02-22-2010 08:21 PM - edited 02-23-2010 06:18 PM
Please join me in welcoming Clifford Wright to our boards. Clifford won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award in 2000 for A Mediterranean Feast.
His newest book, The Best Soups in The World has something to inspire even the most winter-weary home cooks. We've got a solid month left to enjoy making and eating warming soups; let this expert steer us in the right direction.
Clifford is also the author of Bake Until Bubbly! The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook for Everyone, and Real Stew, so bring your casserole and stew questions as well.
02-23-2010 09:30 AM
02-26-2010 01:14 PM - edited 02-26-2010 01:18 PM
Thank you for joining us. I'm writing from Brooklyn, and as you know the northeast has seen a bear of a winter; today is no exception. Snow, snow, snow.
What would you recommend for those of us who are looking toward another fun day of digging out the cars, the driveways and the dogs? What's an unexpected soup (no more tomato soup & grilled cheese!) on a day like today that we can possibly make with ingredients that are already in our fridge/freezer/pantry?
02-26-2010 01:19 PM
On a cold and snowy day when you're stuck in the house...I think a 16 bean soup beckons.
The sixteen beans are now available in convenient packages of the appropriate amount. Remember that anything between seven beans and sixteen beans is going to taste more or less be the same, so don’t worry about exactness of the number of beans. These pre-packaged beans are a blessing so you don’t have to buy sixteen one-pound bags of different beans. I use both smoked ham hock (although raw is fine too) and a pig’s ear for flavoring, but you don’t need the pig’s ear. The length of time for this soup will depend on the age of the beans, so allow an hour more than described in the method even though you might not need it as the soup can rest.
1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
1 pig’s ear (optional)
One 1-pound package 16-beans soup
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1. Place the ham hock, pig’s ear, if using, and beans in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt, pepper, bay leaves, chili powder, and paprika, reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the ham hock is tender but not falling off the bone, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ham hock and let cool.
2. Add the celery, onion, and garlic to the pot and cook, partially covered, until the beans are completely tender, about 1 1/2 hours more. Remove the ham hock and pig’s ear. Discard the pig’s ear. Remove the meat from the ham hock, dice it, and return the meat to the soup, discarding the bone. Correct the seasoning and simmer 20 minutes, then serve.
Makes 6 servings
02-26-2010 01:27 PM
Nice! Are we covering this with water or using a stock (I'm guessing water). Speaking of which, so many soup recipes call for stock -- where are you on that? Do you think a stock adds that much, and if so, what brands do you like (and do you have any tricks for making a terrific homemade stock?)
02-26-2010 01:36 PM
Water whenever not specified. Not all soups need to be made with stock (some people including me call it broth--basically the same thing). Stock will intensify the taste for sure, but that's not always necessary when you are making a soup that already has lots of flavor from a variety of ingredients. A good stock needs to be made slowly. If it's a beef or veal stock, start off by roasting the soups bones (which should always have a little meat on them) at 425 degrees for 40 minutes then turn into a stock pot with water to cover and a cut up onion, skin and all, carrot, celery, leek, and a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring it to a near boil then reduce to low and simmer for 6 hours. Strain it 2 or 3 times, the first strain through a colander and subsequent strains through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a bowl to cool. Place it in the frig and when the layer of fat congeals on top, remove and discard it. The stock is now ready to be salted and used--or frozen for later.
Remember that a homemade broth will ALWAYS taste better than a commercial broth in condensed can, granules, paste, liquid, or cube form. In a blind taste test I conducted with 8 people when writing this book (4 food professionals and 4 good home cooks) of 18 different chicken broths the hands down winner was Campbells's chicken broth. It placed a very distant second to homemade though. The problem with all commercial broths is that they are way to high in sodium and sodium free is very hard to find for some reason.
02-26-2010 02:02 PM
What an interesting test! The Campbell's was not an organic or low sodium broth? To be fair, I recently turned around my low sodium broths and found out that they still have 2/3 to 3/4 the amount of sodium that the other brands do...so even low sodium still has a heck of a lot of sodium.
OK, now I'd love to talk Casseroles, and then I do hope you'll indulge me with some Mediterranean questions. So, your casseroles sound outrageous; one better than the next, from the classics (Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs) to the innovative (Sausage, Red Bean and Apple). We all know that casseroles are practical, feed a crowd, work at potlucks and make a terrific present.
What don't we know about casseroles/what were you surprised to learn?
02-26-2010 02:25 PM
One thing everyone should realize about soup making is that soups are forgiving. It's hard to screw it up. And you can make a spectacular soup with leftovers. Take for instance the Purée of Swiss Chard and Romaine Lettuce Soup in the book. This soup is so green you’ll slurp it crazily based only on its color. But it’s deliciously smooth and healthy. The flavor is as soothing as the texture and the romaine lettuce leaves keeps the heartier taste of dark green Swiss chard under control. It's made in a blender with water as the base and flavored with potatoes, carrot, onion adn celery with the addition of the Swiss chard, arugula, and romaine. It't finished with fresh tarragon and mascarpone cheese and its heavenly and easy. The recipe is in the book of course
02-26-2010 02:27 PM - edited 02-26-2010 02:28 PM
Again, with casseroles, it's surprising how great they are for leftovers and how forgiving they are. But the modern American casserole, the vessel not the prepared dish, was originally invented in the late nineteenth century in the Ohio River Valley as a convenience tool. It was easy to clean and the "modern woman" could make a dish economically,
02-26-2010 02:39 PM - edited 02-26-2010 02:39 PM
also, forgot to answer Allison's question: No, the Cambpell's was not low-sodium. Swansen's and Wyler's came in 2nd and 3rd, but all the famous "organic," "natural" and brands with the word "earth" in them came in abysmally last.
02-26-2010 03:12 PM
This is incredible information! Clifford, it's clear your cookbooks are an adventure, far more than a collection of recipes. And on that note, I'm going to have a good look at your James Beard Award-winning Mediterranean book and continue to keep an eye on you at http://www.cliffordawright.com/
Thank you so much for joining us.
All the best,