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Friday, June 24, 2011

Potato Soup

Potatoes—delicious in many ways.
The lovely and talented Miss Hayley Jane (also available at Facebook and more) is, I have learned, a fan of potatoes. Being as I have some Irish heritage, the potato is a familiar item to me as more than just a thing to mash, boil, or bake. As much as I do enjoy taking potatoes, chopping them up, boiling them up, and/or putting them in stews, I also enjoy playing with potatoes in many different manners, such as using them to thicken sauces, making them into chips (Saratoga Potatoes, which are covered well by the Culinary Chronoaviatrix,) roasting them for salads, and generally trying new and different ways to use the humble potato.

Today, I am making potato soup. Simple, clean, and delicious. There's half a million recipes for potato soups; each cookbook I have in my collection has at least one, and some have more than that. As is my style, I shall present to you a few recipes, followed by the one that I will use for tonight's little dish—an item being sold at the bookstore for Craft Night.

Potage Printanier—French Springtime Soup

Much like Chicken Soup, there are myriad variations on the Potage Printanier; Technically speaking, the name merely means "Springtime Soup" and therefore can be made with any number of springtime vegetables, generally resulting in a green, semi-thick soup. Typically it includes peas as a main ingredient. Some recipes will have it merely be a puréed pea soup; others include lettuce and greens; others include asparagus and haricots, and many include egg. It's all a matter of whose cook book you use.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tomato-Basil Bisque

Bisques are traditionally a French soup made from crustacean shells. They are smooth, creamy, and highly seasoned. Typically, you lightly cook the shells to develop a rosy color, then simmer them with wine and other aromatic spices; they are strained out, ground, and the soup is thickened with a combination of the ground crustacean shells and roux or rice, leaving a smooth, creamy, and delightful dish.

Being as I am allergic to crustaceans, Lobster Bisque and Shrimp Bisque (and Crawfish Bisque and...) don't hold much interest to me, and therefore for the soup feast I set upon a very bright and flavorful soup, one of my personal favorites, Tomato-Basil Bisque.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chicken Curry

Photos by Russ Turner Photography
In The Curry Cook's Assistant, from 1889, the following recipe is given:
One good-sized Chicken (about a pound or more).

Other ingredients same as for Madras Curry, No. 4. Now cut up the chicken in half of each joint. Keep it to a side. Now fry the onions, sliced, in a stew-pan, with a large spoon of butter. When the onions are nice and brown, just fry the chicken in it less than half done. Take it out and keep to a side. Now fry the Curry Powder till it is nice and dark brown, then add the chicken, more onions, and other things into the frying Curry Powder, etc., and add half-pint of good gravy, and set it on a slow fire for 20 minutes. When serving, add two large spoons of cream. If it is very dry, add little more gravy to it. A few drops of lemon will flavour it, but I recommend to make the chicken into a “moley,” as No. 29. Much nicer to be eaten with rice or treated as an ordinary entree, and the curried fowl (whole) nicer as a joint.
Madras Curry (No. 4) reads as follows:
No. 4.—BEEF CURRY (Madras).

For a Pound of Beef.
2 Tablespoons Coriander Powder and 1 of Rice Powder.
1 Saltspoon Saffron and a Pinch of Cumin Powder and Fenugreek.
½ Pint of Milk or good Gravy.
1 Large or few small Onions.
A bit of Cinnamon, 2 Cloves (if you wish spices).
½ Teaspoon Green Ginger chopped up fine.
A Small Garlic chopped up fine.
1 Large Spoonful of Butter (fresh); Salt to taste.

N.B.—This Curry is made in Madras with or without Cocoanut, but little Tamarind will flavour this Curry better than Lemon Juice. Vinegar, Curry Leaves, etc., are used in Madras and Ceylon. This is a first-class Curry if carefully prepared.

Mode.—Have the meat ready cut in half-inch squares; then slice the onions; put a good stew-pan on the fire, add the butter; soon as the butter gets hot put in the onions and Curry Powder, but not the ginger, garlic, and spices. When the onions, Curry stuffs, etc., are nicely browned, add the meat, garlic, ginger, spices, and give it a turn. Let it stand for a few seconds, then add the milk or gravy, salt, etc.; set on slow fire for about 20 minutes. When sending to table add a few drops of lemon or good pickle vinegar, but tamarind is best. Add little cayenne if preferred hot; a hot Curry is considered always nice and healthy, the cayenne to be added when preparing.
Now, being as I am a modern-day chef, I don't necessarily put each spice into the dish on its own in turn; I like curry powder, and I'm happy to use it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Spontaneous Soup—Minestrone

I'm working the closer tonight at the bookstore, and it's craft night. So, I felt the need to make something to serve to people here, and I have at my disposal only one cooking implement: A crock pot.

Let's get to work.

Ad Hoc Minestrone Soup
2 Zucchini
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
4 carrots
4 stalks celery
some basil
some parsley
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (19 oz) cannelloni beans
1 can (4 oz) tomato paste
water to cover
about 2 cups elbow macaroni
salt and pepper as needed

1. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, and cook until the zucchini is soft. Add macaroni somewhat into the cooking process. Add salt and pepper to taste—this can take a quite surprisingly large amount of salt, if you like things that way.

Now, presuming I didn't have a crock pot—or rather, presuming that I did have a stove, I'd approach this a little differently.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Seared Asparagus

Photgraph by Russ Turner Photography
In The Italian Cook Book from 1919, the following entry appears for asparagus:
Asparagus can be prepared in many different ways, but the simplest and best is that of boiling them and serving them seasoned with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. However there are other ways as, for instance, the following: Put them whole to brown a little with the green part in butter and, after seasoning them with salt, pepper and a pinch of grated cheese, pour over the melted butter when it is browned. Or else divide the white from the green part and place them as follows in a fireproof plate: Dust the bottom with grated cheese and dispose over the points of the asparagus one near the other; season with salt, pepper, grated cheese and little pieces of butter. Make another layer of asparagus and, seasoning in the same way, continue until you have them. Be moderate in the seasoning. Cross the layers of asparagus like a trestle, put on the oven and keep until the seasoning, is melted. Serve hot.

If you have some brown stock, parboil them first and complete the cooking with brown stock, adding a little bust and dusting moderately with grated cheese.
In every other cook book, from Mrs. Beeton to Buckeye Cookery, asparagus is suggested to be served boiled and laid on toast—so I combined the two ideas, and served seared asparagus (similar enough to broiling for my purposes) with lemon and olive oil on a toast point... and then added a little grated cheese.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Feeding An Art Show

Not every weekend is a convention for the Steampunk Chef—though in the future that might change. This past weekend, however, I was at an art show in Farmington, MI, a short drive away from my home in Detroit. I had a table to work with, and was asked to do two items. I ended up deciding to work with the idea of a vegetarian item and a meat item, both of which I could make in one pot or pan.

That pound of curry powder is burning a hole in my cupboard (though it's rather mild in flavor, oddly enough) and so I set upon the idea of doing some kind of meat curry—chicken being inexpensive and rather widely-accepted, I put that atop my list for marketing. Now, a curry is always best served in a traditional manner, atop a bed of rice, so my favorite boiled rice was set to accompany the curry.

As for vegetables, I was a little more free-form. As I wandered through Eastern Market in the morning on Saturday, I spied bunches of fresh asparagus, advertised as having been picked at 10 AM on Friday. The same vendor had some lovely lemons, so I quickly decided on the idea of searing the Asparagus and serving it on a toast point with a vinaigrette of lemon juice and olive oil, and topping that with some shredded Parmesan cheese. Recipes to follow!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Moment of Reflection

Almost 27,000 views.
Over 600 fans on Facebook.

I think the irregularly-updated cooking blog of a nerdy fellow from Michigan is going pretty well.

I'm off to the market early this morning to prepare to serve food at an art opening. I'll try to take some pictures...

The soup-feast posts will go up as soon as I get my pictures from that event, which have been held up due to various other issues, such as conventions and life.

Also, what do you think about that building up there? I think it would make a lovely restaurant. If only I could hit the lottery or get some investors or something.