October 1, 2011

soup station

My introduction to main kitchen work was with soup station. Even though my task was to make 120 portions of soup a day, I thought the work was easier than in the PCR setting, because having everything you're doing going into one big item is just so much less involved than assembling a dozen little small plates. In big cooking you don't have to sweat the small stuff.

minestrone soup ingredients

But like with anything you gotta mise stuff en place (French for "putting stuff in place"). That was the mise en place for minestrone soup, practically took up the entire work bench.


So you don't have to sweat the small stuff, but we sweated (heated/softened) 15-20 lbs of hand-diced mirepoix (the standard being 50% onions, 25% carrots, 25% celery, all diced). Besides bones and meat, this is the stuff that gives stock and soups flavor.

adding stock

Then we added chicken stock. Like 10 gallons of it. And two ham hocks, crucial for depth of flavor - that was the lip-smacking part about drinking this soup.

adding tomato product

After simmering for over half an hour we added cabbage and zucchini, and canned tomato + tomato paste. The tomato products give the soup more body and savoriness (or umami).

adding spinach

And right before the soup was done we added spinach, a super soft vegetable that would've wilted and lost color if we had put it in any earlier.

finished minestrone soup

And there you have it, a gigantic steam kettle full of minestrone soup!

(The other soups we made were chowders and black bean soup, not half as photogenic as minestrone soup so I won't even bother showing them.)

draining broth

Oh but we did make vegetable stock, something easy for everyone at home - just simmer mirepoix scraps (onion skin, carrot peels, celery ends) in water for half an hour and then strain the scraps out. The liquid you can pour into containers (or ice cube trays) and freeze. Then the next time you need some veggie stock or want to add some flavor to rice or pasta, just pop one out and throw it in.

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