Jacquie has quite the affinity for book stores, which is awesome because it’s much cheaper than shoe stores and I have something to do while she’s browsing. A few weekends ago she allowed me to tag along on her cookbook shopping “spree” at Borders. We probably sat there for a good hour opening up cookbooks and reading them in order to find the perfect ones for her collection. This included The Bread Bible, Molto Mario by our guru, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and even something for me, the Mesa cookbook.

When we got home, I read mine cover to cover (there’s some good info in there about spices and drinks too, it’s not all recipes) and decided that the first thing I’d try out is a soup. And I did the following night when I made his Green Pea & Green Chile Soup with Serrano Ham and Mint-Cumin Crema (page 44).

Firstly, most soups are fairly easy to make. If you want to make a carrot based soup all you do is boil the carrots until their soft, blend them up, and add little of the soup stock to thin it out. Same thing goes for a cucumber soup or a zucchini soup. In this case, it was peas for me. One interesting point to note is that homemade stocks hold a distinct advantage over store bought stocks for the simple reason that store bought isn’t necessarily made with chicken bones. Using bones in the stock like Jacquie does means your stock will have a much richer flavor. It’s not imperative, but if you can make homemade I’d recommend it. (We buy most of our food fresh and items rarely go into the freezer. We save the leftover parts of veggies and we buy whole chickens instead of just the breasts and legs. It’s like a vicious cycle. Our freezer is already full with ice, ready chicken stock in ice cube trays, an ice cream maker bowl, and chicken bones and vegetable remnants for the aforementioned stock, leaving little room for TV dinners of frozen veggies)

This first recipe actually turned out to be a perfect example of how I utilize cookbooks or recipes. I think of them more as a guideline or framework because if you really wanted Bobby Flay’s soup you’d actually go to Mesa Grill, not come over to my apartment. If you’re visiting me, you want good food and good drinks. Thus, in this recipe I made a few substitutions and a few additions (tasting the soup along the way), either for necessity or by choice. We didn’t have Serrano ham within arm’s length, but we always have some prosciutto in the fridge so we used that instead. Prosciutto worked just fine, though I would suggest having a HOT pan when crisping ham because my first batch was kind of soggy

The next substitution I used was sour cream for the suggested crème fraiche. To be honest, I have zero idea what crème fraiche tastes like so I can’t tell you if it changed the flavor dramatically. What I can tell you is that not too much is used in the soup itself, and just a little bit more is used in the crema, so I’d guess the difference isn’t too dramatic.

My final addition was a little chile en adobo sauce. Once we finished making the soup, which was comprised of 95% sweet peas with the other 5% being sour cream, honey and roasted poblanos, it was pretty sweet. Therefore, I used the adobo and chipotle to offset the sweetness with a little bit of smokey goodness. Honestly, it was good the way it was but it was more of a crowd pleaser with the last minute addition.

So that’s that, my first Flay foray. I would suggest adding some fresh cracked black pepper right before you serve it. Oh yes, to get the crema to look cool I actually messed up the first few bowls practicing (I made seven of these things). After a couple I realized that I should just drizzle it on the soup in a straight line, then use the back of the spoon to create the effects. Without further adieu, here’s the pic of the final product. Enjoy~