Of Mangos and Men

True Story: this evening while shopping for my dinner I overheard a young soldier ask the woman next to him “What should I be looking for in a mango?”  This being Colorado Springs, he might as well have asked the floor, and, not surprisingly, she gave him a “beats me” kind of shrug.  Being a former Boy Scout and a personable chef it was my duty to assist him.  I introduced myself, gave him a card and helped him pick a ripe one.  In retrospect I probably should have told him how to cut it up; which is definitely trickier than buying one.  Mark, if you are reading this, check out this link from “the National Mango Board”??? http://www.mango.org/en/retailers/mango-messages/how-to-cut-a-mango.aspx  , who knew there was a National Mango Board???.  It will be helpful.

A few minutes later he approached me again and asked me for some ideas to change up his chicken soup.  Honestly, this surprised me a bit.  It has been so many years since I looked at a soup recipe that nothing immediately popped into my head.  I started in on the basics…onions, celery, carrots; sautéed until soft, stock (he won’t use bouillon) but he already knew all this.  I suggested a dollop of Greek yogurt but that was ruled out by dietary needs.  I think I only gave him 2 decent suggestions: first, thyme; he had never used that before (I hope he doesn’t use too much), and second, a splash of red wine vinegar at the end to brighten the flavor (again, not too much.)

To me soup is a living entity. I never know what it will be until it is done and I can never hope to make the same one again.  It begins with a mood, is changed by the market, and finds its special place in the world from the stuff hanging out in my cupboards and refrigerator.  Wow… I sound like a hippie.  My fellow chef James Davis reminded me of a recipe for Lime Tortilla Soup that I wrote for the Blue Star cookbook.  Apparently, it is a bit difficult.  I wrote it at a time when I had not yet grasped that food is simple, and that soup is just soup.

So here is how I make chicken soup these days.  Roast a chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  Pull all the meat and skin off the chicken.  Put the bones in a big pot with a couple of onions, a couple of carrots, some celery, a bay leaf and a couple of peppercorns.  Simmer this for a few hours, strain, save the liquid, toss the solids (do you eat the teabag?).  Sautee another onion, a few more carrots and a bit more celery until everything is soft.  Splash a bit of white wine in the pan and let it evaporate for a minute.  Add the stock and some dried herbs (your choice) and let it simmer for at least ½ an hour.  Bring to a boil and add some pasta, just before the pasta is cooked add the chicken meat.  Season with salt and pepper and maybe a splash of something sour… vinegar, yogurt, lemon juice…

Mark, sorry I wasn’t more help in the store, but you are on the right track… add something different to every soup you make from here on out… If it sucks: don’t use it again, toss the soup, and order take-out.  Seriously, it is just soup.

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2 Responses to Of Mangos and Men

  1. Jenny says:

    You just might be a “Natural Born Blogger”.

  2. Becca says:

    Jenny, I told Corey the same thing. He may not have known it, but he was born to blog.

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