Tonight, I hit a culinary home run. Well, almost. I made an allrecipes five star recipe, called Cheese and Broccoli Chicken Soup. First a flour and butter roux is made in the pan, then cubed, cooked chicken and broccoli are simmered in broth until they are very tender, and finally the roux, as well as some cream and shredded cheese are stirred into the cheese and chicken mixture. The result is a thick, creamy soup with chunks of tender chicken. It’s a bit bland, but next time I will use sharp cheddar and add a few dashes of hot sauce. I also plan to use fat free half and half, which I think will add a nice, creamy mouth-feel without adding millions of calories.
The great thing about this meal was that my son, who often seems to subsist entirely on candy and water, ate four bowls of soup. Four bowls!! Unfortunately, this is where the “home run” is qualified by the deal-breaking “almost.” As I beamed with pride at Sam’s endorsement, my husband made a strange gagging sound. He informed me that he had just found and consumed a lump of unassimilated flour-and-butter roux. It was, he explained, perhaps the worst thing he had ever tasted.
Here’s the problem: the recipe says to make the roux, remove it from the pot, and stir it in later, after the chicken and broccoli have cooked. The problem is, that in order to mix the roux thoroughly into the soup, it would be necessary to bash the hell out of the chicken and broccoli. I have decided that next time, rather than serving soup with a lovely taste and texture that it riddled with phlegm-like blobs of wet flour, I will take some of the hot liquid from the pot, mix the roux vigorously into the small portion until it is smooth and completely dissolved, and then stir that mixture slowly and gently into the big pot to thicken the soup. The moral of this story is that if you are a fairly experienced cook, and something in a recipe sounds wrong to you based on previous experience, its probably wrong.
[Upon reading this entry, my husband has inquired, in the nicest possible way why I didn’t put in the part about me having a fit because he “criticized my cooking” by reacting negatively to the repulsive roux blob. This is such a lengthy and loaded topic that I am not sure where to begin]. I did sort of have a have a fit; I am sometimes touchy about negative responses to my cooking, and I am particularly stung when I think everything is going well, and then there is an unexpected objection. Sam discovers a nut, Stephanie discovers a piece of onion larger than the nucleus of an atom, or Rob discovers, well, a roux blob. Then there is the subtle pushing away of the plate or bowl, in the case or Rob or Stephanie, or the “Blech!!!” from Sam. I have been known, after such a reaction, to sulk and make everyone’s life a living hell for the rest of dinner.
I admit that this behavior is bad, and perhaps even a bit pathological. If I want to avoid negative reactions, I should stick to cooking tried-and-true favorites, introduce new dishes infrequently, and decide whether to add them to regular rotation based on the applause-o-meter at the end of the meal. Instead, I become enthused about recipes from magazines, websites, blogs, cook books and friends, and find myself unable to control the impulse to try them. In my defense, I am not asking anyone to eat Creamed Eel or Tripe a la Russe. I have bombed with recipes that contained no controversial ingredients, and which appeared, in print, to be relatively low risk. I just never know.
We’ll have another go at the New and Smooth version of the soup, and I will try to accept more gracefully the hard truth that experiments in the kitchen are exciting, but not without risk of rejection.