"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Tricks and treats: A souper relationship

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

Now that I've gotten that bit of Shakespeare out of the way (how could I not?), this week's Tricks and Treats plants us firmly in the kitchen!

TRICK: Here's a simple way to add some rich depth of flavor to your next homemade pot of soup. Saute your mirepoix in some form of fat before beginning your soup.

What's mirepoix? It's the "holy trinity" of aromatics that goes into flavoring many soups: onion, carrot, and celery, cut or diced and used as the basis of stock. Some soups just use mirepoix for creating the stock for the soup and then discards the vegetables once they've been leeched of their flavors. Other soups keep the mirepoix in them--for instance, bean or lentil soups. What does mirepoix mean? Check out the origins of this fancy French term here.

Next time you want an easy, filling, and scrumptious soup with that little extra boost of flavor, place a stock pot over medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add enough olive oil or melt enough butter to thinly coat the bottom of the pot and let it heat/melt. Add your mirepoix and let it sweat in the pot, stirring occasionally, until the onions get translucent and the veggies look like they've gotten heated up. I like to add a couple of minced cloves of garlic a few minutes after I put the veggies on the heat. After your veggies are sweaty, proceed with your soup recipe.

For an insanely ridonk mirepoix, saute diced bacon or pancetta until it releases its fat and gets nice and crisp. Remove the bacon to drain on paper towels, leaving the grease in the pot, and proceed as above. Crumble the bacon into your soup just before serving (or save it in a container in the fridge for a salad). Heavenly!

TREAT: Everyone knows about my unabashed and undying love for Julia Child. In my mind, she has no equal in her championing of the fact that everyone can and should cook and that everyone can and should learn classical techniques as a means for eating well and enjoying life. But I've read enough about Julia to now know how instrumental her husband Paul Child was in her life. Now I can't separate the two of them in my head--they act as a unit: Julia and Paul.

Their marriage was a true partnership, a relationship of give and take that was built upon mutual admiration, support, and affection. Paul wholeheartedly supported Julia's culinary aspirations, often washing dishes she used after her demonstration appearances. Their marriage is chronicled, warts and all, in his witty, lively style in the many letters he wrote to his twin brother, Charlie.

I recently found this charming blog post where the writer reprints a story he wrote after visiting with the Childs in the early 1980s. She cooked him a meal and he recorded some of Julia and Paul's conversation. I love how they share thoughts and complete each other's sentences. They truly share a brain--something Jeremy and I have started to notice more and more where at least once a day, often several times, one or the other of us will say something and the other will say, "I was just about to say that/I was just thinking that!" Or else we'll say the same thing at the same time. The once-a-day estimation is no exaggeration. It is one of the things that brings me the greatest joy about our partnership: that we are two individuals who very much make up a whole.

Julia and Paul's marriage is everything I aspire to in my own pending one. What other epic or noble marriages or partnerships can you think of that inspire you?

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