October 18, 2003
I am not a soup maker. For a very long time, I was most intimidated by it. Something about the large pot and the veggies cooked to death turned me off. I also didn't grow up in a soup family -- we hardly ever had it, though it was delicious when we did -- so I don't think of it as a particularly comforting dish. And finally, I'd rather eat a thing than drink it: I'd rather eat an orange than drink its juice, and I'd rather eat my vegetables than have them as soup.
My first attempt at soup, about three years ago, wasn't altogether convincing : I tried to make a potato-leek soup, but I used too many potatoes and they killed the taste of the leeks. Plus, I burned the back of my hand with piping hot soup. Not quite what you'd call a success, but valuable lessons were to be learned. Lesson #1, do not underestimate the Power of the Potato. Lesson #2, do not assume your food processor is watertight, unless you would like your kitchen cabinets repainted in pale green accents. Understandably, this episode put an end to my soup making ambitions.
But I underwent dental surgery on Thursday, I am unable to chew much for a few days, and I thought, what better occasion to exorcise my fear of soup? So yesterday night found me and my swollen cheek tackling broccoli soup, loosely following Dean Allen's sarcastic recipe for Something Soup.
I heated up butter (he calls for "a really rather unreasonably large quantity of unsalted butter" but I can't do that, my hand just will not obey), and sweated two diced onions in it. I then added a head of broccoli, cut up in small florets. Meanwhile, having no homemade chicken stock on hand and refusing to feel terrible about it, I prepared chicken stock with bouillon cubes and flavored it with thyme and bay leaves. Unsure of how much I would need, I just filled a large saucepan.
When the broccoli was sizzling, I added stock "until it seem[ed] like there [was] enough", which to me meant covering the veggies. I brought this almost to a boil and simmered for roughly the twenty one and a half minutes he prescribes. I then transfered the solid broccoli pieces (see Lesson #2 above) into my food processor, discarding the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, pureed the whole thing, and returned it to the pot.
It all seemed rather too thin -- apparently I had added too much stock -- so I added a spoonful of cornstarch dissolved in a half glass of water, and let the soup thicken over low heat. When it had just about the right texture, having no heavy cream, I added what whipping cream I had left, about 1/4 cup.
We had it with sesame grissini crackers (which I had to soak in soup to soften), and although I still thought it was a bit too thin (definitely less stock next time), this was pretty good. Not knocks-your-socks-off good, but hits-the-spot good : definite broccoli taste, enough salt, creamy texture, small chunks. Perhaps more butter and homemade stock would make a difference?
Winter Vegetable Curry
Smoked Herring and Broccoli Parmentier
Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake