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A Culinary Couple - by Ron Skaar - January 2016

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A Culinary Couple - by Ron Skaar - January 2016

by Ron Skaar

By Ron Skaar

The story of soup probably goes back to the beginnings of cooking history. Stone Age cooks tossed glowing hot rocks into liquids to make them boil. Broth, a clear thin and easily digested soup, which often contained medicinal herbs, had been prescribed for invalids since antiquity. 

Broth comes from an old German root word “bru” which meant to prepare by boiling.

This method prepared the meat, fish, or vegetable being cooked and provided the stewing liquid. Soups from the old classical kitchens were complete dishes in themselves and contained a wide variety of vegetables, meat, poultry, game or fish. The fluid part of these classic creations has retained the name of soup.

A mid-eighteenth century French chef, Francois Marin hailed his collection of potages, consommé, bouillons, sauces and restoratives (soups) as the foundation of cooking. Around that time, our colonial cooks began trading their soup recipes. In 1794, a chef refugee from the French revolution opened an eatery in Boston called the “Restorator”, and soon became know has the “Prince of Soups”. 

Thirty years earlier John Montagu supposedly created the sandwich. The 4th Earl of Sandwich had many excursions to the eastern Mediterranean where he noshed on stuffed grilled pita breads and delicate finger sandwiches served since antiquity by the Greeks and Turks, during their mid-day meals.   

Cooks have been pairing cheese with bread at mealtime, since Roman times. But not until    the advent of inexpensive loafs of bread and processed cheese, did they figure out how to “grill” it. By the 1920’s the grilled cheese sandwich was a staple of the American diet. Originally served open faced, the enclosed version became a cheap and nutritious mainstay during the depression and a favorite of Allied forces during World War II.  

Pairing a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup was a humble culinary triumph. A bowl of soup partnered with a sandwich is a classic American combination. The Mid-Atlantic and New England region is the birthplace of many of our favorite soups and sandwiches. The traditional chowders, from the coastal area to the inland Pennsylvanian “Dutch” recipes for classic potato soup.

The sandwiches from the Northeast took on various names, a “wedge”, a “grinder” or “hero”. A “hero” has different regional identities including the blimp or torpedo of New England and the hoagie of Pennsylvania. During World War II, five hundred hero sandwiches per day were ordered by the Navy commissary, from an Italian deli in New London, Connecticut. The new name “sub” was soon applied to them.

I am coupling a hardy open-faced sandwich from a famous Louisville hotel with a west coast version of a classic Chinese soup. Both are quick to prepare. 


Hot Browns ~ 4 servings

Béchamel sauce (made with 3 tablespoons each butter and flour, 1 cup milk add ½ cup grated shape cheddar cheese and pinch of cayenne). 

4 slices wheat or white bread

2 ½ cups diced cooked chicken or turkey

4 slices bacon. crisped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toast bread in toaster. On oven proof plate pile ¼ of chicken on top each slice of toast, cover with béchamel and crumbled bacon. Place them in oven until the cheese sauce bubbles. 

Asparagus Egg Drop Soup ~ 4 servings

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced with 2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

½ pound asparagus, cut on diagonal into 1-inch lengths

2 eggs, whisked in bowl, seasoned with salt and pepper

In large saucepan cook onion until softened, about 8 minutes. Pour in broth, bring to simmer, add asparagus cook until tender, 3 more minutes. Slowly pour eggs into broth while stirring gently for 30 seconds. Ladle into bowls, top with grated cheese, if desired.