Update 22, Part 1: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

Session 13: Soups had six Demonstrations.  I did a couple of them out of order based on the time and ingredients I had on hand, but completed them all!

The first one I made was Crème ou Velouté Dubarry (Cream of Cauliflower Soup).  It involved chopping up a washed/cored head of cauliflower (reserving about 12 florets and cooking à l'anglaise ahead of time for garnish), cooking some thinly sliced leeks (émincé) in 3 TBS butter, sprinkling that with flour (singer) and then removing the pan from the heat.  I then whisked in hot chicken stock (1.25 L),  and when well incorporated, returned the pan to a simmer, added the chopped cauliflower and cooked, stirring constantly, for 20 minutes until tender.  I then used a blender and puréed the soup, and then it went through the chinois into a clean pan.  Back on the stove on medium heat and in went some heavy cream to thicken.  I also made a liaison with more cream and and an egg yolk, and whisked in a bit of the hot soup to temper, before adding to the rest of the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste, and top with the reserved florets and chervil/parsley leaves before serving.

I thought the soup could have been thicker -- the purée was nice and thick from the blender, but the book said to run the purée through a chinois if an even smoother consistency was required, which left most of the heft out of the pot. (Unless they wanted me to use a chinois with bigger holes? One of the hard parts of doing this via a book and not a real teacher is that I'm reading the instructions, but there's no one to give me advice or suggest that when they say "put through a chinois" they mean "but not that kind of chinois.") Adding the cream and liaison helped -- but I wanted even more bulk to it. I also desperately wanted to add some garlic and something salty like bacon, to the end product, but I didn't.  This was fine -- a pleasing, basic cream soup. And, I now know how to do it for a variety of vegetables. (Carrots, celery, potato, broccoli, etc.)

Then, I made Potage Cultivateur (Vegetable Soup) which involved bacon, leeks, carrots, celery, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, string beans and green peas in a light broth.  The carrots, turnips and potatoes were cut paysanne, which is basically cutting them into strips ready for dicing, but then cutting into thin squares instead of cubes. The cabbage was cut into thin ribbon-like strips (chiffonade). The leeks and celery were sliced thin (émincé), and the green beans and peas were cooked à l'anglaise and then the beans were diced.)  The bacon (rind removed) was cut into lardons and blanched in boiling water, drained and set aside.  It all looked very nice and colorful waiting to be used:

Into a pot went 2 TBS of butter and then the bacon -- which was sweated but wasn't to brown.  Then, the leeks, celery, turnips and carrots were added and sweated for about 10 minutes more, until they started to soften. Then, I added 1.25 L of water (the book recommends not using a stock for this soup as you want the flavor of the vegetables "to shine" in the soup) and some salt and pepper. When it came to a simmer, the cabbage was added, and about 10 minutes later, the potatoes.  This simmered for about 10-12 minutes more until the veggies were tender and then I added the beans and peas for a few more minutes, and that was about it.   I put some baguette slices in the oven for a few minutes to dry/crisp up (I wasn't supposed to toast them or let them take on color) and added a few pinches of grated Gruyère and some parsley/chervil leaves as garnish.) The book recommended grating 1.5 oz of the cheese on a plate and surrounding it with the dried bread, which lasted about 5 minutes -- I think I downed half of the cheese while I was grating it.  The soup had a beautiful color -- greens and orange and white -- it tasted strongly of bacon, and I think the diced bacon squares in the soup were a bit detracting from the look of it, so next time, I might brown the bacon pieces and sprinkle as a garnish...or perhaps we should just call this Bacon and Vegetable Soup instead.  :)

After that was Gratinée à l' Oignon (Onion Soup) which was a lot easier than I anticipated, and which came out terrific.  It was my favorite of the soups by far.  Chris, who abhors onions actually ate his crock of soup without complaint and even said it was good as--if not better than--any he's had in various restaurants.  I would agree--it was really great and did taste and look of restaurant quality.

Here's what I did: I thinly sliced (émincé) 1 lb., 5 oz. of white onion  and added to 2 TBS of butter and 1.5 TBS of vegetable oil in a rondeau on medium heat.  I stirred the onions for about 15 minutes until they softened and started to take on a bit of color.

Then, I upped the temperature and stirred for another 15-20 minutes, until they caramelized into a nice brown color.  (The book says it is important the onions are cooked through and browned nicely, or the soup won't turn out right.)

(On the way to nice and brown!)

Then, I added in a chopped clove of garlic and cooked for another couple of minutes.  The book called for 7 TBS of port wine, but I had brandy, so I used that (I read that brandy is actually added to fermented grapes to make port wine, which is a sweet, fortified wine, so figured it was close enough).  I cooked for about 10 minutes, until the brandy was reduced by about half.  Then, I added in 1 L of hot beef stock, seasoned to taste with some salt/pepper, and simmered everything for about 20 minutes more. It had a nice, rich dark brown color and smelled really delicious.  When it was time to serve, I put 2-3 toasted baguette pieces in the bottom of soup crocks, filled them with the soup and covered with an enormous amount of grated Gruyère cheese (2 oz for each, plus a bit more because I love it--yum!).  The crocks went on a baking sheet and into a 375 degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese bubbled and then I turned the oven to broil, until the cheese browned a bit more.  The kitchen smelled like a French bistro.  I served with more baguette pieces for dipping and some crisp apple slices (the soup is rich/heavy, so don't need to serve a lot of food with it).  With a nice glass of red wine or beer, this was a fabulous meal.

After those successes, I went back to the first Demonstration and tackled Consommé Brunoise (Beef Consommé with Vegetable Garnish).  I did this out of order, because the last two Demonstrations are for aspic --which is made from consommé.  Instead of spending another 10 hours to make another batch of marmite and then consommé, I am planning on using this first batch for the aspic recipes. After all, time is very important now that we are at the half-way mark, and I'm also trying to not waste any food...

Making consommé was a weird process. At one point, Chris walked by, snuck a look in the pot, wrinkled his nose and said, "Eww."  And he wasn't wrong.

To start a consommé, you put 1.5 L of marmite (also known as beef stock) and bring it to a boil, then immediately remove from heat to cool for about 10 minutes until warm. In the meantime, you put 7 oz of ground lean beef or turkey (I used 85% lean beef) in a heat-proof bowl, along with 3 egg whites, a chopped/peeled/cored tomato (although the picture in the book sure looks like the tomato still has a peel on it),  .75 oz of tomato paste and an ounce or so of julienned leeks, celery and carrots.

You mix everything together with a wooden spoon, and then slowly add in the warm marmite.  Then, everything goes back into the pot and you bring to a simmer, stirring often.  Once it comes to a simmer,  you stop stirring and the weirdest thing happens: the meat and veggies float to the top and make a "raft" -- which pulls the impurities out of the stock.  (It looks like a meatloaf exploded.)

(Raft forming)

At this point, you lower the heat to a bare simmer and leave undisturbed for an hour.  You don't stir it or bring to a boil, or the raft will break and you will have to start all over because your mixture will not clarify, which is the whole point of consommé.

Once the hour has passed, you remove from heat and use a small ladle to make a hole in the center of the raft and then slowly and painstakingly (ugh!) ladle out the consommé into a chinois that is lined with a napkin, cheesecloth or damp towel, into a clean bowl.  It is the clearest, most golden color you've ever seen a beef stock take on, if you do it right.

I think next time (if there ever is a next time) I might just use a deep soup pot instead of a stock pot, as it seemed like the raft should have been higher/thicker instead of wide and thin.  But, my consommé still came out clear and lovely, so maybe it doesn't matter. At this point, you remove any remaining fat with a spoon, season with salt and serve in a bowl with a garnish of parsnips and carrots cut brunoise (cut into julienne and then diced) and some peas and diced green beans-- all cooked à l'anglaise ahead of time.

Sure is pretty. And, look -- you can see through it!

So, you can have some consommé with some salad, cheese and wine, or you can move on and make aspic...which is what I'm working on tonight.

By the way, I signed up to be part of a local organic produce co-op and received my first box on Wednesday. I got apples, carrots, mint, a rosemary plant, oranges, pears, salad greens, cucumber, a half dozen organic eggs, green beans, tomatoes, an eggplant and bananas (fair trade). I'll get a box twice a month, and everything is organic and local (or as close as they can get).  Very exciting, and  Session 14 is here just in time for me to take advantage of the goodies in my box, too: Salads!


Vegetable Consomme on Foodista