I did not grow up eating matzo ball soup; it was completely unknown to me and my family. In fact it was so foreign that the first several times I heard mention of it I assumed it was “mozza ball soup”, which I guess would be some kind of Italian-American soup containing mozzarella cheese. This is emphatically not the case.
Matzo balls are a kind of dumpling. Matzo ball soup is usually a chicken soup with matzo balls in it.
It turns out this classic Jewish preparation is much more familiar to me than I ever would have suspected. While the most common term in North America is matzo ball, the true Yiddish word for the dumpling … Continue reading.
There once was a woman who organized Regency Era events in Edmonton, featuring period-appropriate music, clothing, dancing, and food. The Regency Era is an obscure period of time to most North Americans, so allow me to illuminate. It preceded the Victorian Era in Great Britain. It is so-called because the ruler of England was the Prince Regent, George. His father George III was technically king, but deemed unfit to rule on account of mental illness. This was the period in which Jane Austen lived, and for you nerdy food historians, it is also the era of Carême and the dawn of the modern culinary tradition. For a while Carême was actually the personal chef of the Prince Regent.
Borscht: all of the vegetables, but mostly beets, crammed into possibly the most vibrant soup in western cooking. In central Alberta borscht is second only to perogy’s as the culinary torch of Ukrainian heritage.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw borscht. It was many, many years, when I was a young boy, in Ontario. A family friend made it and I can’t describe how strange it was to me. The only purple food I’d ever seen before that was grape bubblegum, which isn’t even food. It now seems not just acceptable but strikingly beautiful and such a special ode to the root cellar.
I think your borscht should be tailored to the exact veggies you have on … Continue reading.
Goualsh is a beef stew originally from Hungary but eaten all over Central Europe. It is the kind of preparation that Europeans will fight to the death over. Matters like whether it is properly called a stew or a soup, whether it contains tomatoes, or potatoes, or what starch it is served with (if any) often become violent. It is estimated that 12 Europeans are killed every year in goulash-related arguments.
The following is an original recipe, inspired by the goulash made at Seewirtshaus in Semmering, Austria. When I worked there they made a goulash similar to this using Maiboc (May deer) and served it with Serviettenknödel. Many would take exception to my use of tomato paste and … Continue reading.
The defining element of Irish stew is the use of lamb neck, or scrag.
Traditionally it is made more like a casserole than a stew. Actually it bares an uncanny resemblance to boulangère potatoes. Lamb, potato rounds, and other vegetables are layered in a casserole, then covered with stock or water and baked in an oven.
Lamb neck is a very tough cut of meat. I sear and braise the necks to tenderize, then use the shredded meat and cooking liquid to make the stew.
Once the necks are very tender to the tip of a paring knife, I remove them from the liquid and let cool briefly. While the necks are still warm I fold back the meat … Continue reading.
There is something medieval about soup. It is often made from bones. It takes time to prepare, and to eat. Soup is slow and simple and primordial and the opposite of modern.
I consider the promulgation of soup a personal mission. Most of the formal meals that I prepare for friends or at work include a soup course. Burns supper, for instance, begins with Scotch broth, Thanksgiving with squash soup, Viennese dinners with pancake soup.
Types of Soup
This is the kind of rant I usually relegate to the footnotes of a post, but I want to talk about soup classification. In culinary school our standard text was called Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs (PCCC). I learned a lot from … Continue reading.
As I mentioned in the Cutting Poultry post, one of the chief pleasures of buying whole birds from the market is that you get a bunch of bones with which to make stock.
You can make a small amount of light stock with one chicken carcass, or you can freeze the bones and collect a few carcasses so that you can make a whole pot. You can cut up your chicken, raw, into largely boneless pieces, and save the raw bones for stock. Or, if you roast the whole bird and pull the meat off at the table, you can save the cooked carcass for stock.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: Stock is the soul of the kitchen.
When I’m cooking a meal for a large group, I always start by making stock a few days beforehand. Our dinner on Thanksgiving Monday, for instance, starts with a turkey stock made on the preceding Saturday. Last year’s New Year’s Eve dinner started a couple days before when I made a ham hock broth. Stock is the flavour-foundation of the meal. The showpiece of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey, and besides enjoying the meat, turkey-flavour finds its way into the soup, the stuffing, the gravy, and often the vegetables. The turkey stock unites the dishes.
The ideal stock has three characteristics: above all it is flavourful, with … Continue reading.
Last year I wrote that ham hocks are only consumed in one of two ways in my house: either slowly roasted so that they have glassy crackling, or simmered so that their intense, smoky, porky essence can be collected in a broth.
This ham-hock broth is the distilled essence of eastern Canada, and the foundation of split-pea soup.
Once you have simmered the ham hock and collected the broth, here are some thoughts on making split-pea soup.
After extensive cooking the ham hock itself has very little flavour and seasoning, but it still makes for a good garnish.
I use yellow split-peas, because the green ones look like baby poo once they’re cooked.
For me, the most shocking part of buying a side of beef was how much liver we got.
A lot. I like liver more than most, and I thought it was too much.
If you have to get through a lot of liver, there’s no better way than to just sear it in a pan and tuck in. When the distinct, glandular texture of liver wearies the palate, there are liver dumplings.
This was a staple when I was in Austria. Lunch always consisted of soup, meat, and dessert, and the soup often contained some manner of offal. Most notable were the soft, bready liver dumplings the size of a toddler’s fist, floating in beef broth.