I’m starting up a new series of blog entries here, to document my culinary experiments with Alice Waters’ cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. I have a few goals for this project. First, I’m hoping to learn some new recipes this summer for cooking, and I have some particular objectives: I want to learn to make some foods that are seasonally appropriate, that I like eating, and that can be grown in a New England garden. I also have it in mind to develop some recipes specifically for festivals and work connected with my ritual practices.
Soup turns out to be surprisingly complicated. It’s a leftovers food, meaning that it’s generated from a lot of ingredients left over from cooking other foods. For this recipe, I needed two and a half pounds of carrots, a couple of onions, and … a bunch of chicken stock. I could have used vegetable stock, or beef stock, but chicken stock (from a chicken I cooked myself! — though this stock didn’t get made that long ago, as it so happens) was what I had.
The work began by chopping up this onion into tiny bits, and sautéing them for a few minutes in quite a lot of butter. I like the recipe so far! It’s a good thing that I’d already peeled the carrots, which was the most odious part of the work, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been ready in time. The carrots — peeled and ‘coined’ into disks — then got cooked for a bit with the onions to help open them up and break them down.
I modified Alice Waters’ recipe a bit, by using my crock pot and borrowing a recipe suggestion or two on cooking times from the French Slow Cooker, a cookbook my mother got me when she got me a crock pot.
All the ingredients, into the pot! And it’s a good thing I had that soup stock, because I started making the recipe because I had a lot of carrots that I wanted to use up… not because I wanted carrot soup. Alice Waters indicates that this recipe can be served hot or cold, but I think the presence of the chicken broth means that I’ll have to serve it warm, at least, unless the carrots leaven the presence of the animal fat somehow. She also recommends serving it with tarragon cream. What the heck is that?
I did have one accident in the course of prepping this soup. I poured the cooked soup into my ancient food processor at the end of the process of making it, to puree the carrots and give the soup a uniform texture. But I poured more of the liquid into the bowl of the processor than I should have. A good percentage of the liquid spilled out. The result was a bit of a mess on the floor, and a ‘drier’ soup that I really intended to have. My friend Matt also said the soup was too salty.
I liked the process of making the soup, and figuring out the proportions of salt, pepper and herbs before I lidded the crock pot to cook for a few hours. But even more, I like the idea that this is going to help me figure out how to put more of the chickens I cook to work as a series of meals. I like how the dinner from the roast chicken becomes the chicken salad for lunch and the stock for the soup the following day, and the separation of one meal’s leavings becomes the coagulation of two others. It’s all very alchemical.
I don’t know if carrots have traditional planetary associations (Update: I checked, it’s Mercury) but given that the resulting soup is going to be pretty orange, I’d wager that this soup is going to be suitable for Mercuralia and other feasts associated with Hermes.