Thursday, May 11, 2006

Turning Tricks for Your Enjoyment

I confess. I made the watercress soup just as an excuse to put bacon and Gorgonzola into something.

The emerald green soup (well, that was the plan) with its mild, creamy flavor evokes rural Ireland, lace doilies, elderly ladies sipping tea in green, green gardens while wearing flower print dresses that billow slightly in the warm summer breeze.

Not what I was going for.

So I did the nasty. Added some greasy, pungent, salty, smoky bacon and cheese.

And good! Whew. Very good. A contrast that teased the tongue with every bite. Here smooth and creamy, there biting and smoky.

But that’s not the trick. The trick is how to convey the naughtiness of mixing the prim and proper soup with the street smart and hard living bacon and cheese.

First, we just sprinkled some on top.

It sank. Like the Titanic. Express elevator to the bottom.

Well, of course – it needs one of those toasts to float it! A little round of toast will float on the thin soup, like a row boat filled with gorgonzola and bacon.

And it did float – just long enough to get my camera set up, then it sank in a waterlogged mush to the bottom. Carrying the cheese and bacon to a watery death with it.

Well, naturally, they always toast the bread in olive oil - water proof! – so it won’t sink! After a few burned toasts were tossed, an appropriately browned one was carefully cut into a round. It floated! Some cheese and bacon was carefully heaped on top. It floated enough for a picture.

So I snapped a few pictures as it slowly sank into the green mire. It was almost funny. Each picture revealing less and less of the bacon and cheese. Till it was gone.

Teenboy now has a whole new set of words to impress his friends with. Ones I haven’t used since high school in the locker room. And since I repeated them over and over for an hour, with some fairly crisp articulation, I’m pretty sure this father son lesson was well learned.

We puzzled how to take a picture of some cheese and bacon on a bowl of thin green soup. Einstein had an easier time figuring out relativity. Plus he didn’t have everyone standing around snapping witty comments about how late it was.

What if we tied the toast to the ceiling with thin wires, letting it hover just above the soup?

Or maybe pour in a packet of gelatin and make a soup brick. I mean, it’s the internet, it’s a picture. Who would really know?

So it went.

Then Teenboy made a joke. At least we thought it was a joke. He suggested putting that little plastic thing that comes in the pizza boxes and holds the top of the box off the pizza into the soup. Like a mini-table. And put the cheese and bacon on that. We laughed for a few minutes.

Until it became clear that that was a perfect solution. A brilliant idea! Not a little plastic thing, but an upside down egg cup. With the soup bowl filled until it just covered the cup. And the gorgonzola and bacon placed on top.

We took pictures for an hour. Not very good pictures. But none the less. Ones in which the bacon and cheese was visable. The orange background ones are the sinking ship (you can see it just as it goes down in the last picture below). The yellow background picture above is the egg cup one. And you can pile it up to gravity-defying heights.

So there you go. A trick, turned just for you (felt good, was it good for you too?). Secrets of the trade. Not too useful for burgeoning chefs, but pretty handy for wanna-be foodporn photogs!

Watercress Soup with Gorgonzola and Bacon
Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cooking School - County Cork, Ireland
Adapted by surfindaave

Watercress is frequently mentioned as a foodstuff in the twelfth-century manuscript Agallamh na Seanorach (The Colloquy of the Old Men). Legend has it that it was watercress that enabled St Brendan to live the ripe old age of 180! In Birr Castle in Co. Offaly, Lord and Lady Rosse still serve a soup of watercress gathered from around St. Brendan's well, just below the castle walls.

Yield: 6 Servings
½ pound bacon strips, cut into pieces
½ cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3 Tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter
1 1/4 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/4 cups yellow onion, chopped finely
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups creamy milk
2 bunches of chopped watercress (remove the coarse stalks)
Sautee bacon over medium heat, stirring, until well browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Set aside and reserve.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and milk, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are soft.
Add the watercress and boil with the lid off for approximately 4 to 5 minutes until the watercress is cooked. It will taste soft and tender. Do not overcook or the soup will loose its fresh green .
Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if necessary.
Gently mix bacon with gorgonzola in a small bowl.
Divide soup among 6 soup bowls, sprinkle with some of the cheese and bacon mixture and serve. Enjoy!

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