Well, last night was the second night of cooking school for me at L’Academie de Cuisine. Our topic for the night was soups. This night was crazy because Chef Brian (our instructor) was making 4 soups at once, all the while teaching us about each one, while we jumped back-and-forth from soup to soup in our notes. He made a Lobster Bisque, Consomme, Butternut Squash Soup, and Potage Cultivateur. We all got to make the last 3 soups after our lecture/ demo. This night was so fast-paced and scattered that it will be hard to decipher my own notes, but I will attempt to give you some of the highlights.
All good soup is made from good stock (which we learned about last week).
You can break soups down into categories according to whether they are clear vs. pureed, rustic (soup) vs. more refined (potage), or the most refined (consommé).
The most important tips I learned this week were-
1. Adding up- When you are making soup, instead of starting by putting a bunch of stock (or liquid) into the pot, you only add enough to cover your ingredients, and then as you add ingredients, you add more liquid. You never add more stock than you need until you NEED it.
2. Synchronization- Cooking is really all about synchronization and getting everything to cook and be done at the same time. This is what good cooks have to do. Be thinking of how much time everything will take to cook, and plan accordingly. This is the same for a whole meal, or just a pot of soup. You are adding ingredients according to which will take the longest to cook.
3. This one is funny- French cooking is all about taking beautiful vegetables and ingredients, cooking them down, refining them, removing all of the fiber from them, and then replacing it all with butter and cream. 🙂
For Lobster Bisque you use fish stock (or fish fume)-
To make fish stock-
Use cold water flat fish bones such as flounder or sole. Soak in ice cold water first to remove as much blood as possible. To make this stock you use 1/3 dry white wine and 2/3 water, mirepoix in equal parts to bones (but omit carrots- they make the stock too dark), and bouquet garni with peppercorns and garlic if desired. Simmer gently 45 minutes to 1 hour.
We watched Chef Brian make a Lobster Bisque from one leftover lobster carcass from a class he taught this weekend and just kept the carcass in the fridge. He did say it was important to remove the stomach (right behind the head), and the lung “things” (that was his terminology). You can also use shrimp shells to make a shrimp bisque. He sautéed the chopped lobster carcass in butter and then added mirepoix to the sauté. He then added about 2 tbsp. rice (or you could use 1/2 raw diced potato). You don’t need to deglaze with wine in a separate step if you are using fish stock, as the fish stock already has wine in it. He added fish stock and brought to a gentle simmer adding a whole garlic clove, a few threads of saffron, orange zest, fennel seeds. He cooked this gently for what seemed to be maybe 20 minutes and then pureed it in the blender. Don’t forget to remove the bouquet garni before you blend.
-When pureeing soup in the blender you always only fill blender half full. Start on low power then go to high power. Always blend longer then you think you need to for soups.
He did puree that lobster carcass right along with the rest of the soup, and he said you could do the same if using shrimp shells. You then pass the soup through a coarse and then a fine sieve. Then he returned the pureed and strained soup to the stove over warm heat and added Ricard (a liquor made with fennel), cream, and a pinch of cayenne. He kept tasting until the salt was right, and added a squeeze of lemon for a little acid.
* If you want more information about balancing Flavors, he recommends a book called the Flavor Bible.
I won’t take the time at this point to type out the instructions for the other soups. My notes are really long, and I could ramble on forever about this stuff. Next week we start Vegetables, and the following week is Greens and Mushrooms.