julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Soup

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Here is the mother of the family in all her simplicity. You’ll note there’s no chicken stock here, just water, leeks, potatoes, and salt in the soup base.” – Julia Child

Well, folks, another weekend has come and gone where I had to miss out on yet another grocery shopping extravaganza. Saturday night my women’s chorus performed our big annual show (to a packed theater, I might add!) and it was a huge success. We spent the night at the adjoining hotel so we could celebrate our victory into the wee hours of the morning…which, believe me, we did. Sometime around 11:00 on Sunday morning we woke up, packed up our stuff and got home around 1:00 – where we immediately fell back into bed and stayed there, comotose, until about (*cringe*) 6:00 that evening.

I did the math later and realized that for at least the past month (if not longer), I’ve been getting about four hours of sleep a night. (Do you know what it’s like to plan a two-hour performance for 100 women in a venue that holds 1200 people with a program that includes four guest performers and five costume changes? Imagine running a marathon through an obstacle course for four months straight with a sack of potatoes tied to your ankle…it’s kinda like that.) So I didn’t feel too badly then about my five hour nap on Sunday – although I was kind of sad to miss out on my weekly grocery run.

All of that to say when it came time to make dinner last night, I had to resort to ingredients I already had in my fridge. Luckily, one of last week’s planned meals never came to fruition (see previous statement about four hours of sleep a night) so I had the makings for Potage au Cresson (water-cress soup) on standby. Do you know what I love about this recipe? IT’S SO EASY. It’s almost identical to our previously cooked Potage Parmentier, only this time we add some water-cress. In fact, the hardest part of this recipe was actually finding the water-cress at a grocery store.

Water-cress Soup simmering on the stove.

I started out by peeling and dicing some potatoes and thinly slicing some leeks. I put them in a pot of water on the stove and let them simmer partially covered for just under an hour until they were tender. When the timer went off, I added some chopped water-cress to the pot and let it simmer for another five minutes. When done, I took a fork and mashed the vegetables until the mixture became a thickened puree. (Captain Obvious says: Be sure to wear oven mitts during this step because the steam coming off the contents of the pot is HOT.) All that’s left at that point is to take the pot off the stove and add a few tablespoons of whipping cream. What was moments ago a pot full of watery veggies will now be thick and creamy. (I learned my lesson from the time I made Julia’s potato soup and used less water than before, so the texture of the water-cress soup was just right. Yay!)

In all honesty, this soup tasted just like the Potage Parmentier…only better because I finally mastered the recipe. The leeks were super tender and I had managed to mash the potatoes more completely, so the consistency of the soup was just right. I have to say, though, this soup (like the parmentier) needs lots of spices to bring out its flavor. I prefer Nature’s Seasoning, a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar, onion, garlic, celery, and parsley. A few shakes of that bottle and you’ll be right as rain. But feel free to use your own favorite – I don’t think anything could be wrong here.

Potage au Cresson

To fill out this meal, we made simple tuna sandwiches, and this actually turned out to be a great little dinner, considering everything was so easy. There’s nothing that says French cuisine has to be intricate and difficult. Sometimes a delicious easy soup is just what a hectic life needs. Don’t you think?


Today’s French Lesson:
“Il y aura le temps de dormir quand je serai mort.”

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