French Friday’s with Dorie
My grandmother made two kinds of soup. One was the kind that comes out of a red and white can and the other was something she called “refrigerator soup”. The can kind was always Campbell’s and if we were lucky it would be Tomato with Rice, our favorite. If we were not so lucky she would treat us to one of her now infamous soup ‘recipes’ that involved a combination of several differing cans of Campbell’s soup (such as the infamous Lobster Bisque Babs .)
Refrigerator Soup got its name from the fact that it was made using whatever she happened to have on hand in her refrigerator at the time. She would never buy anything to make soup and never followed a recipe. If it was in the refrigerator, it could be made into soup. Half a baked potato, some leftover steamed broccoli from a doggy bag, 2 pieces of breakfast sausage and a scrap of stale cheese could become a pretty delicious soup in her hands. The downside is you had to take caution from liking any particular batch of refrigerator soup too much as the one thing you could say with certainty about it was that you would never get to have it that way again. Ever.
Nothing ever went to waste at my grandmother’s house (this is the woman who could turn orange rinds into candy gifts for her friends) and refrigerator soup was a key strategic element to bag of tricks. She would scold you and either remind you about the starving children in China and share stories of the Great Depression with you if you left any scraps on your plate. Then, those scraps would become soup or if they were not actually soup worthy (a rarity) they would flavor her next batch of stock.
Refrigerator soup was pureed or sometimes it was cubed or chunky but it was always good and never appeared random. Thinking back on it I wonder now why she ever felt the need to buy soup in a can when she could turn kitchen scraps to soup gold so easily. I suppose she had the idea in her head that canned soup was actually a luxury in that way that only someone of her generation could view such a thing.
Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup
This week’s French Friday with Dorie assignment reminded me of my granmother’s refrigerator soup in that it too is made from stuff you might just happen to find in your refrigerator. Half a bag of peas, an onion, some old lettuce. Granny would have laughed at me for driving to the market to buy a bag of frozen peas in order to make it. In the car on my way I could hear her voice saying to me “you don’t need to buy anything! Just use that block of spinach you’ve had in the freezer for over a year now! You can garnish with some chopped up almonds.” Adding lettuce to the brew would have really pleased her. Its something I never would have thought to do with soup but here it lends an element of freshness to what might have just as easily tasted like canned split pea without it. Good soup Dorie!
adapted from Bon Appetit
This is what you will need:
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 8 ounces frozen peas (do not thaw)
- 4 cups (lightly packed) sliced romaine lettuce (1/2 of medium head)
- Crème fraîche or sour cream
- Crumbled cooked bacon
This is how you make it:
- Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add onion; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Add 3 cups broth; bring to boil. Stir in peas and lettuce.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender and flavors blend, about 10 minutes.
- Cool slightly.
- Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth.
- Return soup to same saucepan and bring to simmer, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup to desired consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide soup among 4 bowls.
- Top with dollop of crème fraîche and/or bacon.