Monday, March 14, 2011

My First Foray Into "The Flavor Bible"

Rachel here.

My brother, S., gave me a cookbook for Christmas that I've been meaning to dive into as soon as I found myself with a little leisurely time. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is unlike any other cookbook we own. Instead of recipes, as one might expect, it offers flavor combinations, ingredient by ingredient. So cool! So often I find myself cooking and unsure of what to pair with what absent a step-by-step recipe. This book is just the ticket for such moments.

I've been wanting to make soup for a while (ok, all winter). With the aid of The Flavor Bible, I concocted a totally delicious chicken, mushroom and white bean soup in a lemony garlic broth.

To start, I made chicken stock. I'm yet to find a store-bought version that comes anywhere near the homemade stuff and so, for the time being, homemade is how we're rolling when it comes to chicken stock in our house. I piled a stockpot full on chicken bones and one complete breast, big hunks of celery, wedges of onion and halved carrots. A few bay leaves and brimming with water, I let the stuff simmer for hours until our whole house smelled warm and welcoming. I strained the vegetables and bones out, shredded the chicken from the breast and set it aside in the fridge along with the strained stock until evening.

The trick to making your own stock, as I learned from my Great Uncle David, is to leave time for it to chill in order for the fat to solidify on the top. Then, before you put it back on the stove to generate your soup, you can scrape the fat from the top quite easily. It is far preferable to the oily skimming I've done in the past, both in terms of ease and effectiveness.

For the soup proper, I diced up half an onion and a few stalks of celery and sliced three carrots. Into a saute pan they went until they were browned and softened, at which point I added them into my stock pot. Then I sliced and sauteed mushrooms, adding these to the soup once they were browned along with the shredded chicken and the juice from one lemon. I minced a few cloves of garlic and thinly sliced another lemon (a la my grandmother's chicken soup), tossing these in towards the end along with a rinsed can of white beans. I simmered the soup a bit longer, adding a generous dash of hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste until everything came together. John (using store-bought pizza dough) whipped up some breadsticks (rolled in parmesan and fennel seeds and other delicious things that he can't recall...he doesn't need The Flavor Bible's help the way I do) which finished baking just in time for us to heap soup into bowls and sit down for a cozy dinner on a rainy night.

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