Sunday, September 12, 2010

Unanticipated Delays

Since we have a whole bunch of home games in a row, and I'm working at all of them until November, I've been eyeballing a few new slow cooker recipes to try. The advantage to using the slow cooker on game days is that when I come home tired I have a hot meal waiting rather than just carb loading on mac and cheese or binging on whatever I find in the cabinets. The disadvantage to the slow cooker is that sometimes there are unanticipated delays, and some recipes don't handle that as well as others do.

Case in point: yesterday's California blend soup.

I had no idea that there was such a thing as frozen "California blend vegetables", but the recipe said they would be in my freezer section, and there they were in a clearly labeled bag of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. I assume these are all grown in California, hence the name of the blend, but that's just a guess. Anyway, the recipe told me to throw two and a half cups of still-frozen blend into the slow cooker:

frozen blend

and then to slice up half an onion and throw that in, too:

frozen blend with onion

I would have pasted that onion down to fragments in my food processor under normal circumstances, but the soup gets pureed at the end so I figured big chunks wouldn't hurt me in this case. As I've said before, the texture of onions is disgusting, and biting into one is enough to make me stop eating something.

After that was added, the recipe called for half a cup of water, but I used half a cup of vegetable stock instead. Any time a soup recipe calls for water I tend to use vegetable or chicken stock instead because it adds more flavor than plain old water does. If I made soup with beef in it I'd probably use beef stock, too, but I'm more a chicken eater. The last ingredient was half a teaspoon of chicken bouillon granules, which I stirred into the stock before pouring in.

After that, you were supposed to ignore it on low heat for six hours, the idea being that the vegetables would slowly sweat out their juices like that time I made the fennel apple soup from "Top Chef" but without me having to watch them.

Soup ingredients in the pot, I got on the road to Neyland Stadium:

south stadium hall

to be at the game with my fellow Vol fans:

vol fan mobile

Some of us, clearly, are bigger fans than others. That is the most heavily decorated Vol-mobile I've seen since the guys who owned the Jeep with horns:

big orange army

moved away.

Despite the sunny afternoon weather, though, a thunderstorm rolled in right around kickoff time, and the stadium had to be evacuated due to lightning. In all, there was almost an hour of delay before the game resumed again, which meant that my soup ingredients spent close to eight hours in the slow cooker rather than the six that the recipe called for. That meant that when I got home, they had sweated out so much liquid that they were turning brown:

eight hours later

I was still tired and hungry, though, so I figured that since nothing was actually burned I might as well just go for it, so I ladled all of the warm ingredients and liquid out of the slow cooker and into the blender, added a cup of skim milk, and blended the hell out of it.

Now, you might remember that the last time I pureed hot soup in a blender there was kind of an explosion, but I learned a handy trick from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network, (also known in some circles as "Fartin' Garten" due to her rumored gas problem; the internet is both a terrible and wonderful place, isn't it?), a few weeks ago. After you put the lid on the blender, take out the little cap in the middle of the lid, then cover the hole with a dishtowel:

blended california blend

The steam can still escape, and the towel keeps soup from splashing all over your kitchen.

With everything pureed, I poured myself a bowl and topped it with cheese:

topped with cheese

It tasted pretty good, and it's almost all skim milk and vegetables, so it has to be good for you. I'm not totally enthused about the color, but I have to assume that it would be a little brighter, or maybe just greener, if the vegetables weren't brown. Next week I'll try to pick something less time sensitive, in case the game gets delayed again.


JMBower said...

Have I ever told you how many of your recipes I've tried? You're like my own, more humorous and less annoying Food Network host.

By the way, remember those large stone column/smokestack things you hadn't been able to identify in your post on the Empire State Plaza/Albany area? I found someone who seemed to know, and said they were overly elaborate ventilation shafts for the Plaza. Go figure.

Liz said...

There are tricks for livening the colour of food that tastes good but looks blah.

Powdered gravy browning - diluted with water and applied with a basting brush. For meat that looks too grey.
Tumeric - tasteless but makes anything golden orange.
Paprika - the cheap flavourless supermarket kind. Makes a bright red/orange tint.