Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rainy Day Soup

If April showers bring May flowers, May is looking in fine shape right now. Today, Sunday, is my day off and I was looking forward to a gorgeous day like we've been having all week when I was cooped up in the restaurant. Not to be.

In anticipation of nice weather, this morning I put on shorts and a golf shirt, but quickly went for a pullover to ward off the damp and chill. I almost want a fire. Despite the rain's intrusion on my day off, the sound of it dancing on the tin roof as I sit here and type is very calming and relaxing—or is that the glass of wine at work? I have just poured a glass of fantastic Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay 2005. Jim, if you're reading this, thank you for this Meursault clone made right here in Virginia.

As soon as I went for the pullover this morning thinking of a fire, I knew it was a soup day. Do you love soup? I do. There is something so comforting about soup. Truly, I know why you customers come in to the restaurant and ask for soup at dinner, even though it is not on the menu. I just wish you'd buy it when I take the effort to put it on the menu.

I had to go down to the restaurant this morning to get about three hours of work out of the way before my wife and kids return from grandma's. While I was there, the call of soup was so strong that I braved the pouring rain to stop in next door to Frédéric's café for a bowl of his mother's puréed vegetable soup.

And once back at the restaurant, I liberated a leek, some baby carrots, some roasted cipollini onions, a few less than presentable asparagus, an already peeled parsnip (now why was that in the cooler?), a couple celery stalks, some diced tomatoes, a potato, some garlic, a bunch of really wilted green onions, a bit each of thyme, basil, oregano, and sage, a big handful of parsley, and half a loaf of rustic olive bread. I wish I had some fresh bird egg beans or borlotti!

These things will accompany the chicken carcass that I cooked last weekend and that the kids have picked over all week. I'll toast the olive bread and place a slice in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladle the soup over, drizzle on a little really good olive oil, and shave on some Pecorino Romano.

Here's my basic procedure for chicken vegetable soup.

Make stock from chicken, leek leaves, green onions, bay leaf, parsley, ends of celery, and tough ends of asparagus.

Strain and defat stock; return to pot at simmer and slowly reduce.

When cool, pick the meat from the chicken and reserve.

Add the long cooking vegetables to the stock: potatoes, celery, onions, parsnips, tomatoes, etc.

Add the meat, herbs, garlic, shallots, and short cooking vegetables such as baby carrots to the stock.

Season. Enjoy.

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