week of soups--day 1: consomme with spinach and watercress / by Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

We're going to make the day 1 soup and prep for the day 2 soup at the same time.

For the consomme. See either your favorite cookbook or a previous post. What you want is a hearty, robust beef stock that is full of flavor which is then clarified. It begins with some important ingredients.

Bones. Ask the butcher for stock bones. You'll need a couple of pounds. Don't use stew meat, use bones.

Oxtail.For the day 2 soup, but you're also going to use it flavor the stock.

Vegetables. To include at a minimum, 1 large or 2 medium onions, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 stalk of celery, 3-4 large carrots, and tomatoes (or paste).

To prepare the stock. Brush a roasting pan lightly with olive oil. Halve the onions and place spilt side down in the pan along with the bones (2 lbs) and oxtail pieces (1/2 pound). Add the remaining ingredients and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast in a hot oven (~425-450°F) for approximately 30 minutes until the bones are brown and the vegetables tender.

Once the stock ingredients have browned pull them from the oven and place immediately in a large heavy-duty stock pan. Cover with cold water. Important! De-glaze the roasting pan and place the juices in the stock pot. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer, simmer, simmer very gently overnight.

First thing next morning. Remove from heat and let cool until you can handle safely. Hand towels and shoes can prevent permanent injury when handling hot stocks. Cover your arms with the towels and your feet with the shoes.

While the stock cools, strain out the large pieces and place them in a sieve over another large pot. Pull out the oxtail pieces and set aside for the next days soup. Strain the stock through a very fine strainer taking care to extract the liquid held in the vegetables. The back of a ladle works great for this.

Now at this point you can refrigerate the stock if you wish. The fat in the stock will rise and once chilled, you can easily skim the fat off and discard.

Now for the hard part. Turn the stock into consomme. For this you'll need a raft. A raft is a mixture of lean ground beef, egg whites, and mirepoix. It's absolutely essential that you have acid (i.e. tomatoes) in the mirepoix or it won't set properly. No tomatoes? Add a dash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

You may want to consult a reference cookbook such as: Cook's Illustrated, The Professional Chef, or any number of French gastronomy books on how to use a raft to clear the stock.

The basic premise is this. For a gallon of stock, you'll need a pound of lean ground beef, 5 egg whites, and 2-3 cups of diced mirepoix (this is how you get rid of those scraps and end pieces of vegetables in the bin that have bugging you). Mix them together and place in the cold stock. Slowly heat the stock while stirring the pot. At around 120°F, the proteins in the egg whites will begin to coagulate. Important!Stop stirring at the is point. As the temperature increases to a simmer, the raft will come together and when it does, the impurities in the stock will coalesce around them. Slowly left the stock simmer for about an hour to extract the flavors from the mirepoix, but do not left it boil vigorously. Pierce the raft to left steam out and hold it intact.

After an hour, pull the stock from the heat and let cool some before straining. To make a completely clear consomme you will likely have to strain the stock twice - unless you are a master with the raft. Strain first through a fine sieve to remove the large pieces and the raft. Then strain through cheesecloth or tea towel to clarify.

Once finished the stock should be clear and free of oil. Whew! That was a lot of work, but the THINGS you can do with this are out-of-this world. The fun is just beginning. And not to mention how this can be used as a base for flavoring soups. Place the stock back on the burner and reduce by 1/3.

day 1: consomme with spinach and watercress

Place 1/4 cup of washed baby spinach and 1/4 cup of fresh watercress in each large soup bowl. Bring the consomme to a boil and immediately ladle over the greens. The heat will wilt the greens. Serve with hearty bread, fresh apples or pears, and citrus on the side.