Cold days of winter make the best case for eating soup


January 05, 1994|By ROB KASPER

As the weather gets rottener, the hunger for soup grows stronger.

There are some logical reasons why. Winter is cold, soup is hot. Winter is usually hard on the body. Soup is comforting. Winter storms make us immobile and soup is enjoyed when you are sitting down, with nothing much else to do but spoon yourself up some pleasure.

I am a supporter of the standard-issue canned soups such as tomato, chicken noodle and vegetable. I especially like the cans of vegetable soup that offer floating letters of the alphabet. Hunting down those elusive "Os" makes soup sipping a sport.

As for crab soup, I believe the red, vegetable based, crab soup should be served at lunch. This color crab soup keeps you much warmer during the day than the white variety of crab soup. The white, or cream of crab, soup should be eaten in the evening, when you are cocooned in your home, safe from the ravages of winter. Oyster soup, on the other hand, should be sipped any time on Fridays of months containing the letter "R."

The beginning of the New Year should find you eating soup made with a ham bone, black beans and onions. Not only is this soup delicious, it also effectively wards off all those dreaded black-eyed pea dishes that people try to stuff down your throat in the name of "Good Luck for the New Year."

I started off this new year with some black bean soup, some potato soup and a soup made of apples, onions and curry.

The black bean and potato soups were old friends, but the curried apple number was a newcomer. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be one of those dishes that suffers from the "wandering fruit" syndrome. This is a condition in which a strawberry, for example, shows up in a part of the meal where no fruit has gone before.

Often this placement of fruit is done for effect. A chef is trying to shock eaters into new ways of thinking about food. Usually this approach leaves me cold. I don't want to be shocked by my supper. I want to enjoy it.

So I was skeptical of a soup that had chunks of apple floating in it. But when I saw my wife making it, my concerns lessened. First of all, it came from a trusted cookbook, Ellen Brown's "Cooking With The New American Chefs" (Harper & Row $13). Ever since that cookbook came out, in 1985, my family has had good luck using it to fix fancy fare. Moreover, this recipe came from Marcel Desaulniers, chef at the Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, Va. Not only had I met this guy, I also had eaten his chocolate pecan pie. And a fine pie it was.

So I ate the soup made of apples and onions and curry. The apples were a little crunchy, but, overall, the soup was terrific.

On the day I ate the soup the weather was mild. But on colder days the soup can get hotter. Just up the curry powder.

Marcel Desaulniers' curried apple & onion soup

Serves 8

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

5 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 onion chopped

3 onions sliced

1 leek, white part only, rinsed well under running water and chopped

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon curry powder or to taste

3 quarts chicken stock, heated

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add the oil, celery, chopped onion (reserving the sliced onion) and the leek. Saute the vegetables over low heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

In a soup pot, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter on low. Add flour and curry powder and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Slowly add 1 quart chicken stock and whisk until smooth. Add sauteed vegetables and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, or pass through a food mill. Set aside.

In a heavy pot, melt remaining tablespoon of butter and saute sliced onions over low heat until transparent, about 10 minutes. Add remaining quarts of stock and boil gently over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add celery puree, sliced apples and cream. Simmer for 10 minutes, adjusting with salt and pepper.

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