Cooking School Daze, Week 3

A soup-er night of cooking


I know, you were expecting me to title this “No Soup For You,” but that would have been too obvious. Truth be told, there was SO much soup at the end of the night, that title would have been a lie!

Soup is one of my favorite things to eat, it can be rich and hearty or simple and elegant. There are actually only two main categories of soup- thin/clear and thick. A little obvious, huh? But what goes under each category is pretty interesting.
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Cracking the Shells
Finished Crab Bisque
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1. Clear
•    Broth - a flavorful liquid obtained from the long simmering of meats and/or vegetables.
•    Hearty Broth -based on clear broths or stock, but with more body. Vegetables and meat are often added. This may include beans, rice and pasta-like a Minestrone.
•    Consommé - French for soup, also used to describe a clear soup made from well-seasoned stock but which has no fat in it.

2. Thick
•    Cream – based on béchamel (classic white sauce) and finished with heavy cream.
•    Chowder – classically made of seafood, includes pork, potatoes and onions. The name comes from the French term ‘chaudiere’ which is a kettle that the fisherman used to make their stews.  Nowadays, it’s a basic name for a wide variety of seafood and/or vegetable-thickened soups, often with milk and/or cream.
•    Puree – thicker and coarser than cream soups, often based on dried legumes or starchy vegetables.
•    Bisque - a thick, creamy, highly seasoned soup, classically of pureed crustaceans.

After learning all the different kinds of soups, our teacher split us up in pairs and assigned each team one of six different recipes: Chicken Consommé, Zuppa di Verdure (a minestrone), French Onion, Dungeness Crab Bisque, Black Bean and Roasted Tomatillo, and Sweet Potato Butternut Squash.

My partner was a 21-year-old student from UCLA named Terry. Cute kid, but he was young enough to be my son, so I was really, really trying not to let my innate “Jewish mother” complex come out. We were assigned the crab bisque, which was exciting for me because I had never made bisque before. Basically, this is a recipe for a heart attack, so you can understand why a healthy cook like me wouldn’t look at this as one of her go-to recipes.

My knife skills, while not unbelievable, are pretty darn good, so I let Terry chop the mirepoix while I cracked the crab and separated the meat from the shells. Seafood stock is made from the shells, and you have to simmer them for an hour before you can even BEGIN to make the bisque. We both spent a lot of time looking over our classmates’ shoulders to see what they were doing while we waited for our base to be done.

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