Village idiots and classroom victory

This week’s classes were revolutionary. Not so much in the way of cooking, but in taking a stand against the village idiots and culinary bullies in our class. The women, collectively, were revolutionaries. They bonded and pushed back.

As a result, the girl I squabbled with last week, “K,” was sent packing to another group after Chef caught wind of how she was speaking to her peers. I’m not sure how he found out — I never said anything. But I did mouth a big ”Thank you!” to Chef after he announced the change. R, and his rowdy reputation, in association with K, was also sent packing. Ah, peace, bliss, quiet, and cooking without a single mention of the word f*ck.

Half way through class, there was a commotion at the station in front of mine. R, it seemed, was being hung by his toe nails in the town square by his peers. The girls in his group decided they weren’t going to take his dictating and overpowering nature — both of which I’m immune to, after working with him last semester. Nevertheless, I was ammused to see the boy put in his place by a bunch of girls.

And, exciting news from Quantity Cookery II. Chef is, over time, breaking up our groups to eventually allow us to cook alone. We began the semester in groups of four. This week, and for the next couple of weeks, we’re cooking in groups of two, and then towards the end of the semester, we cook alone. I can hardly wait to handle the work station on my own — this was, by far, the best news of the semester.

I made a simple Carrot Ginger soup last night, which was exactly what I needed – pure, fresh ingredients. We’ve been cooking such heavy sauces and pan gravies over the last couple of weeks, I needed a break. The most satisfying part was Chef’s permission to improvise. He typically gives us the name of a recipe to create and then allows us to select the technique. Last night I chose to create a puree, with the vegetable acting as the thickener, rather than using a roux, slurry or beurre manie. Here’s the recipe, serving 6 – 8.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups diced carrots (approximately 6 regular carrots or 4 extra large)
1 rib celery, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
Zest of one large orange
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus more for thinning the soup
Salt and Pepper to taste (white pepper can be used in place of black)
Half and half or heavy cream for thinning the soup (optional)

Add butter and oil to a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and celery and cook until the onions are translucent. Adjust heat to prevent the onions from browning. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the vegetables. Add the grated ginger and orange zest, stir to incorporate.

Add the chicken stock, stir, and then cover. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are just tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste.

Puree the soup in a blender or by using an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add additional chicken stock or cream for the desired consistency.

Using room temperature butter will melt faster, giving you more cooking time before the milk solids in the butter begin to brown.

To test the carrots for doneness, simply taste one, or pierce with the tip of a knife. If the knife goes through without resistance, the carrots are cooked through.

The soup will be thick after pureeing it. If you like a thinner consistency, add the chicken broth or cream 1/4 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate until the desired consistency is achieved.

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