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Diary For Sat., 2/23/2019. Soups For Saying Good-Bye To February. That We should Have Been Making Months Ago.

“We are rid of February, and good riddance, if you ask me.”–E.J. Kahn, Jr.
I don’t know whether this effect is unique to New Orleans, but we have a bad habit of making the nice homemade soups that taste so wonderful when it’s cold outside until it’s a forgone conclusion. Even thinking about these makes one warm inside. So said a couple of readers who liked an article I wrote about a year ago for Inside Northside Magazine. Here are my favorites from that collection. No gumbo, turtle soup , or crab bisques–those categories have been covered plenty enough. Aside from the first recipe below, all of these are easily made.

Petite Marmite.

Petite Marmite

Petite Marmite

A marmite is a covered crock, usually made of earthenware, designed to hold a soup or a stew that will be baked. “Petite marmite” has come to mean an intense, clear soup based on a consomme, with beef and vegetables. The best of these have an amazing flavor, and are at their best when infused with a good shot of black pepper. I love this one. It’s no little project to make it (in fact, it’s so ambitious that cooking schools give this to chefs as a test of their skills). But don’t let me scare you off. The results are wonderful, even elegant.

Stock Stage:
6 lbs. oxtails
1 large onion, cut up
2 ribs celery, cut up
1 carrot, cut up
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. black peppercorns
Consomme Stage:
1 lb. ground round, chilled
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 egg whites
4 eggshells, well broken
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Tabasco

Soup Stage:
4 small carrots, sliced into thin sticks
4 small potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 ribs celery, cut into thin sticks
Salt and pepper

Brisket and vegetable soup.

1. In a large kettle over high heat, brown the oxtails until rather dark. Add the onion, celery, carrots, bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, and peppercorns, along with a gallon of water (or more if necessary to cover). Bring the pot to a low boil. Cook for two hours (or longer if possible). Skim the fat and scum from the surface as it cooks.

2. Strain the stock. Remove the oxtails and reserve. Discard the vegetables. Set the strained stock aside to cool. (You can do this a day or two ahead, and refrigerate the stock. It should congeal into a jelly, with any remaining fat easily removable from the surface.)

3. When you’re ready to go to the consomme stage, rinse the stockpot and put the stock back into it over medium heat.

4. While waiting for the stock to boil, combine the ground round, the chopped carrot, onion, and celery. Flatten it out into a sort of gigantic hamburger patty. Float this on top of the stock. (It might sink, but the boiling will make it rise.) Pour the egg white over this raft, and break the eggshells atop that.

5. When the pot comes barely to a boil, punch a few holes in the raft so that the stock bubbles up and over the raft. Keep the stock at a very light boil for about two hours, punching the raft down every now and then. Add the salt and Tabasco in there somewhere.

6. While waiting, pick the lean meat from the oxtails and make small bundles of it, tied with a thin green onion or a chive. Set aside.

7. Remove the raft and anything else floating in the stock, which should now be clear or close to it. Carefully skim the fat from the top of the pot. Strain the soup through a very fine sieve or (better) double cheesecloth.

8. About a half hour before serving, bring the consomme to a simmer. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook until tender. Ten minutes after adding the carrots and potatoes, add the celery. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

9. Place a bundle or two of the oxtail meat on a soup plate and ladle the broth with its vegetables around it.

Serves eight to twelve.

Brisket And Vegetable Soup

I love homemade vegetable soup. My mother used to make this from time to time–which was never often enough for me.(She also served us Campbell’s vegetable soup, which instructed us in the differences between prepared and homemade.)

I rediscovered this style of vegetable soup when, in my twenties, I developed a liking for old places like Tujague’s, Galatoire’s, and Maylie’s, where they used the stock from boiling briskets to make the soup.

Give this soup a great modern edge is to boil all the vegetables except the carrots (which lend a nice color to the soup) separately, not in the soup itself. That way, when you add them right before serving, they’re all vivid and firm and full of flavor.

1 1/2 gallons beef stock (preferably from boiling a brisket)
A pound or two of boiled beef brisket (optional)

1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice
1 small cabbage, cored and chopped coarsely
1 onion, cut up
1 turnip, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
2 lbs. carrots, cut into coins about a half-inch thick
2 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
1 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
4 ribs celery, cut into three-inch-long, narrow sticks
2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cobs
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
2 Tbs. salt

1. Put the brisket stock into a kettle or stockpot. Add the canned tomatoes and juice, after crushing them with your fingers. Bring the stock to a light boil, the lower to a simmer. Cut the brisket (if you’re including it) into large cubes, removing any interior fat. Add the meat to the stock.

2. Bring a separate stockpot three-quarters full of water to a light boil. As you cut the vegetables in the order given in the ingredient list, add them to the pot. (Some vegetables take longer to cook than others.)

3. When the potatoes and carrots are soft, strain them and add them to the brisket stock. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for at least a half hour

4. When ready to serve, season to taste with Tabasco and salt. Add all the vegetables and return to a light boil until everything is heated through.

Serves about eight, with lots of leftover soup for the next day.

White Bean Soup With Ham

My wife and I are both nuts for white beans in any form, but we’re especially partial to a light, peppery soup made with the inexpensive smoked pork “picnic.” That’s a variation of ham loaded with sinews. Those contribute to the mouthfeel and flavor of the soup. Picnics often go on sale at the grocery, and when they do, it’s time to make this soup. Especially if it’s cold outside.

3-4 lb. smoked pork picnic
1 medium onion, cut up
Stems of one bunch of parsley
1 bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. marjoram

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. white beans (navy beans), sorted and soaked overnight
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Tabasco green pepper sauce
2 green onions, sliced thin

1. Put all the stock ingredients into a stockpot with about a gallon and a half of water. Bring the pot to a light boil and hold it there for two to three hours, uncovered.

2. When the ham comes easily off the bone, remove the ham and strain the stock. Pick the ham from the bone and reserve.

3. Rinse the stockpot and wipe dry. Add the olive oil and sauté the celery, onion, and garlic until the onions brown slightly. Add the Worcestershire sauce and a little under two quarts of the strained stock. Add the soaked, drained beans, salt, and Tabasco. Simmer, covered, for two hours, until the beans are tender.

4. Strain the soup. Puree the solids in a food processor, then add it back to the broth. Shred as much ham as you’d like in your soup and add it. Adjust seasonings and serve hot. Garnish with green onions.

Reserve the rest of the ham and stock (you can reduce the stock to make it easier to store) for other purposes (jambalaya or pasta dishes, for example).
Serves eight.

Eggplant and Tomato Soup
Inevitably in the life of every soup chef, he or she will make eggplant-and-tomato soup as the soup of the day, and find it so good that he wonders whether anyone else ever discovered it. The combination of flavors in the two vegetables is magical. Perhaps this is because eggplants and tomatoes are both in the nightshade family.

This soup is perfect to serve in coffee mugs as a first course when you have people coming over. The only change is to puree the soup all the way with a quarter-cup of whipping cream, or a tablespoon of sour cream and a few dashes of Tabasco.

Tomato eggplant soup.

1 large eggplant
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped
4 leaves fresh rosemary (only 4 leaves!)
2 28-ounce cans of whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand, juice reserved OR 7 medium, ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, and seeded
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt

1. Peel the eggplant and cut into large dice.

2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the garlic cloves and crushed red pepper. Cook until the garlic is browned at the edges. Remove the garlic, and add the eggplant, cooking until it’s browned on the edges. Lower the heat to medium-low.

3. Add all the other ingredients and stir to blend. Add one and a half cups of the reserved tomato juice. Bring to a light boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every now and then.

4. Roughly puree the soup in a food processor, leaving small chunks of eggplant. Return to the saucepan, add the lemon juice, and adjust seasonings. Add a little water or chicken stock if necessary to lighten up the texture.

Serves six to eight.

AlmanacSquare February 27, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Today Is February 25, 2019
St. Patrick’s Day–March 17
St. Joseph’s Day–March 19
Easter–April 21

Today’s Flavor

It is National Chocolate Soufflee Day, sez a few dozen web sites. Chocolate soufflees can be made hot or cold, but the really exciting ones are the former. Since serving hot soufflees involves having a special oven and a special cook to make them, few restaurants offer them. Only Morton’s Steak House and the Windsor Court Grill Room have them regularly in New Orleans.

Chocolate and peach soufflee.

Our own calendar tells us that it’s Italian Beef Daube Day. That’s a thorough a blend of Creole and Italian cooking as you’re likely to find. Daube is a French method of cooking beef (usually tough cuts) that renders it tender to the point that it almost falls apart. In New Orleans Italian cooking, the beef is sliced after being pot-roasted, and then simmered some more in a Sicilian-style tomato ragu. All that’s served with spaghetti. It was once widely served around New Orleans, but has become a rarity in restaurants. In homes, it’s mostly the older generations that still cook it. I like it because it gives a use for eye of round, a beautiful-looking cut of beef that needs all the tenderizing it can get.

Dining Across America

After a hundred seven years serving German food and beer to Chicagoans in the Loop, the venerable Berghoff restaurant closed today in 2006. This was tantamount to Galatoire’s or Antoine’s closing here. People at first speculated that the management just wanted to create a groundswell of interest in a reopening, and that they’d oblige, but at prices much higher than the Berghoff’s legendary lowball menu numbers. What happened was that a much smaller cafe was opened in part of the gigantic building. After an ownership change from the third to the fourth generation, the Berghoff reopened completely, a restaurant that remains the essence of Chicago dining.

Rarely-Eaten Animals

This is the day in 1979 when Mr. Ed, the talking horse (not Ed McIntyre, who owns Mr. Ed’s restaurant in Bucktown), went to that great pasture in the sky. Horsemeat, while commonly eaten in parts of Europe, has never been so much as tried here. At least not in a restaurant. We eat everything else; why not? I’d sample it if it came my way.

Good Wine And Fast Cars

Mario Andretti, the famous former racecar driver, was born on this date in 1940. He owns a winery in Napa now; here’s its website.

Edible Dictionary

rôti , French, adj.–Simply, the French word for “roasted.” It’s probably worth pointing out that the roasting in mind when that word is used is done in a hot oven, browning the meat involved.

A variation of the above is spelled without the accent marks: A thin, round disk of unleavened bread, usually made of whole-wheat flour. It’s baked on a hot flat-top grill, getting darkly browned in patches. It resembles a Mexican flour tortilla, but is thinner. One of the unique qualities of roti is that if the grill is hot enough, the roti dough will puff up like a balloon–a desirable event. Roti is common throughout India and the countries on its borders. It has experienced a second birth in the Caribbean, where many people of Indian descent live.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The State of Maine boasts of two places named Fish Hill. They are 145 miles from one another. The northernmost of the pair is fifty miles north of Bangor. It stands out, rising to 676 feet–about 400 feet higher than the surrounding land. That’s enough to make it useful as a perch for a radio tower. It’s covered by trees, but at its base the woods open up to allow some farm fields and rural residential neighborhoods. The nearest restaurant is the Timber House, a mile north in Lincoln. The southern Fish Hill is thirty-six miles west of Augusta, the state capital. It’s in a hillier, backwoods recreational area near the Androscoggin River. It rises to 1132 feet, but that’s outclassed by the much larger 1520-foot Canton Mountain a quarter mile north. The closest restaurant of interest is La Fleur’s, five miles north in Jay.

Vitamin Corner

It’s the birth date on 1901 of Linus Pauling, twice a Nobel Prize winner, but better known for his championing of Vitamin C. Pauling believed that colds and perhaps even cancer could be prevented by large doses of Vitamin C. His theory has been proven wrong in scientific testing. However, I choose to believe it anyway, and pop Vitamin C regularly if I feel a cold coming on.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you feel a cold coming on, eat a whole bunch of parsley. It’s loaded with Vitamin C, but in case that doesn’t work, at least your sneezes will smell sweet.

Food Namesakes

Film actor Stanley Baker was born today in 1927. . . College football coach Hayden Fry kicked off his life today in 1927. . . New Jersey Congressman Richard Roe was sworn in to the world today in 1924. . . Physicist Steven Chu was born today in 1948. His most famous work involved trapping moving atoms with lasers, which he called “optical molasses.”

Words To Eat By

“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”–Alice May Brock, owner of the Alice’s Restaurant of the Arlo Guthrie song. She was born today in 1941.

“A man should not so much respect what he eats, as with whom he eats.”–Michel de Montaigne, French writer, born today in 1553.

Words To Drink By

“This bottle’s the sun of our table,
His beams are rosy wine;
We planets that are not able
Without his help to shine.”–Richard Brinsley Sheridan