Right before it was yesterday’s news and tossed on the cultural junk pile as passé, everything was the next big thing. Devotees of Anthony Bourdain will know that as of two weeks ago, Croatian cuisine is the new black. Prior to all this, somewhere between Spanish food blowing up into our collective consciousness and the advent of Ecuador in the global gastronomic stakes, in 2010 Portugal flickered briefly into view, largely on the strength of David Liete, before vanishing under the rising tide of new and undiscovered.
Not so for Dan Gilbert and Carla Gonçalves of Philadelphia’s Koo-Zee-Doo for whom the discovery of Portuguese food by the public was just the beginning. Winners of a highly coveted James Beard Award also in 2010, they have continued to take traditional Portuguese food to the next level and justify its increased popularity.
Now that we have a child, we’re very often late to the party when it comes to hot new restaurants. Not that we could ever have been accused of having our finger on the dining-out pulse anyway, given that our preference for restaurants runs rather more towards the traditional and wholesome than the trendy and transitory. So, it wasn’t until late winter of this year that we guilted the in-laws into putting the baby to bed and finally got the chance to visit Koo-Zee-Doo.
Happily this Portuguese charmer in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties was both worth the wait and, as far as we could tell, entirely unchanged for its new-found fame. That it was also around the corner from the 700 Club, where there is not only soccer on the TV but, to our great surprise, hand-pulled ales, meant by the time we showed up for our reservation, we were beerily jovial.
The third course on the tasting menu – outstanding value at only fifty sheets a head – was Koo-Zee-Doo’s take on the traditional Portuguese soup, caldo verde, of smoked chouriço* sausage, kale, and potatoes simmered in a beef broth. Of all the six outstanding dishes we sampled that night, this was the simplest and perhaps the best. Instead of a broth, this soup resembled more a British leek and potato or a warm Vichyssoise in texture, as the potato had been blended with the stock. Slim strands of kale ran through the soup like green threads in a linen jacket, stitched together with tiny buttons of chouriço. Most impressively, from both a visual and gustatory perspective, was the use of a daring curl of chouriço oil, almost as a question mark inviting the diner to compare it to its traditional version.
It was a perfect reinvention of a classic without any of the deconstruction rubbish that still seems to plague trendy restaurants trying to be clever. And speaking of clever, all we have done here in our version is switch out the beef stock for a ham broth which, we think, adds an additional porky depth to the whole thing. I’m not sure whether Koo-Zee-Doo received its James Beard Award solely for its use of chouriço oil, but if I were judging the contest they probably would have. Now that we’ve learned about it, it’s quite simply an indispensable ingredient, and the next big thing, at least until something else comes along, in our kitchen.
*Note: Portuguese chouriço is very similar, if not completely identical, to Spanish chorizo. Do not substitute Mexican or other New World-style chorizos unless you want the result to be completely different. It would probably still be delicious, just different.
- 2 medium chorizo sausages, cut into small cubes
- 3-4 floury potatoes, peeled
- 1 head of kale, washed, stems removed and julienned
- 4 cups (or more) ham, pork or beef broth
- 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme, storks removed.
- In a large pot containing boiling stock, boil potatoes until soft, 20-35 minutes depending on how large you cut them
- In a saucepan over medium heat, saute chorizo cubes gently, allowing fat to render.
- Cook chorizo for 4-8 minutes, then remove cubes and reserve on a plate, and drain orange fat into a jug or other device with a spout
- When potatoes are cooked remove them gently with a slotted spoon and place in a blender or food processor.
- Introduce kale to boiling stock and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Remove kale with slotted spoon and reserve on a plate.
- Add about a 1/3 of the stock to the food processor/blender, or enough so that the potatoes are nicely wet but not so much as it will spurt everywhere when you switch it on.
- Add thyme leaves and process/blend until a smooth paste, then add enough stock to make the soup nicely liquid while also being thick enough to stick to a spoon.
- Stir in julienned kale strips and chorizo cubes and serve in nice deep bowls.
- Garnish with a good dash of chouriço oil and serve with a glass of a red Portuguese wine somewhere in the $9 range.
613 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
T: (215) 923-8080
13 thoughts on “Portuguese Soup with Chouriço Oil: The Next Big Thing”
That’s a beautiful presentation of a very traditional soup.
Do you have a Portuguese restaurant recommendation in Newark? Email me if you do.
That ham broth must really cinch the recipe… looks wonderfully good too in that fab photo. I need to check out those portuguese restaurants if this is what will be waiting for me@
Aloha, J & A–Only a book remark—Just read “Justine” by your recommended L. Durrell–my god.. Now I’m hooked–gotta get the other 2 in this series…I had to keep reading the same paragraphs over again to be sure I had read it right…and it was written in 1957??? What kind of drugs did they have then? Apparently better than mine….joking…his mind is just naturally,well, hate this word, but awesome! Thanks again for the referral.
@Deb: Who knows what he was on? It may have been nothing at all, as he was quite an unpredictable character by all accounts. I haven’t actually read the Alexandria series but it’s on my list. Another book I’ve recently read that you may find interesting is “The Way in the World” by Swiss writer Nicolas Bouvier, not dissimilar in type to Paddy Leigh Fermor’s first pair of books.
Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t been around much, lots of changes in the last year. This soup reminds me of a magical 3 weeks I spent in Portugal just before I moved to NYC. Though it looks like it’s come a long way from its peasant roots as a way to stretch the chouriço:-)
It’s so true that Portuguese food has never really taken off and that was, actually, what inspired me to start my blog in the first place. So good to see Portuguese recipes in someone else’s blog too. and this is one of my favourite soups. You certainly did it justice!
@Marc: welcome back! Are you still in Japan?
@Ruth: I remember reading some of your earliest posts on caldeirada and clams with chourico and being inspired. It’s a shame Portuguese food hasn’t taken off because it shares many of the characteristics that make Spanish food so popular – rusticity, simplicity, emphasis on great ingredients – but with much more obvious inspiration from their colonies. I also think that some of the duality one sees in the cooking of South America reflects the Iberian divide between the two nations.
I ignore food trends. I just eat what I like. I’m picky enough without worrying about whether or not it’s the hot thing to eat. 🙂
I was definitely not aware of the Portuguese fad, but there is a decent Portoguese restaurant that opened in my neighborhood a couple of years ago. I don’t go there too much because it’s BYOB and I always end up drinking too much when I do that. You’re making me think I have to go back there – or perhaps I should just make the soup and just stick to a single glass of wine.
J&A—-Thanks for the Bouvier referral–which leads me to this—–I know you have lots of spare time now that you have a kid…let’s start a food-literature-and-all-things-related library!
Does anyone know a place to donate great books? I live in a small space on an island (well,boo-hoo yourself–it’s not always great—crappy coffee for one thing) and I have probably hundreds of books that even our local Good Will, etc can’t take. (I found an orignal Harold McGee in a GW here! and lots of Bourdain novels..) Not their fault. Books take a lot space–If so, I don’t mind shipping them–…..
This is a soup I will definitely try. It looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.
Looks delicious! Nothing beats mobile food! Check out New York City’s awesome website, foodtoeat.com, that allows users to order delivery or pick-up from FOOD TRUCKS and RESTAURANTS! Experience great, tasty dishes without (even Portuguese!) having to wait on line!
Between the Woods & the Water–Just started it–Mr Fermer’s books —I was going to apologize for book-talk on a “food” blog but our heads need feeding too, si?
And in that regard, I will never go hungry–thank you J&A
P.S. Have you ever watched “The Supersizers” on cooking channel? —it’s a very (British) funny show, very informative re: food history and the humour seems like it may appeal to you – ….I think they’re very good.
Aloha, Ciao, etc…
Hey, Deb! Great to hear from you. No worries about the book-talk. you may be helping others discover something new as well. haven’t seen the supersizers yet but will definitely check it out! thanks for all the great suggestions. we’re keeping a list…