Top | While my sautoir gently sweats — Blog

Wading through a sea of soup

(post, John Dryzga)

Chef Nic bellowed out "No soup for them!" as he surveyed the many empty stations at Saturdays class.  Well, he didn't really, but I'm sure it crossed his mind.  There were a surprising number of students absent from the soup session, unfortunately one of them was my partner S.  Except for the consomme, none of the dishes were technically challenging, they all did require quite a bit of prep.  I was in the weeds by the end of attendance.

After a brief lecture on the different types of soups, Chef demoed making the first soup, cream of cauliflower.  I knew I was in real trouble when Chef was discussing prepping vegtables for the other recipes while making the first dish.  He repeated his oft used mantra of "Multitask! Multitask! Don't just stare at each other!".  Only, I couldn't stare at someone even if I wanted to as I was flying solo.  I barely got the cauliflower soup on the fire when it was time for the next demo, vegtable soup.

As in the last demo, Chef starting talking about getting ingredients for the next dish ready while you were cooking the second dish.  What I wouldn't give for some of those Doctor Octopus arms from Spiderman about now.  While Chef was taking a tour around the kitchen, he saw me flailing away trying to finish the cream of cauliflower soup while trying to prep for both the vegtable and the onion soup.  He threw me a life preserver when he said, "Just skip the vegtable soup and concentrate on the onion soup".  That freed me up enough to get the cream of cauliflower soup finished.  Since I was the last person to puree my soup, I was the lucky winner of the clean the blender sweepstakes!  So after presenting my soup to Chef, it was off to the sink to clean and put away the blender.  At least Chef liked my soup.

While the rest of the class was busy working on the vegtable soup, I was afforded some time work on the onion soup.  I was able to get a real nice dark carmelization on the onions which blended well with the Madeira that I deglazed the pan with.  I barely had time to add stock to the pan when it was time for the consomme demo.  

My onion soup was simmering away as Chef showed us how to make a consomme.  A consomme is a very flavorful and very clear stock.  The method used to clarify the stock is to create a "raft" from aromatic vegtables, egg whites and chopped meat.  The protein in the "raft" bind with the impurities in the soup resulting in a crystal clear broth.  You dump all the ingredients for the raft in the stock and you stir until the proteins start to coagulate and the raft forms.  The raft is one of the most un-appetizing looking objects I have ever seen in something I was about to eat.  But as the stock was bubbling through the raft, you could actually see it get a little clearer.  Once I had the consomme all rafted and simmering I had to change gears and finish up my onion soup.  I got lucky again, and Chef liked the soup.  He even liked that I went a little heavy on the Madeira.
In the course of trying to juggle all these dishes, my brain got a little confused on how large to make the dice for the consomme.  I some how made 5mm cubes into 1cm cube in my mind.  I was just forging ahead at full speed trying to dice and cook the vegtables for the consomme garnish.  I was basically the only one left cooking when I brought the consomme up to the Chef.  It was perfectly clear.  It was not seasoned enough though.  It had taken so much salt already, I was hesitant to add any more.  I should have let my senses be the judge and not my brain.  The Chef had a good laugh holding up my garnish compared to the desired size.  A total "Spinal Tap" moment.  Oh well, I guess I should be happy about getting two out of three done well and finding my way out of the weeds.