I’m studying the so-called peasant dishes, again; those culinary traditions that pack a lot of flavor and yet cost next to nothing to make, such as leek and potato soup, freshly made pasta with butter and sage sauce, the always popular soubise (it may not look like much but it’s mouthwatering), and Saag Paneer. My quest for today, in between Aaron and I working on a project that is going to take us several hundred hours, was to test different egg drop soup recipes.
I’ve always loved egg drop soup. It’s one of the most delicious soups in the world, it can fill you up for less than $0.50 per serving if you do it right, and it has this incredible complexity that makes it comforting, soothing, and warm. I settled on a recipe from one of the major cooking sites based on the number of positive reviews. Unfortunately, it’s a disappointment. I wish there were some universal language of food I could use to get suggestions because I want it to be about 1/2 an inch further back on the tongue and more vertical (this recipe was too forward in the mouth and lacked depth as it felt horizontal).
I want an egg drop soup so rich that Esau himself would trade me his birthright for a single bowl. Confronted with this failure today, it has become my obsession.
My first guess is that it is the broth itself. During the testing phase, I’m using store bought canned broth and I get the feeling I’m going to need to improve it through a process like the one Julia Child would use for her beef broth. I’ve seen some chefs use a touch of brandy, others use sesame oil, some introduce miso, and still others vary the ratio between egg whites, whole eggs, and egg yolks. I know white pepper seems to be preferred to black pepper. Some cooks introducing anise. I know that I need green onions or scallions as chives alone are insufficient.
Once I get the base recipe, right, I want to create a second variation that is over-the-top spicy. Then the two will be forever added to the permanent recipe file; that pantheon of the top 1% of dishes that cause people to stop by and beg that you cook it; that the mere suggestion or hint can cause an intense craving that nothing else will satiate.
This is my mission for the month of June. I will find and perfect egg drop soup so it can be added to the permanent recipe file. I’m going to have to break out the cooking notebook and start experiments. I think this is going to turn out like my panini tests, where I spend obscene amounts of time and money trying every possible variation until I arrive at the answer, but it paid huge dividends (especially in the form of a shoot-off recipe that involved taking French croissants, Swedish lingonberries, smoked applewood gouda cheese, black peppercorn turkey, and a few other ingredients that became so popular, I had to teach my family members how to make it despite my attempts to keep it secret.)
I should be in bed since it’s already 1:09 a.m., but I can’t fall asleep because I’m thinking about this … I need to find the answer. Maybe I’ll go to the grocery store and try another batch. I can always sleep tomorrow.
Update: 2:00 a.m. exactly. I decided to begin tests using my own hunches. The first involved enriching the broth with sherry, garlic, green onion, and a few other spices, then slightly reducing and thickening it. Toasted sesame oil was introduced as a flavor enhancement. The ratio of egg to broth was increased and the whole egg to egg yolk ratio was also brought to parity. The flavor is deeper, but not rich enough for my preference. Progress continues.
You will surrender to me, soup … I will not rest until all your base are belong to us. >:(