Carrot Soup: Simple Food, Amazing Taste

Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup

I had the day off from work today and decided to take care of two nagging things on my to-do list. I started off with getting my car muffler and exhaust pipe repaired and then made a trip to Trader Joe’s for groceries. I even managed to fit in a gym workout to burn off some of the excess calories from last night’s food orgy.

Fixing my car set the tone for the rest of the day. With the repairs setting me back over $700, my desires for food purchases were tempered and I was forced to be more cost conscious. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and work on something new having been inspired by the Taste of Cambridge food festival I had just attended. I am currently reading The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin, who’s cooking is deeply rooted in frugality and simplicity having grown up in war torn France during the second World War and have enjoyed his descriptions of simple classical French cuisine that he prepared as he learned how to cook. While thinking about what to get I also thought about Thomas Keller’s view on food as described in The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman and his view of food and simplicity, taking one ingredient and making it the very best it can be. Using simplicity as my inspiration and cost as my guide for food purchases I settled on an something I rarely eat let alone cook with. I chose a carrot as a foundation for my dinner and decided to make a simple soup out of it. 89 cents for a one pound bag of organic carrots was a deal I could not pass up.

The process for making the soup was was really easy and the result was absolutely amazing. The salt and pepper added to the intense and fresh flavor of the carrots. I felt like I could relate to and understand both Pépin and Keller making a simple dish that wasn’t muddled with too many ingredients and flavors, producing out of this world results with plenty left over to be enjoyed in the future alone as a stand alone meal or as a component of another. The steps I took for making the soup are outlined below. Enjoy!

Carrot Soup Recipe:

Ingredients:
2 lbs. of carrots
2 cups water
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

Hardware:
Soup Pot
Immersion Blender or Food Processor

Directions:
Wash and peel the carrots and cut them into small 1/4 inch pieces. Put them into a pot. Add 2 cups of water or more if necessary so that the carrots are covered. Bring the pot to a simmer. When the carrots are tender, puree them with an immersion blender or in a food processor until they reach the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste ensuring that it is well mixed. Serve in a cup or bowl and enjoy hot.

Carrot Soup: Ready for Serving
Carrot Soup: Ready for Serving
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Cooking 101: Back to Basics – Stocks, Soups, and Salads

Tonight’s focus for class at Cambridge Culinary was on stocks, soups, and salads. I was especially excited about this class because learning about stocks is key to sauce making, the focus for the final class in the series.

Last week were given the recipes on our way out so we would have time to study them. It didn’t take me long before I knew what I wanted, and I came to class with the intent of making French Onion Soup and Salad Niçoise. I arrived at school to find that we would be learning in a different, smaller kitchen. A large private class was using “ours” and as chance would have it, a few classmates did not show up for this class so we had plenty of room. We opened with a brief lecture about stocks. Given the time required to make a proper beef, chicken or veal stock we would not be making any, although we would be using some that were created by a professional program class. Once we decided on what we would be making we went to work.

I started with the French Onion Soup as it required heat and extensive cooking time, hoping that I could move onto the Salad Niçoise as I had time.  I melted my butter in a pot on the stove and then moved onto slicing the onions. They were placed into the pot with the melted butter and I covered the pot to let them wilt down. Once sufficiently wilted, sugar was added to begin the caramelization process.

French Onion Soup, Onions Caramelizing
French Onion Soup, Onions Caramelizing

Once the onions were caramalized, beef stock was placed into the pot. It was reduced down so that the liquid was just barely covering the onions. Salt, pepper and burgundy wine were added along with more stock and reduced down again at a slow simmer.

French Onion Soup, Simmering
French Onion Soup, Simmering

Unfortunately there weren’t any small ceramic ramekins for the soup, so we improvised with a large one.   Enough French bread was cut to cover the bottom of the rameking and then the soup was poured over the bread. We also couldn’t find the gruyère cheese, the kitchen was a mess at this point, so we improvised with a gruyère smelling cheese. It had a very sharp flavor and after coating the top of the soup I questioned if it was a good choice.

French Onion Soup, Ready For The Oven
French Onion Soup, Ready For The Oven

The next step was to put the soup into an pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F until the cheese browned and there was some bubbling. I took it out and set it on the table next to the other soups and then the real fun began.

French Onion Soup, Ready To Eat
French Onion Soup, Ready To Eat

With all of the soups on the table we were able to try each one. They were fantastic! Everyone did a really good job. I felt like my soup was a bit too sweet, but overall it had a well balanced flavor and texture and the cheese was good too. At this point the class was near over and I had no time to make the salad I had hoped to make.

This week I hope I can re-make the French Onion Soup using store bough beef broth to compare the results. I have no doubt it will not be the same, but given the time and effort required to make a proper stock, store-bought is going to be my likely alternative.

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