Archive for September, 2004

Surprise Chicken Soup

This recipe is from the vintage cookbook the New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook, 9th Edition 1951. I guess it is new – good old Fannie was years ahead of her time as this recipe calls for the use of a blender. Aha! here is our explanation: although the original copyright in 1896 was given to Fannie Merritt Farmer, the editions from 1915 to 1929 went to Cora D. Perkins and then to Dexter Perkins from 1930 to 1951 and yet the title page credits Wilma Lord Perkins with the complete revision of this 9th edition.

Wilma opens her preface with a reference to Aunt Fannie’s famous cookbook. I am thinking this same pattern of lucky birthright/shrewd marriages is the exactly what happened with The Joy of Cooking. You may recall the Soup Lady’s opinion that the latest Joy is diluted, devalued and cheapened by the son-in-law’s revisions. Much of the origianl charm is lost along with the taste and interest factors of many of the modern recipes. 16 vinaigrettes, indeed.

But I digress. I do not have the originanl version to compare this revision against but at the very least , this is a trip to 1951. The following recipe is simple but is a huge flavor surprise from a minimum of extra effort. Its got that mid-century innocence concerning chicken skin but of course, that is where the flaovr comes from. I’d like to see what that Rombauer-Becker boy would say to this.


Put chicken broth or stock into an electric blender with a few bits of leftover cooked chicken and well-browned skin. Blend until perfectly smooth. Add more broth or top milk until as thin as you like it. Season carefully. Serve hot or chilled.

Vary the flavor by blending with the chicken 1 tablespoon blanched almonds, 1/4 cup sauteed mushrooms or 1/2 cup cooked peas.

And there we have it. The only mystery is what exactly is “top milk”? It’s not in any modren dicitonary and the only on-line references that I can find for it are from the U.K., where they apparently like to be as dangerous as possible about their bovine product consumpiton. This article refers to “untreated or green top milk, (raw milk which had not been subjected to any form of heat treatment)…” Could they have meant that as an addition to chicken broth? Well, it was 1951 – I’m not at all on solid ground with this one.

Anyway, try this Chicken Surprise. It is extremely flavorful and can be used in place of plain broth or stock in any recipe that calls for it. The “top milk” thing is up to you – it’s fans seem to be rabid about the taste and health benefits (!) of it – the Fugu crowd, I guess – I personally would not even try it.

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Cucumber and Pork Soup

Ah, early autumn. One day its hot, the next day its chilly. One cannot predict, can one? On the chilly days, the same thought hits you no matter where you are in the country – “This would be a good day for soup.” By the time you select a recipe and gather the ingredients, the chill is gone and you are left alone with an assortment of meats and vegetables next to an empty pot.

Here is a recipe made to order for those vexing weather flucuations. It’s from Marion Tracy’s The Art of Making Great Soup (1967), listed in the “Great Beginnings” section. The soup is light but has a wide taste, if you know what I mean. The cucumbers surrender themselves quickly to the broth and create a sideways taste sensation. You know how take-out Hot and Sour Soup fills up the back of your mouth and Campbel’s Chicken Noodle fills up the front? This soup goes sideways and spreads out to your cheeks. That is the best way I can explain it. If you don’t know what I am talking about, make this soup and see for yourself.

2 cucumbers
2 medium pork chops
4 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon msg

Peel the cucumbers in halves lengthwise. Remove the seeds and cut in thin slices, crosswise. Cut the bones and fat from the pork chops and slice the meat and slice the meat into strips about 1 inch by ¼ inch by ¼ inch. Heat the salt and the stock. Bring to a boil. Add the pork strips and cook for 8 minutes. Add the cucumbers and bring to a boil again. Add the msg the pork slices are thoroughly cooked after boiling in the broth for 8 minutes; the cucumbers about as soon as they are transparent which is just a minute or two. Serves 4.

One of the reasons I like this book is that an suggested menu accompanies each recipe. The menu for this on is:

Cucumber and Pork Soup
Polenta and Chicken Livers
Tossed Salad
Brown Betty

I guess that’s how they did it in 1967. Care for more chicken livers?

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UPDATE: Oh, for the good old days when you could make an uneducated statement and let it rest at that. No, nowadays one must do interent research and then retract, correct and explain. The sideways taste of this soup is properly referred to as umami. who knew? In my day, they taught us that there were four types of taste buds on your tongue. Now there appear to be five. When did this happen? Probably around the same time they stopped diagramming sentences and practicing the Palmer Method of handwriting. To hell in a handbasket, my friends, to hell in a handbasket.

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3 Bad Soups

The Soup Lady had occasion to attend a luncheon at a Main Line (Philadelphia) restaurant yesterday, Basil Bistro & Bar. I’m pretty sure they have their own goat tied up in the back alley because every other menu item featured fresh goat cheese. I’m all for fresh goat cheese, but there is a limit. By page 3, you should give it a rest already.

Three people in our party ordered soup to start, and none of it went over too well. The first soup was a Manhattan Clam Chowder. It took only one spoonfull for the recipeint to exclaim “Salty!” That always makes me nervous – what are they trying to cover up in that stock pot? Strike 1.

The Soup Lady had the Lobster and Crab Bisque. The creamy base was properly pinkish and did have some flavor, but it arrived in its bowl at just above room temperature. It was not described as a cold soup so I have to conclude that it sat too long after being ladeled out. To add insult to the whole thing, there were a few bits of lobster and crab meat in the center of the bowl. Obviously, they were placed there before the soup itself was dished out because they made no pretense to being part of a blend. They were sized just right for a soup spoon to deliver without a struggle, but were way too big to be passed off as garnish. Strike 2.

The real clunker in the bunch had a featured place on the menu and it was called White Bean, Chicken and Escarole -Better Than Onion!- Soup. An individual crock was delivered to the table that looked for all the world like French Onion Soup – all cheesy melt over a lump of bread. What a bizarre combination of ideas it was – a thin chicken base, chunks of obviously left-over grilled chicken breast floating next to some carrot rounds and celery slices. A grand total of 7 beans were found beneath the abundant escarole but only after a concentrated search was conducted. More than half the soup was left in the bowl. Strike 3.

And so Basil’s Bistro & Bar has been called OUT! as a reasonable place to order soup. The goat cheese wasn’t bad, though.

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