Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tomato & Smoked Gouda Soup + Frico (Frico? What the..)

almost there

  What is better than a hot bowl of soup on a rainy December evening? A whiskey laden hot toddy you ask? Ok, yes, you'd be right. Scratch that. What is the second best thing? Probably a bowl of tomato soup. And I am certainly not talking about the canned stuff (well, not exactly). Of all the many soup varieties that exist out there, tomato has always hands down been my favorite. So simple and unassuming, yet so ricidulously satisfying. Lately, a lot of "bisque" talk has been going on. Which I think is silly. The humble tomato has no time for such frivolous labels. Save that fancy talk for lobsters and such.
  As the name implies, there is smoked Gouda in this soup. I will be the first to admit that it is not my most favorite of cheeses. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with it, it's just...kind of...boring. But it has all of the requirements for a fine cooking cheese indeed. Its smooth texture and smoky flavor play nicely with roasted tomatoes.
  Now, were it summertime, I would be praising the attributes of sweet fresh tomatoes. But being that it is winter (I think, it is Georgia after all), canned tomatoes are called for here. To save face, let's just assume that I slow roasted and canned all of these tomatoes myself,
Ok? Thanks.  

the base
And what is a soup without a nice garnish or three? Sour cream is a must, and pancetta is a fine adornment, but let me introduce you to frico. Many of you may already be familiar with frico, maybe just not with its proper name. It is a thin Italian cheese crisp made of nothing more than grated Parmesan. Bake for a few minutes in the oven and you have one fantastic (gluten, grain, and nut free!) cracker. So simple.
beginnings of frico

Tomato & Smoked Gouda Soup


2 1/4 inch slices of pancetta, diced
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. roasted canned tomatoes
3 T tomato paste
2 c chicken stock or water
2 T fresh basil, minced
1/2 lb. smoked Gouda, shredded
salt & pepper to taste
1 c heavy cream or full fat coconut milk

Brown pancetta over Medium heat until crispy, spoon out and set aside.
Saute carrots and onion in fat until soft, 5 min.
Add garlic and cook for 1 min,
Add tomatoes, paste, stock, basil, and Gouda and bring to boil.
Stir, cover, and reduce heat to Low.
Simmer for 20 min.
Blend soup in blender or with an immersion blender.
Add cream and season to taste.
Garnish with reserved pancetta and a dollop of sour cream.

Italian Frico


finely grated Parmesan or another hard grating cheese like Piave, Asiago, or Pecorino Romano

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Layer a heaping tablespoon of cheese onto paper, leaving about 2 inches in between each pile.
Bake for 5-7 min., watching closely.
Remove from oven when edges start to brown.
Let cool for 5 min.
Try not to eat entire sheet.
Eventually garnish soup after eating 3-4 frico while no one is looking.

tomato soup with frico

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My gratin obsession.

  While I am a passionate lover of almost all vegetables, I admit that turnips and radishes are at the lower end of my preference list (celery being the biggest loser, it's just so weird). Which I have always felt to be such a shame, as they are so beautiful and easy to grow. I love their colorful purple, white, and red skins, and enjoy plucking them from the dirt. Just not eating them so much. So, after having received a heap of them in my last CSA, they had been hanging out in the bottom of my refrigerator for quite some time. Luckily, they are forgiving and patient roots. Finally, I decided that last night was the night to do something with my poor vegetables.
  This is where gratins come into play. As of late I have been reading through Julia Child's marvelous Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Now, it will come as no surprise to some of you that I am very fond of all things French, and by fond I mean utterly obsessed. It is my life's dream to visit France, but until then, I pretend I am there most evenings in my kitchen.
  A gratin is more of a technique rather than a dish. It is essentially anything sauced that has been browned in the oven. Typically it is a meat, fish, or vegetable dish that is smothered in a cream sauce, topped with bread crumbs or grated cheese, dotted with butter, and broiled. And it has become my new favorite way of cooking every vegetable under the sun.
  So, obviously, as I stood in front of my open fridge racking my brain over what to do with those humble roots, the first thing that leapt to mind was a gratin. The beauty of a dish like this is its simplicity and versatility. No real recipe is required. All that is needed is to layer thinly sliced vegetables in a small baking dish, make a cream sauce flavored however you like (add eggs if you like it more set, leave out if you like it more saucy), pour over said vegetables, and top with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and a few pats of butter, then bake. I have gratined everything from cauliflower and broccoli, to leeks, brussel sprouts, even carrots.  
  If you have an issue with lactose, use coconut milk (the thick full fat stuff in the can) it works beautifully and doesn't taste so..uh...coconutty. Any cheese will work, I prefer a little Gruyere or Raclette mixed into the sauce, and Parmesan to top. And feel free to add toasted nuts or herbs. For last night's dish I used walnuts, garlic, and Dijon mustard.


turnips & radishes
navets et radis

ready to bake
prêt à cuire

Gratin de Navet et le Radis (Turnip & Radish Gratin)


1 lb. turnips and radishes, sliced thinly
1 egg (optional)
1/2 c cream or coconut milk
4 T creme fraiche
1 T Dijon mustard
3-4 oz. shredded cheese (try Gruyere, Raclette, Comte, or even an aged Cheddar)
1/2 c toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
a pinch of nutmeg
Parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly butter a small baking dish and layer with vegetables, the biggest slices on the bottom.
Season with salt and pepper and dot with a few small pieces of butter and bake uncovered for 15 min.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg, cream, creme fraiche, cheese, garlic, and 1/2 of the nuts. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Pour over turnips and top with Parmesan, remaining walnuts, and a few more dots of butter.
Bake for 15 more min. then place under broiler just until cheese is browned.
Let cool for 15 min. to thicken a bit.

Finished Gratin