El Restaurante Mexicano May/June 2011 : Page 17

special report: Mexico CHILLED SOUPS Refresh Summer Menus BY KAREN HURSH GRABER, writing from Mexico T o many in Mexico, soup is the necessary fi rst course of the comida, the main meal of the day. When the weather turns warm, as it can even in the central highlands, a cold soup makes a refreshing change. Ever since the introduc-tion of cold soups during the French occupation of Mexico nearly 150 years One of the most popular cold soups in the country is chilled avocado soup, including a version from Tabasco with fresh green chile peppers, and one from Jalisco fl avored with tequila. ago, Mexican chefs have been creating several versions of their own. Because of the considerable infl uence of Spanish cuisine on that of Mexico, gazpa-cho has been a natural for inclusion on Mexican restaurant menus. Examples include the tomato and pepper gazpacho andaluz at Villa Maria in Merida and the cucumber gazpacho with tomato sherbet and mango pearls at the Reforma 500 Restaurant of Mexico City’s Four Seasons. At La Casa del Conde de la Valenciana in Guanajuato, gazpacho is presented in bowls encased in ice. may • june 2011 17

Chilled Soups Refresh Summer Menus

Karen Hursh Graber

To many in Mexico, soup is the necessary fi rst course of the comida, the main meal of the day. When the weather turns warm, as it can even in the central highlands, a cold soup makes a refreshing change. Ever since the introduction of cold soups during the French occupation of Mexico nearly 150 years ago, Mexican chefs have been creating several versions of their own. <br /> <br /> Because of the considerable infl uence of Spanish cuisine on that of Mexico, gazpacho has been a natural for inclusion on Mexican restaurant menus. Examples include the tomato and pepper gazpacho andaluz at Villa Maria in Merida and the cucumber gazpacho with tomato sherbet and mango pearls at the Reforma 500 Restaurant of Mexico City’s Four Seasons. At La Casa del Conde de la Valenciana in Guanajuato, gazpacho is presented in bowls encased in ice.<br /> <br /> One of the most popular cold soups in the country is chilled avocado soup, including a version from Tabasco with fresh green chile peppers, and one from Jalisco fl avored with tequila. There is a cold avocado soup with goat cheese on the menu at Los Danzantes in Coyoacan and one with fresh aromatic herbs at La Habichuela in Cancun. Cuernavaca’s La Jacaranda serves a cold avocado and watercress soup and, in the same city, there is a cold avocado and pear soup on the menu at La Cueva. <br /> <br /> At the Mayan Beach Garden in Playa Maya, the chilled avocado soup is fl avored with ginger and jalapeño chiles.<br /> <br /> The cucumber is another popular ingredient in cold soups such as the crema doria, a cream of cucumber served at Villa Maria, the chilled cucumber soup at La Conjura in Puebla, and the crema fria de pepino y hierbabuena (cold cucumber and mint soup) at the Hacienda Chichin at Chichin Itza.<br /> <br /> Fruit is also a favorite addition to cold soups such as the chilled cream of orange soup with cilantro essence prepared by chefs Lucy Covarrubias and Edison Espinosa at Casa Naranjo in Puerto Vallarta. In Puebla, La Casa de los Espejos serves sopa fria de ajo, a cold garlic soup with ground almonds, garnished with grapes.<br /> <br /> A common cold soup in the coastal regions is sopa fria de camaron, cold shrimp soup with tomatoes, chiles and frequently crabmeat. Other popular soups in the coastal regions are made with the abundant tropical produce such as mango, passion fruit and coconut, among others. <br /> <br /> Preparation Tips<br /> <br /> There are some important considerations in preparing and presenting cold soups, including temperature, fl avor, texture and eye appeal. The best chilling time for this kind of soup is from four to eight hours, always covered. Any less, and the soup will not be cold enough to serve, any more and the fl avors will change. Season cold soups more liberally than hot soups, because colder temperatures tend to lessen the fl avors of herbs and spices. (However, longer than eight hours chilling time will intensify some fl avors and change the taste.) If a last-minute addition of salt is needed after the soup has chilled, use a fi ne salt, since coarse salts will not dissolve as well in cold food. <br /> <br /> If a soup needs to be chilled quickly, the best method is to do it in small quantities, using an ice bain marie (baño maria) in the refrigerator. Although some sources suggest using crushed ice in the soup for cooling, this dilutes the fl avor; fl avored ice cubes will keep it chilled without diminishing the taste. <br /> <br /> Always chill the serving bowl in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes and serve the soup ice cold. Be sure servers pick up cold soup orders as soon as they are ready for serving. A cold soup is most often a small fi rst course, and a shrimp cocktail chiller is the most attractive and practical way of serving it. Soup chillers can also be improvised by placing the chilled soup bowl in a larger bowl of cracked ice.<br /> <br /> Most Mexican cold soups are not made with roux bases or starchy thickeners, which should be avoided since they can be pasty when chilled. Instead, they are thickened to the desired consistency by using a blender. A hand-held immersion blender is good for this, since there is greater control over texture, and the blender or food processor is free to be used for other preparations. <br /> <br /> When it comes to eye appeal, the vibrant colors of many Mexican ingredients make garnishing simple. Use fresh green herbs, a few cooked pink shrimp and, in soups in which some of the ingredients remain chunky, different colors of tomatoes and peppers. For added creamy texture, a dollop of sour cream or crema works well, and for crunch, consider a garnish of toasted pepitas, strips of fried tortillas, colored tortilla confetti or croutons.<br /> <br /> Cold soups can be a lively and welcome addition to warm weather menus and a good venue for showing off bright Mexican ingredients at a time of year when most are at their freshest.

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