MAKE ME A SANDWICH!
Rizzo got me an interesting book for Christmas this year titled The Mad Feast by Matthew Gavin Frank. It wasn't anything on my list but it is a great book and I'm glad to have received it. The book explores various foods from each of the US states told through essays, short stories, or autobiographical excerpts that revolve around that particular states food. Sometimes recipes are included, sometimes not, but so far they have all been interesting tales.
Getting this book inspired me to revive a project that I had started once before but never too seriously. I decided that once a month I'm going to cook something that I have never cooked before and see how it turns out. I enjoy cooking from time to time but I'm not a gourmet chef by any definition. The purpose is just to enjoy some time in the kitchen and maybe find a recipe or two that can be a keeper.
The first recipe I took directly from the book as a celebration of Virginia. The recipe was for peanut soup. Rizzo had never heard of peanut soup and I have only had it once before at a fancy hotel in Roanoke. So I purchased the ingredients, rolled up my sleeves, and started cooking up a storm.
The soup recipe that I was working from is very simple with a very small number of ingredients. All you need to make about 4 servings is:
-1/8 cup of butter
-1 Tbsp of flour
-2 cups of chicken stock
-2 cups of water
-1/2 cup of peanut butter
-1/4 cup of peanuts (optional for garnish)
-1/4 cup of water chestnuts (optional for garnish)
Cooking up this soup couldn't be simpler. To prove how simple it really is, I'm writing these instructions from memory with no reference to the book at all. It really is that easy. Start off by melting the butter in a large saucepan. Once it is fully melted, stir in the flour and mix well to create a nice thick sauce (or as the French call it, a "roux").
When the roux is mixed will add the chicken broth and water. Stir well then bring the entire mixture to a boil. When the mixture starts to boil, stir in the peanut butter and continue to stir until all the peanut butter is dissolved and you have a nice smooth liquid. Now you are done. Keep the soup on a low heat until you are ready to serve. The longer you keep the soup over the heat the thicker it will get. When you serve, garnish the soup with the peanuts and the water chestnuts.
The soup turned out pretty good but I would have liked for it to be a bit thicker with more peanut butter flavor. I think adding in a little less water, a little more peanut butter, and letting the soup simmer for longer than 15 minutes would have given it a lot more peanut flavor. When I served the soup it wasn't even thick enough to support the garnish. The peanuts and the water chestnuts just dove directly to the bottom of the bowl like a dog dying of thirst.
Overall, I think this was a good first edition of the monthly cooking expedition. I'll be spending this month reading, researching, and reviewing other recipes to decide what the next installment will entail. Perhaps I need to whip up a Valentine's Day treat. Any suggestions?