Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nuclear Soup

The Bachelor Gourmet strikes again! Yesterday I decided to whip up a batch of pea soup, flavored with some venison sausage that had been handed down to me from some friends of my parents. I had been thawing the sausage in my refrigerator for a couple of days, and I had several hours of leisure-time to spend cooking. So I gave the peas a quick soak, then chucked in the meat and about a quart of water and a quart of chicken broth, and then committed my fatal blunder. I added all my seasonings at the beginning of the cooking process.

In the past, I had been prudent enough to wait until the soup was almost done before adding seasonings to it. I was starting to think that this scruple was based more on superstition than on any real reason. Something about not wanting to retard the softening of the pea skins, or something about not allowing the virtue of my herbs and spices go up in steam - some absurd notion like that. What I should have worried about, I now realize, is the danger of judging how much pepper, thyme, and garlic powder to add based on the volume of liquid in the pot before it has a chance to boil down.

All this is to say, I seriously misjudged. I put in far more spice than I would have (or should have) had I measured it in proportion to the final outcome. And for your information, the power of crushed red pepper is not diminished by simmering for five hours. The acids and essential oils that give the spices their spiciness did not evaporate along with the greater quantity of the water. Rather, they assumed greater power as the liquid base around them became more concentrated. Even the flavor of the chicken broth, by itself, became more pronounced.

So, what was the final result? Nuclear soup! Before I went to work, I took the pot off the stove and, having let it cool down a bit, popped it in the fridge. When I got home, I transferred most of it into a sealable container, and nuked up the remaining bowlful in the microwave. Let's just say the taste won't be soon forgotten. I break out in a sweat just thinking about it. It really is better, I find, to err on the side of under-seasoning a soup. For then there is something you can do about it!

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