Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cream of Yuck Soup, Part Two

Why, oh why, do I never learn from past experiences? I know my husband Mike doesn't like celery. I know that he has the supertaster-like ability to detect even a single molecule of celery in anything I cook. So why did I add celery leaves to my black bean soup? Because Mario Batali told me to.

Last year I read Heat, Bill Buford's memoir of working at Babbo, one of Mario Batali's restaurants. He describes Mario railing against the kitchen staff when they discard the leafy trimmings from the celery. He'd bellow something like "These make excellent stock!" as he plucked them from the garbage and threw them back onto the cutting boards. So I figured if celery leaves were good enough for Mario Batali, they'd be good enough for the Foley family.

You know how if you you chop celery up and add it to a stock it'll impart a subtle celery flavor? Well, the leaves lend an intense celery flavor. Even though I removed the leaves before I puréed the soup, it was like being smacked across the mouth with a bunch of celery. The soup just reeked of celery.

Mike didn't even get the spoon to his mouth. "Did you put celery in this?" he asked. "Ummm," I mumbled, wondering if I could get away with telling him some white lie about aromatics. Then the steam drifted from the top of my bowl and found its way into my nostrils. "A little," I confessed. That was the first time I ever saw Mike shove a bowl across the table. "I can't eat this."

As ever, I enjoyed my own cooking and drank every drop of that soup. Now all I have to do is eat two more quarts of it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Old Switcheroo—Volcano Roast Beef

OK, since Volcano Chicken was such a megahit, I figured the concept could be expanded to different types of leftover meats. Thus was Volcano Roast Beef born.

All I did was to cut some leftover roast beef up into pieces about 1/4" wide and 1" long, bump up the leftover gravy with a can of chicken stock (since we ate most of the gravy with our roast beef dinner), and add about a cup of frozen peas. Dump that over some baking-powder biscuits in a lavalike manner and Voila!

If you don't know how to make gravy from a roast, here's a primer. Remember, you must make the gravy right after the roast comes out of the oven. You can't wait until you're about to make this recipe!

Gravy from a Roast
Juices at bottom of roasting pan
2T butter
2T flour
1 1/2 c. chicken or turkey stock (homemade or canned)
Salt and pepper

After the meat has been roasted, remove it to a grooved cutting board and cover it with aluminum foil to rest. Pour the pan juice into a fat separator or skim excess fat off the top of the liquid with a spoon.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, then let it get a little brown. Not too much or it'll burn. Add the flour and cook this roux for a minute or two to get rid of the raw-flour flavor.

Add the juices to the pan, mixing steadily to avoid lumps. Then add the chicken or turkey stock and stir to blend. Keep stirring every once in a while until the gravy thickens.

Pour any accumulated liquids from the cutting board into the gravy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.