January 27, 2008
Recently a post on Hoboken Now announced to the world that Hoboken's The Soup Man restaurant was expensive. I had gotten some soup there -- The Place that Made Jerry Seinfeld Famous -- once and liked it, so I went back to see how the writer managed to spend $14 for a bowl of soup.
I was prepared to splurge. I had money in my pocket. I chose something called sausage gumbo, coming from gumbo country, and got the full meal, which included a choice of fruit (I chose an apple), iced tea (I chose Heavenly Peach), and a salad. I elected to buy a slice of what looked like perfect NYC cheesecake to top off the meal, which the intrepid Hoboken Now reporter had not. Yes, my bill was close to $20, but this did not stop me.
For one thing, I was taking the food home and knew it would be eaten for two meals. I ate only half of everything, and the next day I had the other half. As I thought about what to do to make that sausage gumbo go farther, I had an inspiration which only the brave might try, but I'll tell you how.
The gumbo was indeed a little like the gumbo I know so well from Lower Alabama (called L.A. in those parts). It was thick and spicy. I've had many gumbos, from seafood to smoked duck, but never one that had only sausage. The sausage made it something of a brunch dish from the get-go. My second day inspiration was to heat it and top it with a poached egg. This lightened the flavor somewhat and gave the dish a late-breakfast deliciousness. If only I had had a swig of champagne with which to wash it down!
I'm going to tell you how to poach an egg, although this instruction is more appropriate to my food blog than here. I suspect most of my Hoboken readers would be hard pressed to poach an egg.
It's not as easy as it sounds. It starts off easy, but it is not foolproof. You may have to try several times before you get the hang of it.
First, put about a quart of water into a saucepan, add a teaspoon or so of white vinegar (I am not convinced this step is necessary, but I always do it), and bring to a low simmer. Break an egg into a plate for easy egg management. Slide the egg into the hot water and then stir the water ever so gently, keeping the egg circulating in the pot to prevent its sinking and sticking to the bottom. Proceed with extreme delicateness and caution for about three minutes until the egg is firmish, white and yolk. Carefully remove the finished egg to double paper towels to drain the water off of it, and then it will be ready to go into any dish you like, even on top of gumbo.
I once had a friend who was the youngest of ten in a Portuguese family. He said his mother wouldn't think of serving a plate of beans and rice without a poached egg on top. There are infinite uses for a poached egg, so it would behoove an serious eater to know how to produce one. (Good luck.)
One more comment about The Soup Man lunch. That cheesecake was sweet and creamy, but it didn't taste like cheesecake to me. I could detect no cream-cheese! I am in the land of excellent cheesecake, blindfold-identifyable, and I wouldn't put this in that category. If you're in The Soup Man and yearning for dessert, try something else. You can always find a good piece of cheescake. If not, maybe I'll give you a recipe.