March 13, 2004
A Frugal Gourmet

Soup to be

Does anybody remember the Frugal Gourmet? Jeff Smith was so popular in the eighties in the US, the darling of PBS. And then there was that scandal about the young boys. If you search the PBS site, you will not find his name there any more.

Still, that doesn't take away from the chef, his philosophy or his recipes. And I loved the philosphy behind his frugality: not being stingy but making sure you use everything. It reminds me of one of my favourite recipes in the Fanny Farmer cookbook, Floating Island. There are only four ingredients, but they all fit together like a puzzle: you separate the eggs and beat the whites, cooking the whites in a saucepan of milk. You then use the same milk and the egg yolks to make a custard, on which you float the egg-white meringues. (The other two ingredients are sugar and vanilla, if you are interested.)

Oddly enough, this same philosphy was bred in me by my Austrian grandmother. Having lived through the Depression, you might have thought that she would be frugal in the sense of not spending money on good food, but you would be wrong. She always bought the best possible cuts of meat, the freshest vegetables. However, like the Frug she was careful to waste nothing. The chicken or duck carcass was turned into a soup stock. The water from boiling potatoes was added to the simmering carcass, as were all vegetable peelings. If she didn't have a use for the vitamin-laden water immediately, she put it in the freezer for the next time.

And so I do the same. The photo above is the lovely rich stock I made from last week's chicken. I tried a new trick (read about it in one of the Frug's recipes actually) of adding the onions with the skins to give it more color. I didn't have many old vegetables in the bottom of the fridge to add, but I think it will still make a tasty soup. For the moment, it glows at me in a friendly way every time I open the fridge.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at March 13, 2004 3:24 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Meg - any flavor consequences from adding the onion skins? I'm very interested in this... anything that could add to the strength of a vegetable stock would be very useful to me.

Posted by paul on March 13, 2004 at 10:50 AM

Paul - I don't know yet as I haven't tried it. But I'm thinking of making some cream of spinach soup this evening and will get back to you.

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 13, 2004 at 11:20 AM

Wouldn't browning the vegetables add a stronger flavor? But don't you want your broth to be neutral? Shouldn't the flavor come from the recipe?

Posted by Frolic on March 13, 2004 at 1:26 PM

Paul - the onion skins did, I think, add a bit of depth to the soup. I would say it was a kind of woody flavour, if that doesn't sound too negative.

Frolic - browning the vegetables would probably add some flavour in the same way that browning your beef bones or roasting your chicken before making the stock will add flavour. However, I usually just throw any old vegetables I have lying about in the stock as is because the essence of frugal cooking is to use up things that might not otherwise get used. Also, having taken the time to roast my lovely vegetables, I would think it a bit of a waste to throw them in a soup pot where the flavour will leech out. That said, if I were making a strictly vegetarian soup I think it would probably be a very good idea to roast the vegetables.

As for the flavour coming from the recipe, that's certainly true but the stock is one of the ingredients and the better your ingredients the better your results!! I do usually go easy on the garlic and onion in the stock, though, in case I don't want strong flavours in the subsequent soup.

Thanks for the comments - it has given me nearly enough for another blog!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 13, 2004 at 1:59 PM

Of course I remember Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet. Watched his show for years, and have one of his books.
Don't know or care about the scandal, or critics of his cooking or knowledge of it. PBS' rights to rebroadcast expired, so that could be why he is no longer mentioned too.
Smith was always one of my sources and favorites. I have made a number of his recipes, none disappointing. Jotted down many others that I haven't made yet. He'll be missed.

Posted by Picayune Paul on September 30, 2007 at 5:38 PM

with the exception of julia, jeff smith was the single most infuential cook in the revival and promotion of cooking in America. I thought I was an accomplished cook after spending so many years with julia, but jeff smith added something else and he enhanced my skills. that's what the joy of cooking is all about, you're always learning. it is sad that the scandal ended his taking his proper place in the recent history of cooking.

Posted by Leslie on November 29, 2007 at 4:31 PM

I have 7 shows on tape and when I find it I will make a CD or DVD of it. (subject FG COOKING)

trade for others that I do not have?

Posted by Mac on September 3, 2008 at 3:25 PM


Posted by HAL on January 2, 2010 at 10:56 PM

very good post . thanks for sharing it

Posted by metin2 yang on September 8, 2010 at 10:06 PM

i certainly do remember jeff smith.he was my guru.i have all his books,never missed a show.when one is accused of child molestation i think that's the end of life as you knew it.i'd like to believe he was innocent.i think the accusations played a big part in his death.i wish he was alive and well and still teaching me like he did.RIP rose myers

Posted by rose myers on October 30, 2010 at 12:12 PM
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