Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Provencal Miso Soup

     French Provence Japanese Fusion Café Style Soup!  
     Every year, chef in the mass media seem to make predictions about upcoming food trends.  More often than not, the upcoming food trend prediction is usually already past tense, because hard working chefs have already successfully marketed the food that is spotlighted by the mass media chefs.  This year, mass media chefs predicted that clear broth soups will be the most popular in fine dining circles.

     Considering that most modern restaurants only pay the lowest wages possible and only the bottom line profits are what counts, it is easy to imagine that purchasing buckets of dried instant soup bouillon in order make trendy clear broth soups, will be par for the course at many restaurants.  The problem is that when several restaurant in one area use instant bouillon, every soup broth taste nearly the same and the flavor is middle of the road at best.

     There is no denying that soup stock, bouillon or consommé that is made from scratch has the best flavor.  Soup broths that are made from scratch do command a higher menu price.  Unfortunately, shady restaurants often charge the same high price for a clear broth soup that is made with dried instant bouillon.  It is easy to see that the supposed upcoming clear broth soup trend fiasco could alienate many more fine dining customers than the recent overpriced petite portion health cuisine trend recently has.
     Restaurants that market traditional clear soups that are made from scratch will gain loyal customers and these restaurants will have an advantage in the long run.  Japanese fine dining chefs know this as fact.  The difference between a cheap noodle house at a mall and a refined Japanese restaurant is as simple as instant miso soup mix and miso soup that is made to order the traditional way.    

     Miso soup has been popular in American restaurants during the last two decades.  Cheap buffets usually serve instant miso soup mix and chefs usually make large batches of traditional miso soup way ahead of time.  Either way, the flavor of the miso soup will not have the character that it should have.  Miso soup is much more aromatic when it is made to order.  The longer that a miso soup sits in a soup warmer, the more that the bean paste flavor changes to an undesirable flavor and the less aromatic the miso soup will be.
     For a great miso soup, the dashi broth has to be made within certain time constraints, so peak aromatic flavors develop.  A dashi broth that is boiled for a few minutes too long will have a flat musty aroma.  As long as the dashi is made with traditional ingredients and it is boiled for the correct amount of time, then the miso soup will have a good base flavor.  As long as the bean paste is not overheated, the miso soup will turn out perfect.

     Learning the basics of traditional miso soup is best to do, before attempting to make new miso soup creations.  Creating a new miso soup means designing the soup so the garnishing ingredients will taste good with the traditional basic miso soup flavor.  There are several different traditional dashi broths and several kinds of bean paste to choose from, so a little bit of imagination pays off when selecting the best combination for a new miso soup.
     I thought that the fresh flavors of French Provence herbs, tomato and garden vegetables would taste nice with a light miso soup.  Shiitake mushroom adds even more flavor appeal.  When I first published this recipe about 5 years ago, it caught on like wildfire and the recipe was popular worldwide.
     Now that clear broth soups are predicted to be trendy this year, more than likely creative miso soups will also return to the spotlight.  Provencal Miso Soup is an appealing creative modern soup that is worth trying, but this soup definitely has to be made to order so the fresh flavors are at a peak.  

     *This entire recipe yields 1 serving!  Miso soup should always be prepared shortly before serving.
     Wakami & Katsuobushi Dashi:
     This dashi has a light flavor and is not sweet like a kambu dashi.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Japanese dried shaved cured bonito flakes. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped rinsed salt packed wakame sea weed.
     Step 2:  Boil the broth for 5 minutes.  Allow the broth to reduce to about 2 1/4 cups in volume.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.

     Provencal Miso Soup:  
     Finishing this miso soup does not take much time.  The vegetables should still be al dente when this soup is served!  The dashi is flavored in two stages.
     Step 1:  Place the dashi broth sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 pinches of Herbs Du Provence.
     Add 2 to 3 thin sliced small shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of large diced plum tomato.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin sliced leek.
     Gently boil till the vegetables start to become tender.  (About 2 minutes.)
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red miso paste, while stirring.
     Add 2 pinches of coarsely chopped Italian parsley.
     Simmer the soup for 2 minutes.
     Step 3:  Ladle the soup into a large shallow soup bowl.
     Garnish with a couple of basil leaves.
     Provence is a prime seafood region of France, so the traditional dashi broth goes well with the Provence garden vegetables and herbs.  I was sure that these two classic flavors of Japan and France would go well together in this fusion soup.  If you are a miso soup fan, this recipe will not disappoint!

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