It was bound to happen; catastrophic disaster. How could sailing so smoothly be possible when learning an entirely new form of cooking? Case and Point—Potage Crme De Cresson, or Cream of Watercress Soup.
This would be my first stab at Watercress, having never even eaten it before. I only realized when we began searching for the ingredient why that was. The term non-existent comes to mind when referring to the stupid green and my town. For a city based around multiple, major schools in the province and the following immigrant population, the number of award-winning restaurants, and selection of grocery store options, I could not for the life of me track down so much as a single leaf. On my one good market day I ended up having a frakking long shift at work, so I was out of options.
Would our culinary challenge and educational journey into the mysteries of French Cooking come to a close as quickly as it began? How would we be able to cook a recipe without its namesake ingredient? There is certainly no way that we could substitute something as focular as the Watercress in a Watercress Soup!
A call for advice from my mom prompted another call to arms from a Knight In Expensive, Big City Armour (read: my Toronto-Mom, my mother’s cousin and fellow food enthusiast), who as it happens was days away from travelling down for a visit. She jumped at the chance to bring me food, as this is what she does (tries to fatten me up), and so I was back on track to knock another recipe out of our way.
Little did we know that disaster was really the best word to encapsulate our trials with this lowly soup. Wouldn’t I bork my foot just when I have time to sit down (or in this case stand up) and cook. Whatever I did to it, it was bright red, swollen, and puss-filled for almost a whole week. With the painful shudders mewed every time I gingerly crept to such menial locations in our apartment as ‘over there’ and classics as ‘the bathroom’, once again we were challenged with how to proceed.
You should have seen me ‘just need that thing.. over th….OWWW!’ Priceless.
As the days spent lying on my death bed with every variation of hot-and-cold level on my foot sped by, the shelf life of our sack o’ greens was deteriorating—and fast—in the crisper. The next James Cameron classic? Our Watercress Soup.
I had been worried about the state of our chief ingredient for days, as we would have absolutely no way of restocking it unless we thought we could late long enough for me to grow some in the apartment (strange as this sounds, this actually happens with us so it’s no big deal really). But by that time, we would be so far ahead/behind in the order of cookery. Rob was concerned we would skip too many recipes for us to remember which ones we’d have to go back for. That was his downfall. Did I hear a volunteer?
Whether he did so of his own volition or he was voluntold is debatable, but regardless Rob agreed that he would make me the soup.
This is huge folks, as not only is Rob the most under-confident cook in the world, but he adamantly detests the thought of growing and learning in the craft. This may seem harsh to say, but I do so with much love; he just really has a self-hate on for his creations and would much rather I do most of the cooking. He (and I frankly) is scared that he will do something to hurt either one of us. It doesn’t help that I’ve started massive arguments over the stupidest of ruined cookware, or that I’ve talked up this book and the legacy and challenge it has left… but I digress. At least in the 2 and-a-half years we’ve lived together I’ve weaned him off of the Hungry Mans and microwave KD.
This recipe has to be the easiest read so far! The mass of it is a bunch of 5-minute-times, and it really came together fast. Right up until it had to be poured through a food mill that is. We substitute a mill for a blender anytime we need one as we really just have never needed something so specific until this book. Now, one little thing you’ve got to remember is that when you blend hot boiling soup, you HAVE to do so in small batches and push down on the lid hard with a hand towel. This is because the hot liquid in the cool/room temperature air in the blender create a sort of vacuum that causes a mini explosion in your kitchen. I didn’t think of this until it happened.
When Rob turned on the blender full of hot boiling soup… it sort of made the hot boiling soup go everywhere. Think of what it looks like when you flap a sheet up in the air when making the bed… but substitute hot green liquid and you get the finale of that catastrophic disaster I mentioned in the first part of this posting. The lack of Watercress, then the borked foot, followed by the explosion cap this trifecta of ‘fun’ off.
I strongly suggest learning from our mistake with the blender, as Rob is still recovering from rather serious and far-spreading first degree burns. His chest was covered in big, camo-spotted red and pink blotches. He actually got my alreadyhurt foot too… but I quickly stopped bringing that up. His ‘I hate you’ looks were enough to quell that haha’
The next day he finished my soup for me! In all honesty, I don’t think I ever want to make it again but that could be my brain thinking of the hardships we went through. I don’t think I really like Watercress either. It was bitter and harsh (well, it is in the mustard family of plants, which includes things like radishes), and I probably would have preferred one of the variations like the spinach option over the original. I can understand why Watercress was used however—In research I’ve found that it’s pretty universally inexpensive, and it is loaded with vitamins (like all dark greens). It’s also really prevalent in the Europe and has been for a while, so it’s only natural that it would be popular in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.
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