March 17, 2005

Escalade Soup

This soup is not named after a pickup truck bedecked with bling, but if you read on, you will see that the reverse may be true.

2 medium potatoes
3 carrots
1 parsnip
1 leek
3 stalks celery
2 quarts beef consomme
1 pound frozen peas - defrosted
3/4 cup rice
1/4 cup minced parsley

So, what's this consume, eh? Some brands of packaged beef broth claim it is a direct substitute, but it isn't. Consomme is correctly a seasoned, reduced, clarified beef broth. You could start by cracking the bones from some roast beef, and simmering and skimming and adding tomato paste and a couple of bay leaves and simmering some more and straining and simmering and skimming but you probably won't. You could start with the boughten beef stock and add a beef boullion cube and maybe a vegetable boullion cube, but you would do well to look for low-sodium broth, as those boullion cubes are pretty much flavored salt. The most likely solution is four cans of Campbell's condensed beef consomme. If you add the full four cans of water you will be a tad over two quarts; you could measure out enough water to make it exact if you want. In any case, adding a scant teaspoon of instant coffee to the liquid will bring out the beefiness, but more than that will make it bitter.

Peel the potatoes, carrots, parsnip and onion, and wash the leek and celery, and then slice them all. Peeling the parsnip is especially important because for some reason they seem to always be coated with wax wherever I've gotten them. Simmer the vegetables in the consomme for 15 minutes, add the peas and rice, and simmer for 20 minutes more. Add the parsley, and maybe a pinch of salt if whatever stock you used wasn't salty enough already.

You could probably make this soup in the crockpot on the high setting by lengthening the cooking time, but that would rule out the final historic detail. Bring the soup to a full boil, and pour it on the Savoyard soldiers, scaling the the wall, thereby scalding them. This historic action, "L'Escalade", took place in Geneva, Switzerland the night of December 11th, 1602, and is remembered every year with speeches, parades, and soup. Geneva being a city noted for wealth, any reference to it no doubt adds class to your SUV.

I found this recipe, and the history behind it, in a delightful cookbook entitled Cooking Round The World With A Wooden Spoon, by Frederique Fredge, which I happened upon while thrift shop shopping. I picked up the book to see if I wanted to further burden our vast collection with it, and opened it at random to an incident from the author's childhood which took place one block north and two miles east of our house. The author being in some sense a neighbor, I of course brought her book home. Milwaukee's Vliet Street farmer's market, also known as the Haymarket, was at one time the city's melting pot, the place to buy live chickens, fresh vegetables, and assorted ethnic cuisines. It was the original home of Speed Queen Barbecue, which John Kerry failed to go to when he campaigned in Milwaukee. The Haymarket was torn down to build the Lake Extension to the freeway system, and then the Lake Extension was in turn torn down to make downtown Milwaukee harder to drive to and thus more attractive to do business in. The resultant empty space will someday again be a thriving business district when all the other projects are completed and the demand for development space outweighs the feelgood restrictions put on this one area.

Posted by triticale at March 17, 2005 12:45 PM
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