March 28, 2015

Souper Good

Soup is hot. Soup is pretty cool. And, in France, soup is borderline obsession. I asked my neighbor what French people eat for dinner. He said, "Un potage." That's French for "soup." Of course, "soupe" is also French for soup, but no matter. 

When we were in the southwest of France in late February, our hostess made Trash Can Soup: leftover lentils, bendy carrots killing time in the crisper, zucchini that should be making out with a Hefty Hefty Cinch Sack, mashed potatoes loitering behind the milk. Nothing a little water, salt, and crème fraîche won't cure. 

Soup comes with caution, naturally. A dietician recently commented on the radio that an all soup diet was no good because, "soup, it is just water and vegetables. We need protein, fat, and dairy in our diet." Clearly, this was a woman who had never tasted my wife's sausage/spinach/white bean soup dusted with parmesan. 

So what can you not make soup out of? I consulted my French "I Know How to Cook" cookbook. The answer is: Nothing. Want to make "economical soup"? Heat some chicken broth and grate an uncooked potato over it. Cook for 10 minutes, add some butter, salt and pepper. Serve and eat. 

What about milk soup? One cannot seriously make soup out of milk...can one? Couldn't be easier: toast bread in melted butter, place in a bowl, cover in hot milk. Voilà, dinner. 

Feeling Florentine? Mash some flour into butter to make a roux. Melt in a pot, add water gradually to make a nice liquid, bring to a boil and add some sliced spinach. (Stack spinach; roll into a log; slice.)  Toss in some salt and pepper and serve over buttered croutons.

I confess, however, that I wasn't prepared to see the recipe for panade. Here are the ingredients:
  • old bread
  • water
  • salt
  • milk or cream
Bread soup? Ah, what the heck, I'm in France...these people must have suffered profoundly to dream up "recipes" like this, so I'll try it. A buncha leftover baguette heels made their way into a pot. I covered them with water and let 'em simmer for an hour. Old bread absorbs a lot of water. The bread was bubbling and bouncing around the pot with great enthusiasm, sucking up all the H2O. After mashing it all up with a fork, I added some heavy cream, salt, and some milk.

First test: kids. Jackpot. One of the best things about cooking for kids is they don't eat out of politeness. My 2 year old never picks up his silverware and says to himself, "Gee whiz, Mom and Dad went to a lot of trouble to make me this meal, and even though it includes some ingredients I am not crazy about, I am going to eat everything on my plate to express my appreciation for the time, effort, and love that went into this dish." But when he licks the bowl clean and says, "More please!" (or, as is becoming more common these days, "Encore please!") I know he likes it.

Second test: wife. I gussied it up a bit, adding some chopped parsley, designer salt, and a bit of olive oil. I served it alongside a tomato salad. While I found it quite tasty (chef's pride, perhaps), she ranked it a solid "Passable." All told, not too shabby for food that was otherwise headed for the birds.

1 comment:

  1. No comments, ever ? Come on, guys ! These posts are brilliant !