I know I’m not the fastest cook in the world. Most line cooks would put me to shame on a busy night when the tickets are hurling out of the printer. But…I can cook efficiently and reasonably fast. Now I’m going to attempt to show you how to cook a little smarter and faster.

I’ve chosen a recipe for roasted red pepper soup to demonstrate some techniques and how to think before you cook. All you need to do is read the recipe instructions carefully and follow step-by-step.

Like everything else in life, it may seem a little uncomfortable at first. Relax, in due time this will seem like second nature. in a little while you’ll be multitasking and cooking like a real line cook. Okay, not really, but you will learn some important lessons. Like mise en place, known to professional cooks as being ready with all that you need within mere steps of the stove.

Let’s go.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 large red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream

METHOD: First things first. Read these instructions closely and pay attention. Don’t even think of chopping up anything at this point. Now, get two large bowls, one 6 quart stockpot, tongs, a kitchen knife, a fine mesh strainer, a large wooden spoon or similar, a stick blender or blender, and a sheet pan. If this looks like a lot of equipment be quiet and stop complaining. It’s called preparation and I’m showing you how to cook efficiently and fast. This soup will take all of 40 minutes to make including roasting time and a glass of wine.

1- Preheat the oven on to 450 degrees F.

2- Put the four peppers in one of the bowls and drizzle just a little olive oil over them rubbing to coat them well. You won’t need much oil…maybe two teaspoons. Put the peppers on a sheet pan and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Turn them occasionally to prevent burning, but you do want a good char on them.

3- While the peppers are roasting mince the garlic and chop the onion. Set aside in separate containers.

4- Wash and dry the parsley. Mince it and set aside.

5- Remove the peppers from the oven, put back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to steam for ten minutes or so. The skin that is not burned will look wrinkly as it loosens. When the skin is loose uncover and let cool for a few minutes.

6- Now it gets messy. Keeping the peppers over the bowl (you want to keep those precious juices you just roasted) start peeling the skin off. Yup, it’s sloppy. Make sure to get the seeds off the peppers also. The peppers will break apart, the tops will come out, and juice will be everywhere, but get as much skin off as you can. Don’t worry too much if there’s some black skin left…it adds flavor and color. Put the peeled peppers in the other bowl. Strain the juice, seeds, skin, and stems from the first bowl to the one with the peppers.

(Note: Whatever you do, do not rinse the peppers under a running faucet to make the job easier. You are wasting water and juice from the pepper and you don’t want to do that do you? I didn’t think so.)

7- Roughly chop the now peeled roasted red peppers and set aside.

Now you are ready to cook. Up until know you have been assembling your mise en place…that which you need to cook.

8- Heat the stock pot over medium-high heat for a minute or so. When you add the oil it should shimmer on the bottom of the pot. Okay, add the oil and butter.

9- When the butter is melted add the garlic and stir it so it doesn’t brown. Now add the onions and stir to coat. Cook until translucent and softened. This will take about three to four minutes. Go ahead and add some cracked black pepper, just a couple of pinches or twists. If the garlic looks like it is getting too dark go to step 10. (Smell the onion aroma? Isn’t that great!)

10- Now add the chicken stock, thyme, parsley, and the roasted red peppers…and the juice you saved. Simmer this for about four or five minutes.

At this point you are ready to whizz this up in a blender or use a stick blender. If you use a blender, whiz the soup up in batches making sure to put a towel over, and holding the top down. Otherwise you’ll be cleaning soup off the walls and ceiling…after your return from hospital for third degree burns. Return the puree back to the stock pot.

If you are using a stick blender whizz the soup right in the pot.

11- Bring the soup back to a simmer then add the cream. The soup will stop simmering when you add the cream so bring it back to simmer while stirring it to incorporate the cream. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

12- Eat.

Recipe adapted from Penzey’s Spices

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