Soup. Souper. Supper. When the gray days linger too long and we are all getting a bit SAD, it’s either travel south or make soup. The Ultimate Winter Food.
Years ago a well-meaning friend dubbed this Gloomy Gascony, and although our weather is winter mild with sunny summers, gorgeous springs and gentle autumns- there is that dreaded three weeks of extreme gloom that settles into the Garonne River Valley about now. We are nearly through it, but it’s still taxes my spirit and even with a book to write, classes to teach and travel to plan, I feel myself succumbing to the lowering sky. This is when my magic soup pot comes to the rescue!
Recently, my soup making life got so much easier. No, I don’t have an Instant Pot but I do have a very wonderful and typically European modern pressure cooker. It steams, boils, and pressure cooks about everything. Although I love the slow and gentle heat of hours on the back of the stove in an old enameled cast iron pot, my cocotte-minute has transformed my soup making into a bright and happy forty-five minute kitchen dance. Put on some music and let's go! The best results are those done when I am multi-tasking- arranging spices, cleaning out drawers, polishing silver, posting on Instagram. I am partial to the Bee-gees. Whether it's Barry Gibbs or the pressure cooker, I have a lighter touch making soup. I use just a few key ingredients; I improvise more. My soups have jumped a big bright notch from overcooked to exquisite.
Let’s make soup while I get the kitchen in order for this weekend’s Charcuterie Foundation classes. There might even be a new recipe developed as I take stock of what’s in the vegetable baskets: 4 turnips, celery leaf, cabbage, leeks. Sounds like a good start for a hot and sour warming broth with a bit of charcuterie for flavor. Perfect to pair with a melting Mont d’Or cheese and those crispy fresh pickles we like. And all that goes well with a Cote de Gascogne white wine. Ok, that’s wasn’t so hard.
This is what I put in my Winter Soup pot.
- 2 liters of cold water
- 4 large turnips, peeled and cubed
- a large handful of chopped celery leaves
- a small cabbage (I used a Savoy but a Napa would be nice) cored and cut into wedges
- 1 large leek sliced and well washed
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- a chunk of ventreche or pancetta
- a delicious roasted ham hock and all of its juices
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- several black peppercorns
- 6 whole cloves
- the juice of one whole lemon
- a ladle of homemade red wine vinegar
Everything went into the pot starting with the water. Then I added things as I chopped them into the pot. By the time I was finished, and added the lemon juice and vinegar, it was steaming hot. I clamped the lid on and let it continue to cook for about 20 minutes more under pressure. a total of about 40 minutes. After letting it cool enough to open the lid, I tasted and adjusted the seasoning-a bit more salt and lashing of walnut oil on serving. Hot, sour, and cabbage sweet. Just right on this not so gloomy now day at Camont. No go forth and make soup!