This post may seem a little peculiar, but because of Project Food Blog, it’s going to serve as a lot of people’s first introduction to me and Knuckle Salad. So I’m infusing it with an extra lot of me-ness for my new visitors. (Hello.) Lately I’ve enjoyed getting creative—you know, with the illustrations and everything—and today I’m expanding the effort by posting two soup recipes based on a story. A story I wrote. It’s not remotely famous or anything. In fact, it’s never been published. It’s just some story I wrote one time. About reading.
And because of it, you’re getting recipes. For soup.
That’s the sort of thing we do around here. Ready? Get comfortable.
First, I’m going to show you the story, because it’s short—just 125 words—and it would be strange if I didn’t. “Enjoy these recipes, inspired by a story! What? No, you can’t read it! Stop trying to pry into my private stories with your hideous filthy eyeballs!”
By the Book
The boy’s father ordered him a cup of VichySeuss, and himself a big bowl of Webster Stew with extra pages for dipping.
As he savored the rhyming flavor of his supper, the boy recalled a time when he enjoyed mere alphabet soup, its letters dancing with robust character. He suspected they’d changed the recipe; he now found it pitifully bland. But VichySeuss, with its clever leeks and cheeky onions, was to his mind the most rewarding flavor experience known to man.
It was upon the soup’s dainty couplets that the boy reflected as his father, with uncharacteristic clumsiness, bumped the table soundly and sent his bowl tumbling. In that instant, the boy marveled at the words that flowed downward, sticking in the crevices of his father’s trousers. Was every word in the English language presently displayed there? he wondered.
The particular word his father exclaimed, however, was wholly unaccounted for.
So that’s that. I wrote it a few years ago and have since felt fond of it. This week, I thought of it for the first time in a while and decided to make it a kitchen project: two soups, one cold, one hot, same base ingredients, different seasonings.
VichySeuss was up first. Although I hadn’t yet worked out the method, my goal was simple enough: Make it yummy and bright pink (the way a cat ring makes everything look) and find a way to incorporate some kind of truffula tree. Something you could serve at, say, some kind of Dr. Seuss-themed baby shower. People do those, right?
The truffula trees were easy. I just carved each radish into a chrysanthemum like this, gouged a hole in the center and stuck it on top of a raw asparagus spear. It looks cute and both veggies taste nice raw, so you can dip them in the soup (or a dip, I suppose) and snack it on up. Go nuts! It’s only vegetables!
The soup itself was a big experiment that wandered a bit but ended up somewhere good. Vichyssoise is traditionally made with leeks, onions, potatoes and sometimes cream, which wasn’t quite what I wanted, so I 86ed the leeks (I know, totally compromises the soup’s relationship to the story, but I like it better and I can change the story if I want) and added corn and beets. Corn and beets are awesome. So yeah, maybe VichySeuss is about as much a vichyssoise as The Onion is an onion, but it’s Seussier than vichyssoise and has its own interesting, silky flavor.
As the beets cook, the color will begin to fade (where does it go? I have no idea!), so if you see your soup starting to turn orange, it’s done.
- 1 cup raw, peeled, cubed beets
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 oz low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup sweet vermouth
- 4 cups water
- Salt, pepper, fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 (8-0z) can white shoepeg corn
- Cream (optional)
- Place beets, potatoes, celery, onion, garlic, broth, vermouth and water into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 15 minutes or until the potatoes and beets soften. Add the corn and boil for another 10 minutes.
- Puree the soup in a blender and strain.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cilantro. If you wish to add cream (I skipped it, but I tasted it with and that was good too) then go ahead and whisk that in. Serve hot or cold—especially with fresh jalapeno slices.
So there’s your VichySeuss, sans the clever leeks. It’s sweet and refreshing but perhaps a bit sophisticated for the Cat in the Hat crowd. I’m not sure. I think the corn makes the flavor pretty approachable, like a nice corn chowder, and it’s a funny color which I hear kids like. I just can’t say for sure whether that’s enough, if you’re cooking for a kid. I used to be exactly the kind of kid you’re probably trying to fool and I can tell you right now, bush league tactics like crazy colors and radish trees would never have gotten cold pureed beets into my mouth. Sorry. Not a chance.
It’s good, though.
On to the Webster Stew. I had to make a compromise with this recipe, too: I used alphabet noodles. Apparently there’s no such thing as word noodles. Sometimes this world seems so primitive I can hardly believe I live in it.
- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
- 3/4 cup cubed beets (I had this one beet of legendary size so I used only part of it)
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 chicken legs (skin on! unless you’re really serious about cutting fat everywhere; then you can take it off, I guess)
- Thyme, salt, pepper, parsley, grated parmesan
- 4–5 spears of asparagus (wholly optional), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Alphabet noodles
- Place the potatoes, beets, onions, celery, garlic, and chicken into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat slightly so that it continues to boil gently. (Make no mistake: this is hardly a stew and more of a soup. The name is a liberty.) Season with about a tsp of thyme and 2 tsp parsley–more if you’re using fresh spices instead of dried. Allow this to continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is ready to fall off the bone. The broth should turn deep red, then mellow to a rusty orange color.
- Reduce heat to a simmer. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool slightly.
- If you plan to include asparagus, now’s the time to toss it in. Otherwise, imagine I’ve placed a perception filter on Step 3 and this recipe now goes straight from 2 to 4.
- Prepare noodles according to package directions.
- While the noodles are cooking, season the broth to taste with salt, pepper and parmesan.
- Once the chicken has cooled enough to touch, pull the meat from the bones with your fingers. Return the meat to the pot and discard the bones and skin. Unless you like to eat boiled chicken skin. I mean, it’s your soup.
- To serve, spoon some noodles into each bowl and cover with vegetables and broth. I don’t know why I’m including this step. You’ve probably served soup before.