As we finally move toward autumn (not to be confused with Indian Summer) the first thing I think of (when thinking of food) is not how much I’m going to miss all the fresh vegetables and salads but how I’m going to make the transition between cooking light and cool salads to hearty and warm soups and stews! Ok, well I do still have to consider my health, caloric intake, cholesterol, triglycerides, fats, sugars and all that stuff but of course now I have to also start reading labels more thoroughly again as well since I’ll be unable to use quite as many fresh ingredients. Sure, I wish I didn’t have to read any labels and had a pantry well stocked with preserved delicacies from the field and garden however I do not have that luxury. I do have many friends who do have that luxury and I will work for food! Ha! Seriously though, I won’t have to give up all those things entirely, I simply have to take advantage of all the summers bounty by way of canning, pickling and preserving.
Whether it’s by using the many value added items available at the market or by using my favorite grocer, I will inevitably be utilizing the things that we keep in our cupboards a little more frequently. Yes I think we can all agree that it is a little disheartening at first but I believe that if we approach this change in the same manner in which we look forward to the changing seasons then we can begin to appreciate the offerings in a similar fashion. For example: Now I can pull out that batch of trout that I froze in the spring and dip them into something crunchy and into the frying pan, or I can thaw that last leg of venison and cook up a pot of stew. Heck, I still have one more wild turkey in the freezer to turn into Coq au Vin as well! I think you get the picture, and once we really think about it we begin to realize these changes can also be refreshing.
Although grilling has been one of the most elemental and enjoyable cooking techniques for eternity, I find braising and stewing very rewarding and just about as much fun as the summertime ritual of the barbecue. It’s extremely gratifying to take a potentially tough piece of meat or a slew of vegetables and turn them into something tender, flavorful, and filling. Take soups for example. One can essentially take any ingredients and turn them into a meal with a few knife skills and a little imagination. Well, a little stock too. I don’t know what it is besides the sheer simplicity but I think I find it somewhat therapeutic to make soups. I enjoy making them just about as much as eating them; I guess it’s a chef thing. But whether it’s a brothy vegetable laden chicken soup or a velvety rich and creamy mushroom soup, I don’t think there’s anything better than a good bowl of hot soup on a cool afternoon or evening.
What makes a great soup? Well, generally like anything else they’re made with the freshest ingredients. However, many of my favorites have come from using leftovers in my refrigerator from the previous day’s dinner or meal. Turkey and Rice Soup after Thanksgiving right! And the list certainly goes on and on! I keep all my shrimp and shellfish shells throughout the year in bags in my freezer so I can make bisque over the holidays. That’s right you actually use the shells to make Shrimp Bisque. I like to roast them first, pulverize them and then complete the bisque with things like thyme, shallots, tomato, brandy, sherry, herbs, and cream. That’s not the full recipe of course but think about it, you make the best beef vegetable soup by using the bones to make the broth or stock first right? Chicken too, you’d have to be nuts to throw away the bones from a roasted chicken and not use them for stock. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the concept, but I freeze stocks all the time and pull them out when I’m ready to make a Mean Bean Soup or Pasta Fagioli! One of the greatest soups ever invented is also one of the easiest, French Onion Soup! It really is easy but I do recommend you buy onion soup crocks if you’re going to make it. And please use Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Swiss cheese not those other imitations; they just don’t produce the proper gratin! I also use a combination of beef and chicken stock when making mine.
And here’s a somewhat exotic recipe for a soup you can make with some fresh pumpkin from the Market, a creamy Lobster Pumpkin Bisque.
We can hardly step into the month of October without mentioning this most popular autumn soup; Roasted Butternut Squash Soup seems to be the rage lately and there’s a good reason for it too! It’s just about one of the most delicious comfort foods to hit the shelves in years! Not like it’s anything that hasn’t been done for eons but it has had its appeal of late. I am going to share with you a soup recipe that I’ve been doing for many years I think you’ll really enjoy. Butternut Squash & Black Bean Eclipse. It’s actually two soups that when made separately and served together are quite exquisite and well worth the time, especially when entertaining. You’ll see why when you see the picture I’ve included.
I could go on for hours about soups; as a matter of fact I’ve been called many things in my life including Gourmand Geek and Soup Guru! But I prefer to think of myself as an “Appicurean” you know, half epicurean and half Appalachian. Yes, I think I like that!
As our summer season at the market comes to an end and we begin to prepare ourselves for another autumn and winter I hope we will all take time to give thanks to the numerous individuals who have made another great season at the market all possible. From the incredibly generous folks at Genesis Partners and Bridgeport Conference Center to all the vendors, musicians, guest chefs, helpers, and Board of Directors who have dedicated their time to the success story that we’ve come to know so well as the Bridgeport Farmers Market. As you also know, it is unlike any market we’ve experienced here in West Virginia and we’d like to think that makes it pretty special. We’re fortunate for all these things to fall into place to make it such a fun experience and we also owe it to those of you who continue to support the cause. Please keep us in mind over the winter season and stop by and see us at the Conference Center, same friendly people, music, value-added products and food so we hope to see you there! Pierpont Culinary Academy Pastry Chef Allison McCue and students will be making Beignets along with Quantum Bean Coffee serving samples, so don’t miss our outdoor season finale Sunday, October 9th, same place, same time!
Bonne cuisine! jay