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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Storm Before The Calm

I really don't have anything against Mardi Gras. Any reason to drink, eat, and have fun gets a double thumbs up from me. Trust me. However, I spent most of the past month at work planning, prepping, and cooking for a huge Mardi Gras fundraiser held the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. After swimming in vats of creole sauce, juggling thousands of shrimp, and inhaling vast dust clouds of Cajun spices, the last thing  I wanted to indulge in was anything remotely resembling the flavors and festivities of Mardi Gras.

Last Tuesday, while most revelers washed down Cajun/creole grub with raucously potent hurricanes, we settled down in front of our flat screen tv and slurped up soothing silken  bowls of egg drop soup. Yep.

I suppose we could have ordered it from a nearby Asian restaurant, but it was simple enough to make and fun to throw together. Although preparing egg drop soup is fairly straightforward, (boil stock, add beaten egg, stir, serve) I slipped in a few tweaks and additions to elevate the soup above its standard restaurant amuse-bouche status.

 I brought 5 cups of chicken stock to a boil and reduced it to a simmer. To amp up the flavor base, I added sliced fresh ginger and whole unpeeled garlic cloves to steep in the steaming simmering stock.  While the aromatics perfumed the soup base, I whipped 3 large organic eggs until frothy, added minced fresh scallions, and set them aside. After 35 minutes, I removed the spent garlic and ginger, added a cup of cubed firm tofu,  let the stock cool, and joined Michael in the parlor for several glasses of calming chardonnay.

 The egg drop controversy. Oh, my. I discovered a litany of conflicting methods for something as simple as adding eggs to egg drop soup. Add the eggs to boiling stock?  Add the eggs to simmering stock? Stir the stock clockwise? Stir the stock counterclockwise? Drip the eggs into the stock through a colander? Drizzle them into the stock from a ladle? One method suggested pouring the beaten eggs through the tines of a fork to achieve perfectly cooked, tender, un-clumped, uniform egg ribbons.  Really?  It was soup, not a science project.

After finishing my last glass of wine, I ladled the scallion-flecked beaten eggs into a narrow-tipped squeeze bottle, (thunder clap) brought the aromatic stock to a boil, added a cornstarch slurry to slightly thicken it, removed the stock from the heat, stirred it, and drizzled the eggs into the gently swirling stocky vortex.  They cooked in seconds. Perfect.

Deep bowls of luscious egg drop soup topped with sliced scallions and red bell peppers (not traditional). For crunch, (and a nod to Fat Tuesday) I nestled fried pork-filled egg rolls with tangy sweet & sour sauce to the side of our bowls of soup.

The egg ribbons, suspended throughout the soup,  had the mouthfeel of ultra thin delicate pasta. Soft. Calming. Fabulous. I eventually put down my spoon, tipped the bowl to my lips, and drank the rest of my soup.

Mardi Gras. We traded in our beads for chopsticks, porcelain spoons, and egg drop soup.

Was it a creole cop-out? Nope. It was welcome relief from the previous days Cajun chaos.

Laissez le bon temp rouler.

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