What does a cooking instructor do when she moves to a new location? She takes a cooking class, of course. What better way to meet other food lovers. We moved from the sunny south to the bleak and cold midwest one raw February. I spent the next six weeks adjusting our lives to our new surroundings and putting the house in order. In late March, I saw an article in the paper about a tea class at a neighborhood gourmet shop. "Come and learn to serve a proper tea with Judith G." Even though I knew something about serving tea, I went right to the phone and reserved myself a space. It was a very good thing to do that gray March of twenty-seven years ago.
Judith, born and raised in Budapest, became my dear friend, sometimes "mother", where-to-shop-for-special-food "stuffs" advisor, and a teller of life's tales that kept me enthralled for years. With our husbands, we shared holidays. When my mother came to live with us, she and Judith became close. One special food memory associated with them together was the day mother requested fried green tomatoes. Shortly before lunch, Judith called to see what we were doing for lunch. When she heard what we were having, she said "I'll be right over and bring some ostrich". She wasn't kidding! Who knew that ostrich and fried green tomatoes would co-exist so deliciously? If you are wondering about the ostrich, I'll tell you that Judith got it a chefs' meeting a few days before. To prepare it, she simply dipped it in beaten egg and then into flour that had a bit of salt and pepper added. It went into a sauté pan with melted butter and olive oil. The texture was that of liver. The taste was mild and reminded me of veal. I'd put it on the table again if I ever came across a package.
I have such wonderful memories of Judith and many of her recipes.
Here's how she made mushroom soup.
Hungarian Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup from Judith G.
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup wild rice
1 ounce dried mixed mushroom (Judith had them sent from Hungary)
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 Tbsp butter
4 ounces fresh cremini or button mushrooms, quartered or thickly sliced
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half
1. Combine chicken broth and rice in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Cover and simmer over medium low heat until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
2. In the meantime, soak the mushrooms in the hot water until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and reserve the liquid.
3. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the fresh mushrooms until tender and golden brown. Remove to a bowl. In the same pan, melt the remaining Tbsp of butter and add the onion. Saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute one minute longer.
4. Add the soaked mushrooms, the reserved liquid, the sauteed mushrooms, onion and garlic to the wild rice and chicken broth along with the potato. Cover and simmer until the potato is softened.
5. Cool slightly and roughly puree about two cups of the mixture in a blender or food processor. Return the puree to the pot and stir in the milk and half and half. Bring to a slight simmer and serve.