My Stone Soup©

Read what our very good friend David Wronski has to say before we get to the definitive recipe for My Stone Soup© (yes, it’s copyrighted, so you know we’re talking something altogether different than your everyday stone soup like what for example Martha Stewart or that Bittman guy might try to foist off on you.)

Cooky Cat is my very good friend and I am happy to have the task of writing a forward to his
book on stone soup, entitled My Stone Soup©. [Cooky Cat here: David wrote this under the impression that he was writing for a book and we won’t let him be the wiser. He needed the extra motivation, otherwise he might not have written so well and glowingly for just a blog entry.] His recipe from My Stone Soup© is, to use a modifier that one of his loyal fans gushed, “Frightfully” simple.

Yet, yet . . . I would have to say that while the recipe is indeed très simplicato it brings some serious umami to the party. It has even made a culinary dolt such as me to understand the true meaning and sense of the term “terroir”. It makes the Japanese Tea Ceremony look like child’s play. It is imbued with a depth of meaning and philosophical insight such that in comparison Diderot and Foucault look like dithering idiotic blabbermouths. But then, we have come to expect such from Cooky Cat, and once again he delivers. (It would help if you dust off that copy of The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ. Particularly to brush up on his development of the notion that all in creation is conscious, even the lowly rock; but, of course, in its own rocky way.)

Thank you David. As usual, more than necessary.

Now to My Stone Soup©.

Get yourself a nice stone. Natural, but of course. Now that sounds maybe too simple. But it’s in the getting that the necessary fuss comes in. Try to go to as remote a place as your budget and schedule permit. If you have hired help, then those factors don’t apply and you can send them off for as long as you please. As far as where to trek for that stone, we demure on suggestions. Our experience is that stones from different locals give an essence of the local situation that is each unique. Just like the famous geologist and Nobel Laureate, M. B. Prufnagel von Brunt und Fefferschnikel PhD, JD, DD, DVD, MSNBC has so famously (and definitively stated) “there are stones, and then there are stones.” Enough said. We’ll leave it at that (besides, any more and it would get really silly).

Also, as large a stone as you can. How large? Partly is depends, of course, on the size of your recipe; how many it’s going to serve. And the size and load rating of your truck. But also, in this regard, size does matter. The bigger the stone the bigger the flavor. (The new wave chefs are experimenting with a variant using large numbers of small stones claiming that the admixture of different types brings a whole another flavor layer, even layers, to the end result. We say, as always with all food preparation: HEY, THE INDGREDIENTS EACH HAVE THEIR OWN ESSENTIAL FLAVOR. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT. EVERYTHING DOESN’T NEED A SAUCE BASED ON AN ARM'S LENGTH OF HARD TO FIND AND RARE INGREDIENTS. Got that, Frenchy! You know who you are.)

So now you have your big stone and you don’t have a pot to cook it in. Our good friends at Lehman’s can crate you off a nice big 15 gallon cast iron cauldron and you can go Medieval and cook on your front lawn over an open fire. Again, choice of wood for the fire is critical also. Don’t worry about the neighbors, once they discover that you are making stone soup, they will surely approve. Or, run you out of town. Just kitting.

Then the water. Well . . . (Get it? Well. Well water.) A well near a leprechaun’s domicile is best, but who sees those creatures any more. Just to mention, because that is the best. Magical, in fact. Next best is Acqua della Madonna from Italy. Beatific. That may sound overly fussy; but, hey, you’ve already broken your back to get the stone and the pot. Break a leg. Crack open the wallet too.

The other quintessential ingredient for your delicious soup will be Dehydrated Water. Sounds like a joke, no? But, it's traditional and, in our opinion, indispensable.

As far as cooking is concerned, we always prefer good wood fire. And, besides, if you are going large scale, you will probably be outdoors anyway. The soup will be ready as soon as the rock is heated to exactly 212° Fahrenheit. (You should get a tester for that. It’s rather expensive and only good for getting the temperature of rocks. But Martha has one, so stop thinking.)

Last, concerning so called additionals. Those who have never tasted true stone soup will be tempted to toss in some vegetables, meats, noodles, what have you. Go ahead. But the true experience is a good rock cooked to the right temperature in good water. Serve straight away. Salt (if you must); but at the table, please.

As ever, you are welcome to a nice bowl of My Stone Soup©.
Kimchi Soup, or Stew

This is not a recipe for a kimchi based soup or stew. There are plenty to find in a search. This is just to encourage you to prepare some; but, as soon as possible. It’s that good.

If you have been raised in a traditionally observant Korean household, this is probably something that you don’t need no Cooky Cat telling you about. But if you don’t eat kimchi on a daily basis, as is the Korean custom, then stay a while. This is for you. And, you will be glad you did.

You know how you can sometimes stumble on things just by accident or by the arrangement of circumstances. Well it seems a friend of ours makes kimchi occasionally and, after the first flush of enthusiasm over the latest batch, there is invariably a jar with a small portion left in the back of the refrigerator, slowly fermenting away, only getting more better and sour with time. Having seen a show on television on kimchi soup produced by the Kimchi Chronicles wonderfully hosted by Marja Vongerichten (with interesting friends and sometimes assisted by Jean-Georges Vongerichten), that was natural inspiration that the jar in the back of the refrigerator was going to be the basis for a kimchi soup/stew (“Soup” if it’s soupy; “stew” if it’s thicky.) one evening when the call went out for something quick and easy. And, from what was already on hand.

For the record, this is what went into the first attempt: Soup Base—one cup cabbage-daikon kimchi, one cup of the fermentation liquid, one cup water. Add Ins—dried Chinese small cap and tree ear mushrooms. Dried tiger lily flowers. Separately, a stir fry was being whipped together with bits of left over pork spare ribs, bok choy and onion; and flavored with garlic, ginger, scallions, and some sesame oil. In an inspired move, the cook just went ahead and tossed the stir fry into the soup. Voilà, kimchi stew! More scallions for garnish along with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

One of the most delicious What-We-Got-On-Hand dishes. EVER!

If you make kimchi chances are you have some in the fridge right now. If not, we do recommend you give making a batch at home a try. But that’s a whole another kettle of cabbage. Or, you can just go out and get some ready-made at your neighborhood Korean store.

The secret is the very simple soup/stew base: Kimchee cut into bite size pieces, fermentation liquid and water to dilute. After that you can go on your own.

We don’t want to leave you completely without some suggestions. Certainly something pork would be an excellent choice. Barbequed Chinese pork, some browned pork cubes long braised to tenderness, or some tender braised pork belly sliced and browned. Also, tofu; and, maybe some dried tofu skins. Your choice of dried mushrooms. Don’t overlook those densely sweet tiger lily flowers. And, wakame sea vegetable. And a chopped green leaf Oriental type vegetable. And/or, one of the many squash or melon type Oriental vegetables. Flavor to taste with garlic, ginger, and sesame oil plus scallion and fresh chopped coriander to garnish.

That sour, tangy, peppery Kimchi broth seems to flatter just about anything savory. In our mind it does, however, skew the choices toward the Oriental palate. Not a rule, just a nudge. You be the judge. (Never a nudge, though.)

PS Here’s a radical after thought. How about making up a kimchi soup with some firm fruits for a novel experiment. Either as the sole other ingredient, or maybe some cubed apple or melon in with the savory bits. (You heard it here first. Cooky Cat! Another purrrfectly good idea.)