Thursday, March 16, 2006

Soupe de Soissons

The day after the dinner I prepared, in 23 minutes, the soup that my vain shot at soup one-upsmanship scorned the night before. Why oh why did I not prepare this soup? My gourmandise for expensive ingredients got in the way of what could have been the perfect meal.

The soup:

The beans for this soup were soaked and simmered over the weekend, and were actually leftovers from a white bean and lamb dinner. The bean, Le Haricot de Soissons, is the largest French white bean available while it also packs the most flavour. They cost quite a lot by weight but when they are soaked they multiply in size and then enlarge even more with cooking. I got them for a dinner with friends over the weekend, but not knowing that they would end up expanding to an enormous size, I ended up soaking and cooking way more than we could eat that evening. Le Haricot Soissons is protected under AOC rules. You can learn more about this lovely bean at the website of the co-op that grows them. If you don't have these beans in your home town, you can replace them with any kind of white bean you like, navy, coco, etc. Just use the most flavorful one you know.

200 grams broth cooked Haricots de Soissons (big white beans)
1 branch sage
1 clove garlic
1 European bay leaf or 1/3 to 1/2 of a California bay
water to cover
1 courgette
1 small onion
1 slice of leftover leg of lamb
2 tablespoons duck fat
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons veal demi-glace
the juice of ½ lemon
a drizzle of good olive oil

Make a bouquet with the sage and bay. Put the beans, the bouquet, and the clove of garlic of which you have peeled and removed the germ in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to very low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cube the courgette and mince the onion. Cut the slice of lamb into strips and heat the duck fat to very hot. Toss and turn the strips of lamb in the duck fat until they are browned and crisp. Remove the lamb from the pan, and add the courgettes and the onion. Put two soup bowls in the oven to warm. Turn the heat down on the courgettes and cook them slowly, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the bouquet from the beans, leaving a leaf or two of the sage. Mix the beans and their liquor with the blender into a smooth puree. Add the demi-glace, stir, season with salt and pepper, and brighten with lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Bring the hot bowls from the oven and mound a spoonful of courgettes into the center of the bowl. Cover with soup, and then pile the crisped lamb strips in the center. Drizzle with fruity olive oil and serve immediately with dense crusty bread.

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