Thursday, March 21, 2013

Splash! Carrot Soup Gets A Snap From Ginger

What does this picture have to do with my carrot soup? 

It occurred to me that Louie Anderson, tipping his body off a diving board, actually represents to the world of television the same thing that my soup does to the world of recipes. What would that be? Both are examples of how things evolve. The only difference is that one results in pretty good stuff and the other? Not so much.

In television, it’s becoming increasingly evident that there are no good NEW ideas. Most programming seems to be a reworking or rehashing of previous concepts that have been successful. (Actually, sometimes they don’t even have to be.) 

Candid Camera begat America’s Funniest Home Videos and Cops spawned Fear Factor and then came Survivor and Road Rules and The Real World, The Amazing Race and Dancing, Cooking, Singing and now DIVING With “The Stars”. 

In a similar way, classic recipes have been the building blocks for their modern versions since cooking started. There’s always been an evolution of how and what people cook. The original recipes, as well as the ones they inspire, are often of equal high quality.

Ummm, hold on! As I’m writing this, I’m thinking my entire premise is flawed! Our current American diet is awful with all the awfulness that processed food can supply. Maybe our current cooking and eating habits are EXACTLY like the demise of quality television and the rise of junk. In fact, junk TV and junk food go hand in hand. Okay, let’s start over. Forget Louis. Forget reality television. Let’s talk about vichyssoise. It might take our minds off non-experts hurling their bodies off 100 foot diving stations. (I actually didn't see it. I have no idea how high they were diving from. For all I know, it was a THOUSAND feet.)

I started out loving vichyssoise many years ago (or leek and potato soup when I served it hot). Then I had the brilliant idea to add a couple of carrots. Even though (unbeknownst to me at the time) the Four Seasons had been doing it forever, I still thought of it in my own kitchen. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) THEN I thought of adding ginger. I don’t know why I never did that before. It gives the soup a spicy, spirited edge that it lacked before. Now I think I’ll always add it.

Serve it hot or cold, depending on the weather.  

Carrot and Ginger Vichyssoise (serves 4)

2 leeks
2 tbls. olive oil
2 big carrots, chopped
x 1/4 inch slices of peeled ginger
 optional (but it never hurts): 1 onion, chopped
1 big Idaho potato

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Cut the root end off the leeks and a half an inch off the tough green ends. Using a sharp knife, cut the outside leaves off the green ends as if you were sharpening a pencil with a knife. They should end up pointy. 

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse (particularly the pointy ends) in plenty of water. Slice thinly.

Heat olive oil in a good heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, ginger and onion, if using, and a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well. When you hear a sizzle, cover the pan and turn down the heat to low. Leave it to sweat as long as you can, stirring occasionally, at least 10 minutes (15 to 20 minutes is better), until the leeks and onion are completely soft. (No kidding, SOFT, SOFT, SOFT! And don't worry about the ginger. It'll finish cooking in the stock.)

Meanwhile, peel, quarter and slice the potato into ½ inch slices. Stir into the vegetables. Add another big pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir in stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, adding lots of freshly ground pepper as you go. Let cool slightly. Purée in blender in batches. Heat and serve. Or chill and serve. (Soup can be frozen, when cooled. Just stir well when reheating.)

Lately I’ve been using an immersion blender. It doesn’t get the soup quite as silky smooth as a blender, but it’s a real time and dirty dish saver. If I were serving the Queen, I would definitely blend it. For my usual lot of plebeian tasters? The immersion blender is fine.

This would be wonderful garnished with pickled shallots. Thinly slice them and cover with white wine vinegar. Leave for 15 minutes at room temperature. If you’re brave, you can serve the soup with pickled ginger instead. Just slice it super thin and pour over some white wine vinegar and sugar. For every tablespoon of vinegar, add a teaspoon of sugar. Allow to sit 15 minutes. But, beware, it’s hot!

(It’s interesting that the shallots don’t need the sugar like the ginger does. I tried the ginger without it and it added a whopping amount of heat and acid. It definitely needs the sugar to balance it out.)


Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

I can't really remember if I like ginger or not, but I am thinking that I don't... (LOL?)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I think that diving show is a terrible idea. Dancing may be a skill that takes years to do well and build real skill, but there is no real danger into teaching it to amateurs. Diving on the other hand is such a dangerous undertaking and good divers need years of training to do what they do. I think this show is potentially deadly. I could never do something like this. I'm a water lover who swims whenever she can and will hit the low board repeatedly, but put me on a high dive and I have to think long and hard before stepping off and I could never do it head first.

But you're spot on that our diets are just as suicidal as this show. The standard American diet is the nutritional equivalent of reality TV. (Although I do admit a weakness for "Dance Moms" but that's more for watching and admiring the skills of the kids)

I think the Four Seasons stole your idea!

Sue said...

Hi Jerry.

You would definitely remember if you liked ginger, so I'm thinking it might not be for you. Make the soup without it (like I've done for upteen years before I thought of adding it) and you'll be perfectly happy.

I really agree with you about how dangerous diving is. I think I read that Louis was injured and might not be able to continue. At least, he didn't kill himself. That would been highly awkward for the producers.

And I didn't say I didn't WATCH reality tv, I just said I didn't approve of it. I admit to recording most of the Real Housewives. Luckily, I hardly watch them, but they are a great dishwasher-emptying show.

I WISH I could say I invented Carrot Vichyssoise. But I found a mention of it way before I could even slice a leek, which was a long, LONG time ago.

Emily said...

Oh my goodness. This sounds amazing! Seriously, I wish I had some right now. I have a migraine. :(