Thursday, February 28, 2008

cold day: hot soup

It was cold, it was bitter, and it was time for soup. A big soup, a hot soup, a soup that said to winter, “Bring it on,” and said to me, “It’s going to be OK!” Into the big pot would go a large battuto of onions, carrots, celery, garlic, the chopped fat trimmed from a leg of prosciutto (with some meaty bits, too), plenty of olive oil, some butter, salt and pepper, and a little (read: a good sized splash of) white wine to keep things moist.

Outside temperature check: 15 degrees fahrenheit, and dropping. Snow devils are swirling across the field and the red squirrel is pestering at the back door for scraps. The rascal comes around just to torment the cats, who slink from window to window with a expression half threatening, half desperate. The clouds form a ceiling of grey with occassional skylights of perfect blue which open for a moment and slam shut as another gust hits the house.

The battuto has been talking to itself for almost 20 minutes, and is soft and steamy. Two big veal knuckles go in, some pureed tomato, two quarts of homemade chicken stock, six leeks cut to 1-inch lengths, a dozen or so small red potatoes cut up, two quarts of soaked chick peas, about 8 pieces of Parmigiano rind, and then water to cover everything. More salt and pepper. The flame comes up to high for about 20 minutes more, until everything starts to bubble, then I lower it a touch to keep it steady.

Stoke the fire, run out to the barn for another armload of wood, temperature check: 13 degrees. Must address the patch of ice where the roof drips when it’s sunny out. Where’s my book? Prepare for respite on the couch, but first poke the fire, which is showing reluctance. Stir soup, tasting for salt: needs more already, much more. And some pepper, too. That’s better, getting there. Cats have retired to the bedroom for a concerted assault on their nap quota. Point taken! Poke fire again, which is showing signs of life. Where’s my book? (Reading Rick Atkinson’s “The Day of Battle” , and the allies are still mired at Cassino.) Here we are: buried under last week’s paper read this morning under the premise that old news is easier to swallow due to obsolescence. Of course, when I’m building the fire I usually get sidetracked by a year-old paper, curious to see if the same news could have been printed this week, and sadly, it usually could. But here’s the book, a little wine left over from last nights dinner, a sliver of caciotta (insert plug for Dancing Ewe Farm here), a talkative fire. Sitr the soup one more time, taste again. Veal knuckles, potatoes and the parmigiano rind are all strating to give up their goodness to the soup in a rich, silky texture. A little more salt.

Sun starting to dip noticeably. Temperature check: 9! More wood! Time for at least 15 uninterrupted minutes of reading, just as soon as I take this phone call…

-posted by Caleb

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