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?