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Soup Cookbooks

 

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Soups and Stews

A recent issue of the New York Times (mid-Feb 2004) featured comments from a number of prominent chefs including Andre Soltner, founder of the once visionary New York restaurant Lutece, and patron saint of American cooking James Beard. The pretext was to praise plain food. There was quite a lengthy discussion in praise of 'boiled' meat.

The truth is that without some saucy component no set of dishes is much more than half a meal. Most of the flavor is in the sauce and not the solid food. No sauce; no flavor. But sauce does not necessarily mean 'complex.' Choose a cooking method that naturally produces a liquid component and the job is taken car of.

It is no accident, therefore, that soups and stews have enduring culinary value; for they do exactly this.

These facts may be obvious to many accomplished chefs. But we have been conditioned to believe that foods prepared by other methods are superior because they are less 'homey.' The funny fact is that as I approach my fifties is recall that it was not my mother but my grandmothers who excelled at this 'homey' cooking. So most people younger than myself may not reflexively consider good soups and stews to be somehow inferior to more complicated dishes because they once ate them at home.

In my own opinion, the rule of good soup and stew-making is balance. These dishes often stand on their own as whole meals, so it is important that they contain nutrients from a number of different food groups. Here are some examples of classic pairings.

When soups or stews serve up all the nutrients our bodies need we find them more satisfying. Humans lived on stews and roasted meats for millenia, so these preparations are well suited to serving our nutrition needs.

  

Soups and stews benefit from many of the steps one uses in preparing other sorts of dishes. Here are some ideas.

Remember that with many soups and stews time is a crucial ingredient. You cannot rush the preparation. The chemical and physical transformations required to meld a melange of ingredients into a unified whole can take a considerable amount of time; sometimes many hours. Don't cheat.

 

Eat well and prosper.

 

 

Copyright S.R. Brubaker 2002 - 2006.