Tag Archives: soup

Cooking With Wood

22 Oct

Our electric oven caught on fire.

I didn’t even know this was possible.  But there I was, standing in the kitchen staring at a giant fireball in our oven which was emitting noises I have only ever heard in a sci-fi film.

I was preheating the oven so I could roast the half-dozen free oysters my fishmonger had given me (free oysters!) and then I was going to make clam chowder.  I quickly shut it off and watched the coil cool from white to blue to yellow to orange to red and then back to black.  It was obvious to me that we would not be using that stove to make dinner.  I looked around at all the perishable seafood sitting on the counter: Oysters, clams, scallops and a brick of frozen flounder.  I called to Isaac and we came to one conclusion; we still had to cook. So Isaac started a fire in the wood-burning stove and I pulled out my gorgeous, fire-engine red Emile Henry dutch oven.

With a small hesitation I set the pot down on the stove and added a few shards of bacon.  And then we waited.  Ever so faintly we heard a soft, sibilant sizzle, and then it turned into a roar.  It was working!  The bacon cooked!  Then I added leeks and garlic and potatoes and carrots and herbs, and it cooked, too! And then the clams opened and the stock came up to a boil! And then I added the frozen flounder and, well, yeah, things ground to a halt.

Head below the jump for faux Pot au Feu, how to roast oysters on the oven and more.

The Chowder Bowl

5 Feb

So, the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

If you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to figure out how they even got into what the NFL wants you to think of as “The Big Game” in the first place.

Perhaps, as a New Yorker, I’ve come to expect our teams to be mostly mediocre. The Yankees, as much as I love them, seem to have lost the come-from-behind fire that made them so exciting to watch for so many years. The Mets are always claiming to have finally procured that last player they need to become the best team ever, and then nothing happens. And then there’s the Knicks. Oh sweet mercy, the Knicks! Have you ever seen such a spectacle? They’re like a goat rodeo masquerading as a professional sports team.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

I suppose I should admit right off the bat that I’m not a football fan.

That said, I was still aware that the New England Patriots were having a “magic season.” I knew that their quarterback was dating Giselle, I knew that they had the hubris to pre-print a book about their perfect year, I knew that they were virtually guaranteed to win. Yet I had no inkling that the team from our own backyard (also known as New Jersey) was even fair to middling this year.

And so, even though it is once again “TV free February,” Isaac and I granted ourselves a special dispensation to watch the game. And Puppy Bowl, of course. And since you can’t have a Super Bowl without food, I discovered something important, something I could get behind. This game wasn’t about a perfect season, or blue-collar heroes, about pretty-boy quarterbacks or coaching dynasties.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

Oh no my friends.

This game was about chowder supremacy.

New England clam chowder vs. Manhattan clam chowder. Creamy and white vs. tomatoey and piquant. The chowder known around the world vs. the chowder maligned as the “other” chowder. The chowder kids cheer for vs. the chowder that makes kids groan.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

But, not really. In my heart, there is only one chowder. New England clam chowder forever! I’ve tried to like Manhattan clam chowder, I really have. I love tomatoes and I love clams, but Manhattan clam chowder I do not love. It’s not a chowder. Chowders have cream and butter. But Isaac? Exactly the opposite. He loves Manhattan clam chowder best.

So instead of making New England clam chowder, which would have implied clandestine culinary support of the Patriots, or Manhattan clam chowder, which would have made the cook grumpy, a sure way to ruin the soup, we made Brooklyn clam chowder.

Fred loves football AND clams

What’s Brooklyn clam chowder you ask? It’s an homage to two of the greatest dishes we’ve discovered since moving to Bay Ridge.

The first is Polonica‘s cucumber soup; a simple broth, made creamy with a touch of sour cream and flavored with Polish dill pickles and tons of fresh dill. The second is a special we had once at local Italian stalwart Canedo’s; clams and mussels steamed in white wine with tons of garlic and hot, pickled cherry peppers.

Homesick Texan's Mythical Biscuits

Brooklyn clam chowder has its foundations in New England clam chowder, but the pickled peppers do give it a Manhattan chowder-esque reddish hue. I know it sounds weird to put pickles in soup, but you’ll just have to trust me on this. They add a beguiling flavor that’s very hard to put your finger on, an unexpected lightness and delicacy to a soup that can be a bit heavy.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

If I may mix my metaphors, this chowder is a real home run. Especially when served with an endless supply of Lisa’s extraordinary biscuits, a pat of Ronnybrook garlic butter and a growler of locally-brewed SixPoint beer.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

Top it all off with a Giants victory, and you’ve got the recipe for a very pleasant Sunday evening.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Brooklyn Clam Chowder.

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Sing Me Spanish Mackerel

7 Dec

Apologies to fans of the poppiest band in the world and to those who appreciate truth in advertising.

Brooklyn Heights

I am a huge (huge!) fan of the New Pornographers. After years in the music industry, listening to all my friends and co-workers babbling incessantly about them, it was Isaac who actually got me to sit down and listen to them. One go round with Twin Cinema and I was a goner. The goofy lyrics, impossibly catchy guitar hooks and Neko‘s voice are a power pop lover’s triple threat.

(Wow, looking back at that last sentence makes me realize why I failed as music writer at my college newspaper.)

Brooklyn Heights, The Promenade

Whenever I’m in a bad mood at work, I’ll switch over to my New Pornographers station on Pandora. It’s really hard to be pissed off at your co-workers when you’re chair dancing in your cubicle to songs like “Use It,” “Letter From An Occupant,” and especially, “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” It’s from this last song that I’ve borrowed the title for this post.

You see, the idea of Spanish techno is funny already. I mean, I used to like techno, a lot. American techno was okay, the Brits got it right from time to time, but it was the French and the Germans that made the good stuff. Never the Spanish.

Brooklyn Heights, The Promenade

But what’s even funnier is the idea of a song about Spanish mackerel. And when this song gets stuck in my head (which it does frequently, I’m very susceptible to ohrwurms) I tend to half-hum/half-sing it aloud, and when I do, I change the lyrics to “Sing Me Spanish Mackerel.” It tickles the hell out of me and confuses the bejezus out of anyone within ear shot. That makes it even funnier.

The point I’m trying to make is that I made a soup this weekend that makes me as happy as listening to the perfect New Pornographers song during a hellacious commute home after a long day of work. They both make me do a goofy little dance. And while the soup may be Spanish in origin, it contains no mackerel (I suppose it could, but it doesn’t). That’s where that whole truth in advertising thing comes in.

Brooklyn Heights Mews

I initially conceived of it one day late last week while relaxing on the couch with a glass of good red wine. Isaac was sitting at the computer and asked what I wanted to cook this weekend. I said I had no idea and asked him to pass me a few cookbooks for inspiration. I don’t remember which book or recipe it was that lit the soupy fire, but I started formulating a potage of sorts of squid and scallops and shrimp in a saffron-y broth, kind of like a bouillabaisse, but with a little extra something.

The very next day, while I was attempting, in vain as usual, to keep up with all the blogs I love to read (see! even if I’m not leaving comments, I’m still reading!) I stopped by Ximena’s Lobstersquad where she had posted this recipe for Cazuela. It was exactly what I was looking for. Kind of.

Cazuela

There are three main points to consider when making Cazuela, as I see it, based on Ximena’s instructions:

  1. Feel free to adapt at will based on local ingredients and seasonality.
  2. Use a sofrito (something I love doing but often forget to do).
  3. Let the fishies have their due. As Ximena says, “The veg is again a matter of taste, but keep it in the range of asparagus, artichokes, spinach, that sort of thing. Not too many, this is a Spanish dish after all, it won’t do to make it all green. “

With those points as my guiding principals, I adapted the already adapted recipe and bent it to my will.

Cazuela

And oh boy, let me tell you one thing, this soup rocks.

Isaac and I had the leftovers for dinner again last night, and there is something so special about this soup. Neither of us can put our finger on what it is though. There isn’t a single ingredient that stands up and says, “Look at me! I’m the star!” It’s the New Pornographers of soups: the tomatoes are Neko, the shellfish are A.C. Newman and the spices are Dan Bejar.

(Ugh. Once again reminded by that last sentence that I should leave the music writing to the professionals!)

It definitely benefits from a day in the fridge, but, who wants to wait. For optimal deliciousness, enjoyment and happiness; bake the perfect loaf of kneaded no-knead bread, make this soup, download Challengers and combine.

Just try to keep the chair dancing to a minimum while you’re eating. No one likes soup stains on their shirt.

Cazuela

Editor’s Note: I’d like to draw everyones attention to a comment I received yesterday from Lou at Hangar One. Some of you may remember that on our trip to San Francisco in August I was very disapointed by an attempted, and aborted, trip to visit the Hangar One distillery. Apparently someone brought this post to the Hangar One guys’ attention and they left me this nice comment yesterday.

I think it’s an incredibly classy move and I appreciate the heck out of them taking the time to write to me and explain what was going on that day.

So lets all raise a glass to Lou and his team. Thanks again guys. It means a ton to me that you took the time to write, and you can be damn sure I’ll be taking you up on your offer of a tour and a tasting when I’m next in San Fran.

And remember, anyone willing to go to Alameda (where they film a lot of Mythbusters segments I believe!) can go visit the distillery. Just make sure you go Wednesday-Saturday from 12-7 or on Sunday from 12-6.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Challengers Cazuela.

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Something Good To Eat

15 Nov

“Welcome to Camp Chaos!” I chirped.

NoHo Door, Of special note, the N is on the southside and the S is on the northside

I was up to my elbows in dough and there was a halo of steam around my forehead. Isaac was home at least a half an hour earlier than I had expected him and I was running about a half an hour behind. The timing was actually perfect, I was able to finish up my kneading while he unpacked.

He was back from visiting his family for Western Orthodox Christmas. He’d given one of his sisters the New Book Of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and so, as a treat, he whipped up lamb in yoghurt sauce and basmati rice for a light, traditional Colorado Christmas dinner. It went over gangbusters but was a bit of a gutbuster and so he was quite relieved to learn that all of the bubbling and simmering and kneading was not in fact preparation for some arcane Medieval feast reenactment, but rather for a nice, light bean and kale soup with freshly baked bread.

The Old Police HQ, NoLita

I was at first tempted to try this absolutley ridiculously good looking pork loin Luisa whipped up last week, but alas, by the time I made it to my old greenmarket stomping grounds at Tompkins Square, the pork guy was all out of pork. “What have you got left?” I pleaded. “Welllllll… I’ve got a few chicken parts… Some livers, some wings, a few necks and quite a few feet!” “Ah, I guess you’ve made my decision for me,” I replied, “I’d been torn between making a roasted pork loin and chicken soup!” So I bought some feet and wings, a few onions and lots of kale and headed home.

Bloomberg Building, Le Cirque is to the left

I do some of my best thinking just before drifting off to sleep (I’m also a champ at brainstorming in the shower), the challenge is remembering my great idea the next morning. On Saturday night I was thinking about beans. But not just any beans. Christmas Limas. Big, beautiful speckled dried lima beans that Christina had sent me in trade a few months ago for a jar of Pepi Pep Peps. In the note she sent with the beans, Christina warned that they take quite a bit more time soaking and cooking than smaller dried beans, and so I was thinking about this while falling asleep, and just then, right on the edge, I thought of a solution. The yogotherm.

The yogotherm came into our house as part of the cheesemaking kit I bought Isaac for his birthday. It’s a little plastic bucket with a lid, that slides into a styrofoam sleeve which sits inside a pretty plastic container with cows on it. Not the most environmentally responsible thing I own, but unlike other yogurt makers, it doesn’t need electricity. In cheesemaking the yogotherm keeps cultured milk warm while the cultures do their thing and make cheese, yogurt, kefir and all manner of delightful things. And so I figured, if it can make me cheese, why on earth couldn’t it make me beans?

Bryant Park Sheep

I rinsed my beans and popped them into a ziptop bag filled with warmish (probably around 100°F) water, stuck the bag in the bucket and closed up the contraption. By the time I got home 5 hours later, the beans were absolutely perfect. I have discovered something huge in bean cookery! Hear that Steve? My gigantic Christmas Limas only took an hour to cook after their yogotherm soaking. I feel like I’ve really contributed something to the culinary landscape with this.

The Old West Village Jail

To the beans I added lacinato kale and green mustard greens (thanks for the idea Toni) and a few ladles of stock. It’s the most aromatic stock I’ve ever made. I decided to forego my traditional recipe in favor of something a bit gutsier; a base of fennel, parsnips, bay leaves and thyme. I’ll definitely make this again, but there’s one thing I will not repeat.

Cooking with chicken feet. Ugh. Mine had some of the weird foamy skin still clinging to them, which skeeved me out, and then, as you’re cooking, they poke out of the liquid, looking like something that should be in the pot of Macbeth’s witches. Yes, they make good stock, but, oh man, no, not again. No more chicken feet.

Lacinato Kale

So we sat down to nice, piping hot bowls of soup with a “baguette” I had baked. I say “baguette” because this loaf was as French as EuroDisney. I followed Judith Jones‘ recipe from The Tenth Muse, but, not having a stand mixer I kneaded the loaves by hand for, oh, maybe 30 minutes? The bread has a nice crumb, but teeny tiny holes. I was hoping that the long kneading would produce enough gluten to support nice big airy holes, but alas. I actually think I may have kneaded it too much. I guess this just means I’ll have to buy myself a stand mixer for Christmas (unless someone buys me one beforehand, hint, hint…).

Western Orthodox Christmas Beans & Greens Soup

The soup was delightful. Christmas Limas get their name because to some, they taste like chestnuts, and chestnuts are associated with, well, Christmas! If you cook them to just the right consistency, you can squish the bean against the roof of your mouth, and as Christina puts it the, “inside of the bean squirts out like mashed potatoes.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Aromatic Stock and Western Orthodox Christmas Soup.

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Pumpkin Eater

2 Nov

The Boy and I pulled a Fergus Henderson on a pumpkin this weekend and indulged in some real stem to blossom-end eating.

Through My Window

We butchered a very large cheese pumpkin, then we gutted it. While the pumpkin parts roasted in the oven, I sorted through the pumpkin’s innards for the seeds. After a quick wash, the seeds went into a pot of salted, boiling water for 10 minutes, were drained, tossed with salt and olive oil and slipped into the oven to roast at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until golden-brown and delicious. The seeds got a mahogany coating of three peppers, a la the pepitas from the lost and mourned for East Village restaurant Uovo.

And that was the extent of my involvement in the evening’s meal. I washed my hands and left the kitchen while the Boy carried on.

Pepitas

It was lovely.

He scooped pumpkin flesh and sautéed onions while I propped my feet up on the ottoman and finished a disturbing and silly novel (I have a new back of cover rule, any books described with the words “gothic” “chilling” and “passion” are now verboten).

The Boy and his family celebrate what they like to call “Western Orthodox Christmas,” that is, Christmas in November in Colorado. They’re a busy family, spread out over a few states, who find it hard (and expensive) to get together exactly on December 25th, so they do the best they can.

A few years ago the Boy’s mom gave him a funny Western Orthodox Christmas present; a hand blender and a recipe.

3 More Peppers

At the time, he and I had been together a little while and were only just beginning to cook together in earnest. I guess it showed, though. His conversations with his mother were peppered with culinary allusions which, being a good mom, she picked up on. So she thought she would share her latest obsession with her newly minted foodie son: puréed soups.

The recipe is simple: sautée aromatics, add something delicious like potatoes, squash or root vege, season with fun spices, purée, add a little dairy, eat. The Boy has become the soupmaster of the house. His creations are always inventive, exciting and, best of all, delicious.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

So when he suggested he make a spicy pumpkin soup as a way to celebrate the season and use up the three surprise peppers that grew on my plant after we thought it was done, I couldn’t have been happier. I’d get a day off and a delicious dinner. Who’s the luckiest girl in the world?

I must say, it was hard to keep myself out of the kitchen. I kept piping up, “Did you put Pimenton de la Vera in there? It smells smoky?” To which he’d reply, “Yep.” At which I whined, “But I was hoping to taste the pure flavor of the peppers!” To which he replied with silence. I kept trying to remember the marvelous quip from Judith Jones in the Times a few weeks ago:

When your husband is enjoying himself in the kitchen, keep your mouth shut even if you could do better.

I find it applicable to boyfriends as well.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Creme Fraiche and Three-Pepper Pepitas

I can’t tell you his exact recipe, but I do know he flavored the soup with the aforementioned smoky paprika, ground cloves and just a hint of dried mustard. Garnished with some crème fraîche we made (which oddly enough turned out lumpy) along with the pepitas and leftover breadcrumbs from my beloved kale salad, it was a delicious, seasonal and relaxing dinner.

It was even better as leftovers a few nights later. Especially when we remembered to add some frozen corn I had saved from an aborted July 4th party.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Creme Fraiche and Three-Pepper Pepitas

So ladies, it’s November now. Want a night off? Go out and buy your man an immersion blender. When he asks why, tell him it’s a Western Orthodox Christmas present.

Then sit back, put your feet up, read a trashy novel, feign abhorrence while discussing the book over a delicious dinner, oohing, aahing and feigning nothing.

Happy weekend!

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