Sunday, August 30, 2009

Soup Again

On Monday we were supposed to fabricate fish, meaning butcher and prepare. I was cautiously excited about this. Most of my life I have been fishing, though not for the past ten years. Growing up my Grandpa would take me out on Lake Erie by the Crib and we would fish for perch. Strangely, I never caught any perch, I always caught Sheepshead. No complaints here, they are a much bigger fish and more fun to catch. I loved collecting the luck stones from their heads. We'd be out all day and catch hundreds of perch. I was never involved in the cleaning but the adults would fill the freezers full of fish, never filleted mind you, always pan fried.

My Grandpa would also take us trout fishing at a duck and trout club he belonged to. Every year there was a fishing derby for kids that was a madhouse but often we went on quiet weekends. Since it was a stocked pond I would often catch my limit of trout.

And my family still maintains a cottage in Angola IN where I did most of my fishing growing up. Most of what we caught in Crooked Lake were blue gills(our place is just on the other side of the point, left of the X). We had the wire baskets that we would hang off the side of the dock to keep the fish alive that we caught. I would lay face down hanging over the side of the dock and clean my catch in the lake, scaling the fish right in the water with a spoon. Friends of ours two doors down taught me how to clean my own fish.

I did a lot of fishing in South Carolina. My friends and I mostly poached on farm ponds. I always thought we had permission, but in hindsight I'm not so sure. Often when we would fish with Clarence and he would haul a flat bottom jon boat in the back of his truck that the three of us would put around the pond with an electric trolling motor. It was in SC that I learned to fillet fish. I'm sad to say that I haven't fished since I left SC. Lack of access I guess. I need to do something about that since I need to get off my butt and take my daughter fishing.

In planning for fabricating fish I took my awesome Glestain salmon slicer with me to class. Unfortunately I don't have a fillet knife. But when I got to class I learned that the fish didn't come in. Instead we would be revisiting knife skills. Chef felt walking around the past few weeks that we really needed a refresher. I could not agree more. My skills aren't the best but at least I don't stand two feet away from the table with the knife held like a hammer hacking away at my vegetables. I'm just a slow slicer.

For once I worked by myself. Which was good. I saw no reason to crowd a table with knives slinging about. I'd walk around trying to figure where to put my cuts with people who had made similar cuts. It was kind of scary to see what people were doing. Amazingly every time I told a table that cut potatoes go in water I'd get the evil eye. I joked with Ridges that his table mates had nice brown potatoes.

Chef told us that one side of the class was going to make a cream soup and the other side was to make a stock based soup. Then each side was to divide in two groups. I aligned myself with Ridges' table which included Hottie #3 and Baby Face, who I find to be a prick and a half. He did not change my opinion of him.

Ridges suggested corn chowder. Sounded good to me. I was not in the mood to be a leader that day. Since we had been chopping up onion, celery and carrots we automatically had some mirepoix. Ridges and I agreed that we would get it cooked down and then strain it out like we did with the Mulligatawny soup. Baby Face and Hottie #3 were very anti-social, which I found unusual for Hottie since she is normally quite social with me. But BF is her best friend and I suppose that was his influence upon her. Somewhere our soup morphed as they both began dicing up potatoes to go into the soup. Ridges seemed perplexed but I went along with it.

I checked on the other side. RK had a couple gallons of frozen beef stock in a large brazier that he was chipping at with a chef's knife. Dude! I told him to knock the top of the ice block off and went to fetch a lid. After he had enough of the top chipped off I put the lid on and explained the ice would melt much faster with the lid on because you create a steam bath. Come on man! He seemed perplexed but later we were washing dishes and I had to stop him from taking the dishes out of the dish washer before they went through the rinse cycle. He said the washer had stopped. I said yes but it does a rinse cycle next, pointing to the digital readout that said "RINSING." You have to wait for it to finish rinsing off the soap and sanitizer before you take them out. I'm not sure he understood me so it's no surprise he didn't understand why I put the lid on.

Next thing I knew BF and Hottie were chopping up Italian sausage. WTF? This is like no corn chowder I've every heard of. Then they wanted to roast it in beer. Huh? Roast it in beer? I have never heard of roasting sausage in beer. Boiling in beer, yes. I went to Wisconsin. We eat brats and drink Miller at 8:00 AM waiting for kickoff, but roasting? Of course they all treated me like I was the dumb ass. Of course roasting! Whatever. Oh to be 20 again.

Looking at the mirepoix, there was nothing to drain the vegetables out of. I suggested to Ridges that we add a quart of cream to the vegetables and let it simmer awhile for flavor and then we would have something to strain. So the soup came together like this: we strained the mirepoix out, added the strained cream to the 2 quarts we had simmering on the back burner, added the potatoes, added the sausage sans beer (who thinks beer and milk go together?), seasoned it all and let it simmer until the potatoes were tender.

I guess we ended up with potato and sausage soup. It was really good, though I'm not sure that the sage in the sausage really went well. I'm not sure why Hottie #3 picked that sausage. There were three other sausages in the freezer but I don't think she looked that hard. Mouth and the Sushi Boys made some kind of cream of chicken with bacon. It was pretty good too, as good as ours I would say. On the other side, Bar Code and his lap dogs made something like minestrone which I did not care for. MILF and Hottie #2's group made a vegetable beef soup that was good but the meat was too tough. They needed to braise the meat longer or better yet use a pressure cooker. MILF said that was exactly what the book called for. Good prediction on my part!

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