Friday, January 19, 2007

In the soup, once more...

In my pursuit to continue working on my culinary skills, I have been trying to cook dinner at night, even though I'd really rather eat a bag of pretzel chips and some squeeze cheese. Sometimes, I even envy the dogs—they get the same thing every day (table scraps are the big no-no at our house!), but I figure The Man would get just a wee bit cranky if I served him a big ol’ bowl of Science Diet.

So, night before last, I embarked on a 30-minute meal. We’ve previously discussed my lovery-hatery of Rachael Ray, but I really do like some of her stuff. (Note the operative word being “some.”) The second 30-minute Meals cookbook, aptly named 30-Minute Meals 2, has some things in it that aren’t as freaky as her later offerings. (For the record, I really do despise the word, “stoup.” It’s a stew or it’s a thick soup—not some bastardized combination word. It‘s bad enough that “EVOO” made it into the OED, so let’s just stop it now.)

Anyway, I decided to make her Waterzooi de Poulet, which is a Belgian (according to Rachael) chicken something or ‘other soup. It’s a cream-based soup, with leeks, potatoes, carrots, and chicken, and she says to eat it with crusty bread. Works for me. It started out well enough, but for some reason, I couldn’t get it to thicken to save my life. So, it was a thin cream-based soup, which is not nearly as nice. I thought about adding cornstarch, but for some reason, I got it in to my head that was cheating (blame it on the traffic!). Plus, I had some flashback memories to about 20 years or so ago when I tried to make chicken noodle soup for the first time. Let’s just say that I was liberal, extremely liberal, with the application of cornstarch to the soup, and it turned out to be more of a Chicken Noodle Sludge than Chicken Noodle Soup.

The Man declares that it’s not his favorite thing, so he won’t be having any more of it. I liked the flavor, but not the consistency, so I’m trying to think of ways to save/improve it. (In its current state, without the chicken, it would make a lovely base for an oyster stew, but we ain’t got no oysters.) First, I try letting it set overnight to see if that would thicken it up…not happening. Then, I decided that I should add some pasta to the leftovers, reasoning that the starch from the pasta will thicken it. Besides, I’ll jump on the opportunity to add pasta to anything.

But, the dilemma is that I have already cooked chicken in the soup, and if we’ve learned nothing else from the last year, we’ve learned not to overcook or “hard cook” chicken—remember that “tacky” feeling? So, I decide to cook some pasta almost al dente and then throw it in the soup and reheat it, finishing the cooking with the reheating process. Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

Cooked some little ditalini and drained it. Dumped the leftover soup in the ditalini pot, experienced momentary frisson of panic at throwing cold cream soup into a very hot pot and crossing my fingers it wouldn’t curdle (it didn’t), and added the pasta and started to reheat the soup. Still nothing on the thickening front. So, what do I do but throw in some cornstarch…which does the trick quite nicely.

So, I’m happy with my little chicken noodle soup until I Google “waterzooi”. According to Wikipedia, THE sum of ALL knowledge, “Waterzooi is a classic stew of Northern Belgian cuisine. Its name is Dutch, meaning ‘watery mess’.” “Watery mess”?!!! You mean it was supposed to be like that?

Hand me that bag of pretzel chips and some squeeze cheese…I surrender.


Avalon said...

See, this cooking thing looks deceptively simple: Paula, Rachel, Emeril....30 seconds of chopping, a little stirring while you chat.....and it's all good. In reality, it's much more complicated than that. My family is probably verrrry lucky that i don't cook. They would be eating pretzels and cheese every day! LOL

Linna said...

Much as I think she's totally Over Exposed, I kinda like RR, at least her "Thirty Minute Meals." She sticks to basic foods, whacks all the ingredients while you watch (unlike most chefs) and tries to make a balanced meal. Not too bad.

But I totally freaked out the last time I went to Publix. I was standing in the cookie/cracker aisle, and I felt somebody *watching* me. I whipped around to find RR's perky face on ALL of the boxes behind me! Too too much.

If you find good winter stew type things, pass them along. I like crockpots in the winter. I made a Moroccan chicken thingy this week with lots of chickpeas and tomatoes and even raisins, with the chicken laid on top. Serve over couscous. I love couscous because in five minutes it's done, but be sure to use LOTS of liquid. I didn't use enough liquid one time. The couscous tasted okay, but once it hit my stomach, it started to absorb liquid there and to swell up more and more. I felt like a helium balloon with too much gas. I've never made that mistake again -- now my couscous is extra wet.