There are few things more satisfying than a steaming bowl of soup on a cold day. Especially a soup simmered for hours with vegetables and bones to yield deep flavors whose characters change over time.
On Sunday, Ginny & I found ourselves at Marché d'Aligre in the 12ème, a stone's throw away from the Bastille. Believe it or not, I haven't been to many outdoor markets yet. I never seem to drag myself out of bed and summon up the energy before they close, but my friend wouldn't have been too happy if I had decided to stay under the covers and not show up.
This was a big contrast from the organic market on Sundays at Raspail - much larger, huge, in fact. It consists of a plaza in the middle with stands of produce and stands of textiles, then two long streets of produce stands emanate out. There is also a covered market filled with boucheries, poissonneries and fromageries.
The produce does not vary too greatly from stall to stall, but prices are extremely reasonable, much cheaper than most supermarkets even, and the vendors loudly hawk their wares. Look at the beautiful white asparagus in the above picture!
For five measly Euros, I left with: 2 carrots, an onion, parsley, lettuce, 3 tomatoes, waxy potatoes, half a bunch of celery, an aubergine, and a piece of fresh chevre. Oh, and a par-tridge in a pear tree :)
When Ginny decided to purchase some veal, the tune suddenly changed. "Well, since you're purchasing something, I'll give it to you." And guess what? He even cut it up for me. I'm still puzzled by the fact that he would give something away for free, how could first-time customers be loyal customers? Honestly, I would have gladly paid for the bone if he had just named the price. Thank you Mr. Boucher!
I decided to take my goodies and turn them into a big pot of soup. Making stock crossed my mind, but the quantity of bone was too small to yield enough flavor for a rich stock. But a veal bone / vegetable soup would do nicely!
The bone roasted away for 2 hours in my little toaster oven, then went into the stockpot with some of my market vegetables, filling the apartment with luscious aromas. I've been drinking the soup for the past 3 days, never tiring of it and loving how the flavors just get better with time. I briefly thought about taking a picture, but it's too rustic and homey and wouldn't photograph well. Food porn it is not.
Today I did one of my favorite things - sucking on the veal bones to get all the marrow and flavor out. I first did this as a child with my grandmother's classic Chinese soups - I loved the concentrated liquid that would burst forth. Even though the flavors are so deceivingly rich, added bonuses to soups like these are that they are light and healthy. Trust me, your body and soul will thank you.
Marché d'Aligre in the 12ème
Walk down Rue Faubourg St. Antoine from M: Bastille until you hit Rue d'Aligre on your right
Metro: Bastille or Ledru-Rollin
All mornings except Mondays
Vegetable and Bone Soup
Makes one giant pot!
1-2 pounds of bones (veal, chicken, beef, pork), chopped into large pieces
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and halved
2 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sticks celery, peeled and cut in half
2 carrots, peeled and cut in half
5 whole sprigs of parsley
1 tsp. black peppercorns
salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400° F, 200° C.
- Rinse bones and place in a foil-lined tray.
- Roast uncovered until brown on all sides, turning every 20 minutes. (Approximately 1-2 hours, depending on amount of bones.)
- Meanwhile, prepare vegetables and place in stockpot. Top with 1.5 liters of water.
- Add bones to stockpot when ready.
- Top with more water if necessary to cover all ingredients. Add peppercorns.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer gently, half covered, for 2.5 hours. Top with a little water if necessary when simmering.
- Skim surface every half hour to remove scum and impurities - do not stir though!
- Season to taste, cut up carrots and celery and return them to the pot. Everything else should have fallen apart to small pieces.
- Enjoy, try sucking on the bones!! Soup gets better with time.
- As always, use whatever produce you have at hand or use your imagination.
- Start the soup by putting everything together in cold water in the stockpot so that the vegetables don't fall apart.
- Peel tomatoes- the skin is tannic and can give an off flavor
- If you have no room in your fridge for a big stockpot, this is the way my grandmother kept soup in non-summer months: heat it up to a boil, then place the lid on and turn stove off immediately. Do this everyday for a few days until you finish the soup. But in case it turns and tastes funny along the way, you obviously shouldn't drink it! Don't try this with cream soups. Common sense reigns in the kitchen!