Monday, February 27, 2017

"Mr. Darcy Would Be Appalled" White Soup

I made Regency-era White Soup again, this time an easier way than the original 1811 recipe. It is almost nothing like the elegant cream soup Mr. Darcy would have been used to—it turned out more like a hearty blonde stew. However, I thought it was very tasty.

1 package of beef neck (1 pound) and 1 (cooked) chicken carcass or equivalent (cooked) chicken bones
OR
1 quart beef stock and 1 quart chicken stock

2.5 pounds raw chicken (I used thighs)
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 pound rice (the original recipe called for 1/4 pound, but I added extra rice to make it more hearty)
2 anchovy fillets, minced
5-6 peppercorns
2 Tb minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch of celery, chopped
(Optional) 2-3 cups of chopped veggies, whatever you have in the fridge. I added 2 cups of chopped kale
1/4 - 1/2 pound raw almonds, pounded fine (I used a Ziplock bag and my meat pounder, and I ended up putting 1/2 pound in, but the original recipe only had 1/4 pound)
(Optional) 1 egg yolk
(Optional) 1 cup half-and-half (The original recipe called for cream, but I thought it was a bit too heavy when I used the cream last time, so I used half-and-half this time. I think I could have even used whole milk and it would have tasted fine, although perhaps without as much richness in mouth-feel as with the half-and-half.)

The last time I made this, I tried to follow the original recipe and simmered it for 4 hours. The recipe had you strain out the solids and only serve the liquid, but I added the solids back in (everything except the bones) to make it more hearty. However, the long simmering had made the chicken and vegetables overcooked. This time, I made stock in the pressure cooker so that I wouldn’t have to simmer the chicken and vegetables so long and they wouldn’t be overcooked.

I made stock in my pressure cooker with the beef neck and the chicken carcass. I’m afraid I didn’t measure the water, I just put the solids in and filled it to the max liquid line. I boiled the water first so I could skim off all the scum from the beef neck, then put the cover on. When the rocker started shaking, I lowered the heat and let it go at a gentle rocking motion for a full 90 minutes. The resulting stock was full of gelatinous goodness. I removed the meat from the beef neck and shredded it into the stock, then stuck the stock in the fridge overnight. Surprisingly, the overnight cooling did not reveal much fat in the stock, barely a scraping layer on top, so while I made the white soup/stew the next day, but I probably could have made it the same day and skipped the overnight in the fridge.

If you use packaged stock, you unfortunately won’t have the meat from the beef neck unless you cook it separately. However, even if you parboil the beef neck in a separate pot to skim off the scum, then rinse it and add it to the soup with the stock, I’m not sure if the cooking time is long enough to make the meat tender enough to eat.

I fried the bacon to release the fat, then sautéed the onion for a couple minutes. I browned the chicken thighs skin side down for a few minutes, then added the other ingredients except for the egg and cream. (If you are adding extra vegetables and want them crisper, omit them at this point and add them later to cook them just until crisp-tender.) I brought the soup to a boil and then let it simmer for one hour, covered. I ended up adding a little more water when it got too thick near the end.

In hindsight, I should have just used a crockpot. While on the stove, I had to stir it every 15 minutes or so (especially near the end) to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom and burning. In a crockpot on low, it would have taken longer but I wouldn’t have had to stir so often, and the chicken would have come out very tender.

I whisked the egg yolk, then tempered it by adding hot soup a little at a time, whisking in between until the yolk was hot enough, then whisked the egg into the soup. Then I stirred in the half and half and added salt and ground pepper to taste.

I tasted it before adding the egg and half-and-half (it was already extremely thick), and thought it actually tasted rather good without them. But I added the last ingredients anyway. I couldn’t tell much of a difference after I added the egg, but the half-and-half added a very decadent, rich finish to the soup. If you’d like, you can omit both and it’ll still be a good stew, and lower in fat.

When eating it for dinner that night, I realized the stew was very similar to Minnesota Wild Rice soup, sans the wild rice. This version was good for wintertime—the wind and rain were howling outside the dining room windows while we ate, and it seemed to taste even better that way.

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