Sunday, June 11, 2006
A Tale of Two Soups
I prepared a couple of interesting soups this week. In our restaurant kitchen all the cooks love to make the soup. We make a delicious gumbo that is on the menu daily-never changes, then there is the second choice. Often the day sous makes the soup. He's in the kitchen first and begins the prep, if his load is too heavy, he assigns the soup making to the second or third cook in. And sometimes the chef pulls rank and makes the soup himself, just because he still loves to make soup.
First up is chinese egg drop. I started with a rich chicken broth, flavored with white pepper, a little sesame oil, and soy sauce. I thickened it ever so slightly with a corn starch slurry. It should have a luminous viscosity-not thick and gloppy. Next break a couple of eggs into a small bowl and whip slightly. Bring your thickened broth to a barely moving simmer, stir in one direction continually slowly pour the eggs through fork tines into the slowly swirling soup. The eggs should create lovely ribbons in the soup (in some places this is also called egg flower soup because it is so pretty)-beware that if you pour the eggs too quickly, stir incorrectly, or have the soup too hot you will end up with scrambled eggs in broth-not pretty. I garnished the soup for service with a scallion flower and some diced radish. I used an extra hand to hold the fork, while I poured the eggs through the fork and stirred. If you are cooking alone you would have to rig some kind of fork holding device-position the fork on a box that is the right height and secure it with a heavy can-improvisation always rules the day.
I also made an Italian wedding soup. I started with small meatballs of ground beef flavored with onion, garlic, basil, and oregano. I browned the meat balls and drained them. You need a rich chicken broth for this soup as well. It quite easy to make once the meat balls are made. I should have made them smaller than I did. Next drop the meatballs into the simmering stock, add some orzo pasta, and some shredded fresh spinach or curly endive and fresh basil. I also like a pinch of thyme and sometimes a bit of fresh lemon juice. It only needs to simmer about ten minutes together to cook the orzo. Serve grated parmesan on the side. This is a very rich and satisfying soup.