The Football Gods like soup

4 02 2008

To the City of New York: This sentiment comes courtesy of the fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, your own New York Jets, and most recently the Washington Redskins.

Thank you.

That being said, I did my part and I’m sure everyone will agree that the deciding factor in Super Bowl XLII was my Manhattan Clam Chowder. I hope to be hearing from team officials regarding compensation for my contribution to the outcome of the game. And if any other teams would like my assistance I’m willing to discuss terms.

The Chowder Bowl

31 01 2008

I decided to make my Super Bowl pick this year based on soup. And since I’m really hoping the Giants win, I chose Manhattan Clam Chowder. My premise was that the Giants’ fate would be the same as my soup. If my chowder is awesome, the Giants win. I will be playing the role of star quarterback Eli Manning. But I’ve never even tasted Manhattan clam chowder, so you can see that the G-MEN were pretty big underdogs. Here’s how the game went:

WEEK OFF: Eli Manning doesn’t like the coaches’ game plan, so he changes it.

My soup cookbook (from the Culinary Institute of America) instructed me to shuck the clams from their shells, reserve the liquids, and cook the clams in the soup. That sounds really hard, so I decided to steam the clams first, keep the stock for the soup, and put the clams in at the very end. But first things first, I had to clean these things. A sandy soup means a happy Monday in Beantown. I saw on to soak the clams in fresh water for 20 minutes or so and then scrub them down. Later I read somewhere else that you should change the water and repeat the soaking process twice, but it was too late by then. So I soaked them in a big bowl:

breathe!  breathe! one, two, three!

WEEK OFF: The Giants lose some star players to injury.

The book called for four dozen clams. That sounds like a lot of clams (just look at how big those clam shells are) so we decide to use two dozen instead. Yes I said “we.” I’d never make such an important decision by myself, would I? In fact I never considered using four dozen clams. After all, I’m a clam expert.

SUPER BOWL WEEK: The Giants go through a week of successful practices.

While the clams were breathing all the sand out of their systems I diced up some leeks, carrot, celery, and red bell pepper.

GAMETIME! FIRST QUARTER: The Giants’ smallest player scores early.

Two strips of bacon. One would think that such a small amount of volume, when compared to the amount of soup prepared, wouldn’t make much difference, but it would go on to serve the soup well. When the bacon was crisped I put in the diced veg and some kosher salt to sweat.

SECOND QUARTER: The Giants start to miss their injured star players. They thought they had enough men. The Giants’ offense stalls, and Eli’s confidence is shaken. The Patriots take the lead.

goodbye clams, hello chowda!

The clams took about 5 minutes to steam open (at least that’s how long I steamed them before opening the lid), and Karen helped me by taking the meat out of the shells. It turns out that the meat does not take up all the interior volume of the clam. I’ll remember that next time. See those beautifully opened clams up there? All those clams in the pot gave us this much meat:

where’s the beef, I mean the clams?

THIRD QUARTER: The Giants’ defense keeps the game close.

I strained the liquid from steaming the clams through 3 layers of cheesecloth (to get rid of any remaining grit). I put it and three cups of clam juice, along with two canned plum tomatoes (seeded and chopped) into the soup pot with the veg. This is the part of soup making that I know how to do, so I started feeling good again.

FOURTH QUARTER: Eli remembers his running game. The Giants start to mount a comeback.

Round about this time Karen said “What about the potatoes?” I look at the recipe and, sure enough, I had forgotten about the potatoes, so I peel and dice up two russets and toss them in and leave it to simmer for about 20 minutes.

FINAL TWO MINUTES: The Giants’ star players return to the field for one final scoring drive.

The soup complete, I put the clams back in just before serving.

FINAL SCORE: A short-handed Giants team in over their heads scores the winning touchdown as time expires. The margin of victory is the score from the first quarter contributed by their smallest player.

23-17 G-MEN!

When all was said and done, the soup was a success. It’s amazing, we really could taste that little bit of bacon in the soup when it was finished. Yes, it would have been nice to have more clams but it came out very nice. Karen made a nice salad and some of her home made Italian bread and that was dinner. Giants win, Eli Manning is the Souper Bowl MVP.

So there’s my pick, Giants over the Patriots. What about you? Who ya got?

Just like Trinidad, only freezing

21 01 2008

This was our second annual “Trinidad Weekend.” The time in the dead of winter where we cook nothing but Trinidad food. The only thing is that it didn’t make it seem any warmer. I picked this weekend because it was so cold. But next year I think we’ll do it around Carnival.

So no, it still seemed cold this weekend but it went well. I made some doubles (more on that later), Karen made curry chicken, channa & potato with bus up shut roti on Saturday, bake and shark for lunch Sunday, and stew chicken with macaroni pie and pigeon peas for dinner Sunday. Good times. I finished the weekend off on Monday with a solo run on Mummy’s oxtail soup. Well, not completely solo, Karen made the dumplings.  I followed her recipe exactly, and noticed some things that I apparently forgot to write down. But I managed it all right and Karen said it rocked. And guess what secret ingredient I added:

and don’t forget the bat’s fangs!

Do you see it in there? Yes, I know it looks like witches’ brew, but pay attention. I added a habanero pepper in to the soup, just like everyone says you’re supposed to. It didn’t burst, and the soup wasn’t hot at all. And it looked a lot nicer in the bowls, too. Even Jonathan and Ben tried some and liked it. Ben likes all my soups. Good boy.

Tonight we dine in Hell

6 01 2008

Bad movie tie-in, I know. But the smoke from this one was so caustic that maybe it’s not too far off.

can you see it through the smoke?

I started with the typical inspiration: The Soup. I’m getting pretty cocky these days with soup, adding and replacing ingredients as I please. It hasn’t ended in disaster so far. This time I took the recipe in the book as just a general outline to follow since I obviously know more than those hacks at the Culinary Institute of America. Sorry, but when you hear the words potato and sour cream what do you think? Chives. It’s not rocket surgery.

So I had a good idea for the soup, but what about the sandwich? We’ve got chicken breast, but how many different kinds of chicken sandwiches can you come up with? Well, I had this recipe from Mario Batali’s cookbook for a whole roast chicken called The Devil’s Chicken (Pollo al Diavolvo). It involved rubbing the almost-cooked chicken down with a paste of dijon mustard and crushed black peppercorns. But the true beauty of this recipe was the “salad” side that he included. It used flat leaf parsley, halved cherry tomatoes, and red onions sliced thin. We’ve made this with lots of different dishes, and even used it in sandwiches before. Karen has added sliced baby cucumbers into the mix somewhere along the way as well. So I took this idea and turned that paste into a marinade for the chicken breast. Way cool, Mark’s the hero.

I’ve said it before. When I’m cooking meat on the stove top I use high heat. I don’t know why, so don’t ask. The end result tends to be smoke. The dinner isn’t always ruined, but sometimes the windows get opened in January. And it’s worse on the second floor. You see, we’ve got this set of stairs from the kitchen to the second floor so all the smoke goes straight up. Add a quarter cup of black pepper to the fog and you’ve got something that’s near impossible to breathe.

The chicken was scorched past recognition cooked perfectly, and the soup was also a hit. The compliments sounded something like this:

“Good *cough* dinner, hon. I really like *choke* the *cough* chicken. *hack*

bring your fire extinguisher

For the second time ever in her life in my cooking career, Karen didn’t need to add pepper sauce. A quarter cup of black pepper will do that. I, however, needed a half gallon of milk to make it through the meal. And some eye drops.

Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of soup

5 12 2007

This is what Pennsylvania looks like this week:

global warming is a good thing

That’s Fahrenheit folks, not Celsius. So what’s the cure for all this cold and snow? A plane ticket to Trinidad? Probably, but soup is cheaper.

good soup yum yum

There is nothing on earth that warms you up like soup, so to all you prospective visitors from the Caribbean be warned. I’m a soup nut.

Luckily Karen had suggested Italian wedding soup this past weekend and we had all the ingredients on hand. That way I didn’t have to leave the house and go to the store. Lots of accidents out there. In the past we’ve built a Frankenstein soup using these two recipes:

Wedding soup from Food Network Kitchens
Wedding soup from Giada

This time I used Giada’s recipe straight up. Except for one thing. She said to grate the onion. Onions are wet and slippery and I like my fingers thank you. I diced it as small as my knife would make it. Wedding soup is pretty easy once the meatballs are made. I made them kind of big this time, it was tough to judge at the beginning how big they would turn out. And some of them fell apart in the soup. Who knows, maybe that’s supposed to happen. I’ll keep thinking that way.

don’t tell me they don’t look good.  I don’t want to hear it.

Neither recipe called for acine de pepe, but we put some in anyway. We like it. Karen dumped in about a cup. And it turns out that a cup of acine de pepe is approximately 12 billion little pasta balls.

Soup was good and Karen was pleasantly surprised to see it already making when she came home.

Beans are neither musical nor fruit

14 05 2007

It started out as a simple search for a can of chicken noodle soup. I opened up our pantry and started moving around cans of beans, tomatoes, and broth looking for this elixir of life for Jonathan, who isn’t feeling well. He’s been puking every night after dinner. It started this weekend, and oddly enough, I cooked all weekend. So I’m looking for chicken soup but we don’t have any. What we do have, however, is beans.

beanspantry1.jpg beanspantry2.jpg

Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, baked beans, refried beans, black eyed peas, if you want beans we have beans. In all we had twenty-five cans of beans in our pantry and I thought to myself “Well, the boys can’t have soup tonight, but I can.” So I took two cans of black beans and made some black bean soup. My next problem came when I made the soup. Now I’ve made this soup before. You take two cans of black beans, a tomato, some cilantro, cumin, oregano, some hot peppers and some water, blend it all together and then heat it to a simmer.  Simple, and it always tastes great. But this time I had this really big deep green poblano pepper that I used, and holy cow if that soup didn’t look green when it was all said and done.


It didn’t come out in the picture, but trust me it was green.  With Karen’s help I tweaked it enough to save the flavor but the presentation would make Shrek proud. New rule: For the black bean soup use red peppers.

So the title is a little boring; Karen told me I couldn’t use the word “fart.”

How I impressed myself, it isn’t too hard to do.

14 02 2007

I didn’t sleep too well on Sunday night.  The idea of ruining a very expensive cut of meat was weighing heavily on my mind.  I mentioned to Karen my idea for Valentines day Monday morning and (as usual) she suggested some improvements.  How unlike her.  They were actually good ideas, and I implemented them grudgingly.

Thanks to old man winter, Karen had Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday off, so we decided to have V-day dinner Tuesday night after the kids went to bed.  That way could enjoy a leisurely dinner without worrying about bedtime.  Which was good, since dinner started at 9:30. 

Let it first be said that Karen trimmed the roast for me.  I don’t want to take credit for everything.

Have I told you Alton Brown is king?  He presented an impossible-to-ruin tenderloin roast recipe on “Tender is the Loin 2,” and I followed it with one minor alteration.  Instead of seasoning the roast with cumin, I used thyme (at Karen’s suggestion).  There are only three main parts to this method: Season, Sear, Roast.  And you must eat tenderloin medium-rare, it’s the law.  Here’s me searing the meat:


Alton and I disagree on so few things, but final roasting temperature is one of them.  He says pull from the oven at 135, we do it at 140-143 and we like it better that way.  It does carry over a bit, and the results were pleasantly pink.


Remember that soup from my first post?  Well I made it again with some modifications.  I didn’t use the crostini and I changed the mushrooms from creminis to morels.  Thank you to Mario Batali for the soup, it went perfectly with dinner.

Who really cares about dinner when there’s a dessert with Bailey’s in the ice cream, Kahlua in the brownies, and chocolate sprinkled on top?  Please visit Pinch my Salt for this wonderful recipe, the results were stellar.


One word: Wow.

 Click more for the soup recipe. Read the rest of this entry »