My First Attempt
Last week I wrote about vintage cooking and told you that I was going to try my hand at recreating some old dishes. This week I can report that I followed through. Looking through Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book, I selected the recipe for “Bean Soup” that Mr. Jefferson obtained from Gouvenor Morris ‘The Elder’. Gouvenor Morris, Sr. was one of the Founding Fathers of our Nation, and he and Mr. Jefferson would have first met in the Second Continental Congress where both served. Morris signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, but he is best remembered by history as the man who actually wrote the Constitution in that clear language of simplicity and elegance that only a lawyer or Federal Judge could ever fail to understand.
Like the Constitution, the bean soup recipe is clear and easy to understand, unlike so many old recipes, and yet leaves a little room for creativity. Its main ingredient is “beans”. Since the beans must soak overnight, I assumed that they should be dry beans… but there are many kinds of dry beans. My guess is that back in the 18th century, they had the kind that they had… and so the kind that I happened to have was Navy beans, so that’s what I used.
The remaining ingredients were carrots, turnips, parsnips and celery. I was amazed at the lack of onions. Carrots, celery, 1 part each, and 2 parts onions are the basis of most Western soups… but not this time.
What you do is simmer the beans for about an hour and then add the root vegetables and simmer for another 3-4 hours. Then, you force the soup through a colander, return it to the pot and add the celery, simmering for another hour or so before serving it over croutons. You’ll have to pardon me, but I just used an immersion blender for the puree…
I wasn’t sure I would like the finished product, not being a carrot or parsnip fan, but the result was nothing short of amazing. The addition of the celery at the end gave it a real flavor boost, and the carrots, having been cooked for so long, rendered a sweetness in the background of an earthy flavor that balanced out perfectly in the final product. I must say that this one is a total winner, although for me, it’s more of a fall/winter dish that one for a hot and muggy summer’s evening.
Unless of course, you decided to give it a spicy Southwestern flair… but I always follow the recipe before I make it my own.
One last note: I had some left-over goat cheese in the fridge, and I used it for a garnish… That little departure put the soup over the top, and if it hadn’t been for the garnish, this dish would have been entirely in keeping with my wife’s “forks over knives” diet kick…
This week, the menus are the creation of She Who Must Be Obeyed, so it’s all “forks over knives” which has taken away every last bit of fun in the kitchen, replacing it with the fait and fleeting hope of one day being able to achieve the lofty goal of mediocrity.