10 Days of Cookbooks | Soup & Bread
Gobs of new cookbooks have sent Team Eat Out away from restaurants and back into the kitchen. This is the fifth in a ten-day (definitely not consecutive) series of blog posts, each of which chronicles a standout fall cookbook release. Previous reviews include Momofuku Milk Bar, Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts, Girl in the Kitchen and the Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food.
There are two types of recipes in this world, one of which is sort of casually adapted from a restaurant kitchen and the other of which is developed specifically for home cooks. I have a hard time differentiating between these two types of recipes simply by reading them through, but invariably there is a moment when I am in the middle of cooking the recipe when I begin asking myself: "What am I? A line cook?" And this is the moment I realize I am cooking a Chef Recipe. Or rather, a recipe designed to be prepped by a multitude of line cooks hours before service begins. Not, umm, while cooking three other dishes and attempting to get dinner on the table by 7pm. Ha, did I say 7pm? I meant 9pm.
This is a predicament I find myself in often, because my favorite cookbook of all time is Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques, and because as far as Goin is concerned, a piece of meat isn't cooked until you've seared, braised and re-seared it while pressing as many things through sieves as many times as possible. And cooking from Soup & Bread, I found myself in this place once again. But first: a few words about Soup & Bread. The book is a collection of recipes for the soups and (couple of) breads that appeared at Martha Bayne's recurring event Soup & Bread at the Hideout, in which everyone from an unemployed artist to Paul Kahan could sign up to bring a big pot of soup, and anyone could show up, eat free soup, drink cheap beer and make a donation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
If Soup & Bread sounds like a easy-going, heart-warming way to pass the brutal Chicago winters and wait out the even more brutal economic slowdown, it is. But it's also something more than that, and it's the connections between soup, identity, community and social justice that Bayne explores in a series of essays in this version of the book. (Bayne self-published a now out-of-print collection of Soup & Bread recipes in 2009: Both books have a design (by Sheila Sachs) that immediately makes me want to treasure them. I think it has to do with the illustrations (by Paul Dolan) as well as the sweet little red ribbon bookmark on this newly released version.)
That, and soup. So much soup. A book like this makes me think that really, I could live a lovely and fulfilling life and eat only soup. The soups are divided into eight thematic categories (e.g., Soup for Swapping, Soup for Art), and in the Soup for Swapping category, I found Susan Goss's West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder, and seeing as I'm a big fan of (a) West Town Tavern's comfort food, (b) mushrooms and (c) chowder (cream!), I gave it a go for a dinner party of 20. You know where this is going, so I'll skip over the cleaning and dicing of pounds of mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic—it's a very easy, just-throw-it-all-in-the-pot soup to make, just a time-killing one to prep for 20—and tell you about the most important thing I learned from this recipe: Blue Cheese Croutons.
Here's what Goss says to do: Melt a good amount of blue cheese and butter on the stove and pour it over bread cubes, toss it all together and toast it in the oven. How something so simple can yield something so outrageously good is a continual source of wonder to me. Or at least, something to ponder the next time I spend a couple hours dicing vegetables.
Celebrate Soup & Bread—and score a copy of the book—at a release party on the Hideout on November 2 from 7–9pm. [node:190753 link=The Butcher & Larder;],
, , [node:148561 link=Milk & Honey;] and more will provide soup. The event is free, and a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book, as well as all soup donations, go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.