Thursday, February 2, 2012

A successful failure....

So as promised, I made soup. I really wanted to make a Pumpkin Bisque, but I am currently a solid 15-20 pounds overweight and there was NO way I was going to be able to make a bisque that would not make me gain weight (or at least NOT lose any). With the Super Bowl coming up I had to save my calories for Sunday. So I decided instead to make a Carrot Ginger soup as natural as I possibly could. I searched around the web and as usual I found about 200 versions of roughly the same recipe. The more and more I found the more and more I decided to kind of wing it with spices and keep it simple. 

Me, keeping it simple
Carrots - Check
Ginger - Check
Low Sodium Chicken broth - Check
Shallots - why the hell not, I like shallots
Olive oil - for the shallots, dummy....

I could not have made this any easier on myself.
- Peeled the ginger (about half of that which was roughly 2 1/2 TBSP). 
- Minced both shallots.
- Broke down the pre-peeled carrots into even smaller pieces. 
- Olive oil in medium/high pan
- Shallots in pan until translucent
- Add Ginger
- Dump broth
- Add carrots until tender (took FOREVER)
- Put in food processor
- Season to taste

When it came to seasoning, I have NO clue what I did or did not put in as far as measurement. Black pepper, cinnamon, some dried ginger, salt, coriander and more black pepper. 

 The Final Product

The Good:
The taste was solid. The cinnamon was not overpowering but I did enjoy having the note of it. The ginger was not as strong as I thought it would have been, but it was definitely on the front of the tongue. The pepper was the last bit you tasted which was exactly how I wanted it to react which was great. 

The Bad:
The consistency sucked. I don't know if it was the carrots not being "mushy" enough or if maybe it's time to consider a new blade on the food processor but it was far too stringy. I did add some flour to try to tighten it up (which it did) and about 3 TBSP of half and half as well which had a positive effect, but not nearly positive enough. It was good, not great. If I could get the consistency right the flavor was almost spot on. Next time i'll dial up the ginger and shallots a bit and let the carrots cook WAY down. 

I wish had some Parsley I could have thrown on top for presentation, or maybe a dollop of cream.... Next time Gadget, next time...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How come I don't make more soup?

Seriously, I love soup. It's delicious, can be incredibly good for you without tasting like cardboard, and I live in the northeast (it's cold here for those of whom are bad with weather/geography). Also, rarely are foods as pretty as soup can be. it's one of those foods that visually can COMPLETELY change the way I taste the food.

Ginger Pumpkin Bisque....

Cheese Soup

Tomato Soup 

NE Clam if it needed an introduction

I made a chicken soup about a week ago. Asparagus, home made chicken stock, sesame seeds and a BUNCH of spices (red pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper). It was simple, completely on my current diet, and very flavorful. Now it was not good looking AT ALL, it was one of those things that happened where I was sick, wanted soup, had no soup, and started opening cabinets until I found stuff I could make soup with. 

So the charge for me is as follows....I am going to make soup this week. At least once, possibly twice. I tend to think soup is better a day or two after you make it (the flavors really marry together nicely after hanging out with each other). 

I will post pictures....hopefully

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Random question

So while talking to a friend the other day a question came up that I feel the need to document:

What makes a good cook?

So first and foremost I have to preface a few things prior to the following diatribe;
1. I refuse to use the word "Chef" unless you are trained, as in schooled, because to become a Chef is an arduous and difficult process and I don't ever want to take away from people who have withstood that task.
2. This is mostly a wording issue. It's not a reflection on anything other than me combining two of my very favorite things, words and food.

OK. So the question was as follows; if someone follows a recipe well, does that make them a good cook?

My gut reaction is no. It makes them someone who can execute well when given direction. Which, in my humble opinion, should probably be something most any adult can achieve. Granted the extent of the aforementioned recipe is a change agent, being that some recipes are incredibly difficult to execute. But for arguments sake, let's say the recipe is pretty straight forward.

In my admittedly demented and pretentious head I think of someone being a good cook when they can operate in a kitchen given just about any circumstance. Someone who without recipe's can navigate through a meal on instinct or knowledge.

While I appreciate greatly technology and use it to myself, I do think it is somewhat contributing to my point. It's so easy to prepare things that before took refined skill and practice. Now everyone's just an instrument away from having the perfectly executed whatever. It's diluting the artistry of cooking a great meal. It's all, somewhat, souless....

I make no qualms with recipes in general. I use them myself. No one who cooks doesn't. But I know some people in my life that I consider great cooks and I know some people in my life I think can cook, and the more and more I think about it the more and more I find a distinction. You can tear a page out of a cookbook, buy the ingredients, follow the step by step directions and reproduce a delicious meal having little to no concept of WHY the recipe calls for what it does, HOW the recipe came to be, WHO created the dish and WHAT makes all those flavors makes sense together.

I get that this point in history the idea of a truly original dish is sophomoric. Everything has been made at some point. We have found new ways to build it, present it, grow it etc but all in all most things have already been thought up. I get that. But I still think there is a difference between someone who KNOWS the food they are cooking and someone who KNOWS the recipe they are following.

I'm sure this stems from my overall elitist attitude and my unhealthy addiction to all things delicious. In all honesty, I think of myslef as somewhere in the middle. I can operate without recipes (in fact I usually do) but I don't know food well enough to hit a home run every time. If I followed recipes more often I would fail much less often. But for me this food thing is a journey of sorts. I like wandering the aisles of a grocery store thinking about what would taste good with the first thing I picked up. I like learning how and why things don't work together instead of knowing ahead of time. I like "creating" a dish that has no doubt been documented and is probably a 101 lesson in culinary school without knowing that's what I made. I like knowing that I am not a great cook and I like that I have to keep cooking to get any closer. And I guess most of all, I like then when I do hit a home run, it's because my instincts were right, my concept was good, and my execution didn't let me down.

Or maybe I really am just that damn snobby....