoke Scented Broth with Herbs and Ravioli. Definitely a winner - ham hocks are simmered with vegetables and herbs to create a smoky, salty broth. After the soup is strained, 24 cloves of garlic are added to the broth, simmering to infuse a roasty garlic flavor. Finally, tomatoes, herbs and raviolis (I used spicy meat ravioli) are added just before serving. The result is a rich, warm, mahogany colored soup that fills the senses and definitely requires seconds.

What's your favorite soup cookbook? Why?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Beef Borscht

Great winter soup. This one hits most of the senses - the color is beautiful, the flavor has the richness of beef, garlic mixed with the sweetness of the beets and the tangyness of dill and lemon. The aroma will fill the entire house.

No real recipe is necessary here - just some basic soup making approaches -

Start with a meat base - I used beef short ribs, but I'm sure chuck or shank would work well too - I do like using meat with bones - you get the added flavor from the marrow. The key is in the browning - I used butter in a cast iron skillet and got all sides nice and brown.

Next step, start to braise the meat - I used beef broth - I imagine water would work for cost savings, but the beef broth does add richness. Especially cooking beef in it - even the store bought stock that is usually just made with bones (maybe they pass a tray of beef near it when it is cooking) will be fine because it is infused with the beef flavor. I added onion with cloves, garlic and dill for flavor and let it simmer for an hour. I used an enameled cast iron soup pot, just big enough to keep the meat totally submerged in liquid, and covered the pot.

Next came the veggies - carrots, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes and beets (I'm thinking fennel might be nice too - any root vegetables would be fine - just nothing so strong that it overpowers the beets) as well as chicken broth (I used homemade brown broth, again for richness - but store bought would work fine) and caraway seeds - make sure you have about 10 cups of liquid all told - if as its simmering it cooks down add a little more. You could probably use water - just to keep it around ten cups. I also add a bit of tomato paste because we like tomatoey soups! (One note - because I wanted the meat submerged in the last step, I had to switch pots when adding the extra ingredients - one more pot to wash, but the meat turned out really tender).

After another hour of simmering, let it cool, shred the meat and return it to the soup. Toss the cloved onion (I quartered mine for ease of removal). The best situation at this point is to put the whole deal in the fridge, let the flavors meld and easily get the congealed fat off the top. Because the meat is fatty, there will be a good bit of grease which does nothing for the soup eating experience. If you can't wait, and must have the soup right away, strain the liquid and put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Then you should be able to skim the fat off the top. A gravy skimmer will work too - I actually used both methods last night just to be sure.

Finally, when you are ready to enjoy your soup, add more fresh dill (or whatever prevalent herb you are using - I am definitely trying fennel next time instead of dill, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. You might also decide to add sugar for balance - that is a taste as you go sort of thing. I also topped the soup with sour cream.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Soup with Duck

Pumpkin apple soup with duck topping at Clyde's Restaurant in Rockville, MD. The pumpkin was pureed very smooth, the apple was diced and still fairly supple. The soup was well seasoned with a mild bite to it. All of the flavors were well balanced. Personally, I would have preferred the apple as puree also, with some diced apple as topping - the small diced pieces of apple made the consistency less pleasant.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey

18 pound turkey cooked on an infrared grill. The U shaped pan allows total circulation of the heat without direct flame. Wood chips were also used for smoking. The result - the turkey cooked in 2 hours and was extremely juicy. The skin browned fairly quickly and needed to be tented for the last 30 minutes. The turkey was basted 3 times in the 2 hour period, and was cooked at 300 degrees. The skin was rubbed with olive oil salt and pepper, and the bird was stuffed with onion, lemon, rosemary and thyme. Helpful tips - the bird was brought to room temp prior to grilling, and was patted dry inside and out prior to dressing.