Posts Tagged ‘Jason Bitner’


April 17, 2011

From Danielle and Jason Bitner

Danielle and Jason — and adorable baby Hollis — brought this zesty “caulichowder” waaay back on March 9. Oops. Honestly, I’m not even sure this is the right photo, as March 9 was, careful readers of this blog may recall, The Night of Beige Soups. So I’m just sort of going by the garnish here. Seems plausible, yes?


2 heads cauliflower, roasted
3 strips bacon
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
3 quarts (12 cups) stock
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2, whole milk, or heavy cream
1/2  tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon smoked salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or to taste… it’s spicy!)
salt & pepper to taste
sour cream, chevre and/or green onions to garnish


Make a chicken stock one day ahead (or buy ready-made).  The Bitners used Alton Brown’s recipe, but in addition to the chicken carcass, threw in a smoked turkey leg for flavor. The stock was rich, golden and super flavorful.

Roast the cauliflower. Chop, toss in olive oil, spread on baking sheet & cook at 425 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, until golden.  Let cool.

In a big soup pot, sauté bacon until crisp. Remove cooked bacon, leaving grease in the pot. Let cool a few minutes.

Deglaze the pot with marsala wine, getting all the little stuck on crispy bits up.

Turn heat back on to medium-high and saute the onion and garlic. Once transparent, add the olive oil and the spices. Sauté for another few minutes until fragrant.  Add the stock and cauliflower and the reserved bacon, crumbled. Puree with immersion blender, or if you have to use a blender, do so now while everything isn’t too hot. Blend in batches.  If you want some added texture, reserve 1/4 of the cauliflower and add to the puree.

Add the cream. Cook over low heat for an hour (more if you can) to let the flavors blend together.  Add water or more stock if soup is too thick. Add more cream if you want it super creamy.

Serve with a dollop of chevre or sour cream & chopped green onions.


Night of the Ashen Soup

March 10, 2011

Last night’s fantastic Soup & Bread was a night of uncommon synchronicity: Of our five soup cooks, FOUR turned up toting pots of something pureed and pale. “Didn’t it say that in the memo?” quipped Stephanie Izard. “That it had to be beige?”

We had spicy “caulichowder” with bacon from Jason and Danielle Bitner; avoglemono from Helen Tsatsos; creamy root vegetable (dressed with candied pecans) from Jenny and Nancy Hines; and parsnip-pear-pistachio soup — dressed with romesco sauce and preserved lemons,  from the team of Izard and Heather Shouse.

Oh yeah – did I mention STEPHANIE IZARD made soup this week? She was supercharming, gracious to all the swooning fans, and the soup was deeelicious. She and Heather – who coauthored the forthcoming “Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Eats, and Shops” — promise to get me the recipe soon.

And, oh yes! —  bucking the trend, Mike McDermott , coowner of Smoque BBQ, turned out a dark, decidedly non-beige, and allegedly devastating brisket chili. Thanks so much to all!

It was Ash Wednesday, but DJ Rob Miller did not heed my request for “songs of repentance and deprivation” — instead he kept the bowls spinning with a set of soup-friendly tunes of indulgence and sin. Hopefully  that won’t put off the folks at the First Presbyterian Church food pantry, on whose behalf we raised a whopping $552. And by “we” I really mean “you” — all of you who came, ate, and donated. Thanks so much to all!

And watch this space for next week’s lineup, coming soon.

Soup cooks 3/9

March 4, 2011

We had a banner week this week — so many fantastic soups; so many hungry people. And so many babies. Where did all those babies come from? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

Recipes are trickling in for David Kodeski’s dreamy congee, Kitty Tataryn’s roasted red pepper, and other soups of the day. Will have those posted soon. I should also give a quick shout out to both La Farine, which piled my Jeep so full of bread it smelled like a bakery at 5 am, and to Anne  from Crumb, who brought a half-dozen whole wheat boules and some amazing spicy cheddar bread. We also raised a cool $575 for the good folks at Benton House, in Bridgeport. It was great to see how they rallied their people to come out and show their support. Come back soon, y’all.

NOW, on to next week. It’s a doozy.

Stepping up to the trusty crocks we have:

Jason and Danielle Bitner, founders of The Betterment Society and proud parents of adorable Hollis, pictured above

The lovely and talented Helen Tsastos (Rock Candy by Helen), who promises her yiaya’s avoglemono

Our friends at Smoque BBQ, with chili

Bitchin’ babysitter Jenny Hines, teaming up with HER MOM, Nancy, for something vegetarian.

Time Out Chicago senior food and drink correspondent Heather Shouse, whose book Food Trucks comes out next month

and America’s sweetheart, Top Chef Stephanie Izard, the Girl behind The Girl & the Goat, where I’m still trying to get a reservation

All that, plus more soup from our friends at Hull-House, bread from La Farine, and the musical stylings of DJ Rob Miller. All proceeds benefit the food pantry at Woodlawn’s historic First Presbyterian Church.

See you there!

Tomatillo-Tortilla Soup

February 27, 2010

From Jason and Danielle Bitner

[Ed: This just in from Brooklyn. I don’t seem to have a photo of the soup, but here’s a cute one of the cooks. Thanks, Bitners! Says Danielle, “Making your own stock makes your soup sooooo much better. For this tortilla/tomatillo soup, I like to use chicken stock. This is super simple to put together and just requires some time for simmering. If you can do this step separately — like a day before or even earlier and freeze it, the main soup will come together really fast.”]

Ingredients: Stock (From an Alton Brown recipe.)

4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs. If you don’t have carcasses just buy a pack of legs and thighs. I also like to buy a back of bone-in breasts and use the meat for the soup.
1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
10 sprigs fresh thyme (a few teaspoons of dry is fine too)
10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8 to 10 peppercorns
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 gallons cold water


You need a BIG pot….Best to use a tall pot with a colander insert. Put all your ingredients in the colander part so that when it’s time to strain your broth, all the little bits are easy to remove.

Put all this stuff together, add water and simmer for 2-4 hours. Don’t let it come to a rolling boil or you’ll get lots of yucky muck. Also, if you do put chicken breasts in the stock, make sure to take them out after they’ve been simmering for 30-40 minutes. Make sure they’re cooked through then remove all the meat and shred. Reserve for later. Put the breast bones back in the stock pot and let it keep cooking.

Ingredients: Soup

5-6 medium tomatillos, chopped
3-4 vine ripened tomatoes (red), chopped
1 onion, yellow or white, chopped
1 bunch cilantro (chopped, half bunch reserved for topping soup)
1 tablespoon cumin (or to taste)
1 teaspoon paprika (or to taste)
2 limes, juiced
1 pack tortillas (you will use probably 8-10 total)
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag tortilla chips (condiment for crunching on top of soup – OR make your own tasty chips with the remaining tortillas from the pack you bought)
avocado, enough to allow for 1/4 avocado per serving)


In 8 cups of broth, add tomatillos and tomatoes, onion, cumin, paprika, and half the cilantro. Let cook for approximately 20-30 minutes. Blend with immersion blender.

Add half the lime juice and 10-12 tortillas, roughly chopped up. Let simmer until the tortillas fall apart. make sure to stir occasionally, so tortillas don’t stick to bottom of pot. Add frozen corn (or fresh!). Add reserved chicken (if you used it for your stock). Salt to taste.

Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes so flavors combine.

Serve with avocado and fresh cilantro. Use chips as garnish. I like to have a bowl of them at the table and use kind of like you would saltines in tomato soup – add as you go. You can also put a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche on your soup if you want to be decadent.

Soup and Bread Marathon, 2/3-2/4/10: Part 2

February 10, 2010

Thursday morning I dragged my apron-stuffed suitcase off the Blue Line at O’Hare only to see a familiar form emerging from the car ahead of me.


“Carla!” (don’t ask)

We took this unplanned meetup as a sign that the preflight jitters stoked by Jet Blue’s aggressively alarmist emails warning of two hour lines at check-in would soon be laid to rest. And they were. Within a ridiculously efficient 20 minutes or so we were sitting at the gate stuffing more little silkscreens into cello bags and mainlining coffee. (Side note: Have you ever noticed the Amtrak ads lining the bottom of the plastic bins at the O’Hare security checkpoint? I never had, but how genius is that?)

Three hours later we were in New York and feeling glamorous. We checked in with our friend Amy, who had just landed at LaGuardia and was charged with picking up what turned out to be a very generous bread donation from the lovely Tom Cat Bakery, in Long Island City. All systems were go.

The car took us in (slow, bumper-to-bumper) style from JFK to the Park Slope home of Bell House talent booker Jack McFadden, where he was putting the finishing touches on his “quesopa” — a rich cheese soup soon to be served in little cups over black beans and avocado.

We refreshed. I checked email and freaked out that Time Out New York’s item on the party instructed guests to BYO soup. (BYO SOUP? WTF?) Sheila took a shower in Jack’s sweet open-plan bathroom. We marveled at the extreme baby-unfriendliness of his awesome loftlike space, where he lives with his lady and, yes, baby. And then, to the Bell House!

Along the way we stopped at a dollar store to pick up bowls,  ladles, and spoons — this apparently being what Jack meant when he said he had the bowls, etc., “covered.” While he and Sheila bought out every spoon in the shop I chatted up the car service driver trying to explain what we were up to, with only middling success.

Like the Hideout, the Bell House is in an industrial stretch of the city, right where Park Slope runs into the scenic Gowanus Canal. Like the Hideout it’s got two rooms — a front bar/lounge and a larger back room with a stage. But it’s also about eight times larger than our beloved Hideout; the front room holds about 150 people and is outfitted with lots of cozy vintage sofas and coffee tables. In other words, it was perfect.

We ran around setting up the merch table and divesting poor Jack’s office of the battalion of crock pots that had accumulated there over the past week. Sheila set to work slicing up the dozens of delicious Tom Cat loaves, which Amy had delivered earlier to the care of the print shop next door. I tried to find enough outlets for all the crocks. A delivery guy showed up with beautiful flowers from the Hideout. (Thank you Hideout owners!) A fantastic posse from the New York City Coalition Against Hunger trouped in and set up camp with literature and signage. And just when it was finally all coming together — our first soupers arrived.

Everything after that is a blur. A very fun, adrenaline-fueled, happy blur of old friends, generous strangers, and lots of delicious soup.

L-R: Jack, Gabe, and Cathy

I’ll spare you the crock-top beauty shots — or, I’ll save those for the recipes, some of which have already come in. But here’s the brief recap of the nine fantastic soups we had to offer. (It was supposed to be ten but Matt Greco, of Char No. 4,  caught the flu and had to bow out at the last minute. Feel better Matt!)

From crock left to crock right, as best I can remember:

Our host Jack McFadden with his “quesopa,” served with black beans, avocado, and tortilla chips. Delish! And not at all reminiscent of Velveeta, as he had feared.

Charming Gabe McMackin, of Roberta’s Pizza —  *the* hotspot of Bushwick (Bushwick!) — with a simple and spicy pappa al pomodoro soup. Basically: pizza soup. It was GREAT. And I’m very sad I did not make it to Roberta’s over the ensuing weekend. Next time.

The lovely Cathy Erway, of Not Eating Out In New York, who was an indispensable help both publicizing the event and hooking me up with many of the cooks and the bakery. She brought her variation on a butternut squash soup (my own favorite soup to make of late). Hers was made with miso — which made it  refreshingly light with an oh-so slightly acidic edge. Cathy has a book coming out like, tomorrow, practically; the launch party’s at, natch, the Bell House. Check it out!

Next to Cathy, I believe, was a terrific light and creamy, almost-vegetarian sunchoke soup from the Good Fork. It was made with dashi, thus the “almost.” Pictured above, Good Fork capo (and former Chicagoan) Ben Schneider, with baby Oliver, and friend Conrad; his wife, chef Sohui Kim, was also at the party, sagely hiding from my lousy camera. (Sheila wrangled a group of 13 to dinner at the Good Fork, in Red Hook, the following night. It was one of  best meals I’ve had in ages. Seriously. Go.)

L-R: Alexis, Helen, and Millicent

Moving down the table we have:

Sweet Alexis, from Jimmy’s No. 43, in the East Village. She was the first to arrive, bearing a rich, savory roasted sweet onion soup with potato and dill.

Next to her is longtime Soup and Bread supporter Helen Rosner, editor of Grub Street Chicago (though apparently not for much longer). She’s sent in the recipe for her tangy tortilla soup, and I’ll get that up soon, but which you can also read all about it over on her own blog, here.

Danielle and Jason Bitner

Next to Helen was Jason Bitner, dishing up *another* chicken tortilla soup, this one with tomatillos and concocted with his wife, Danielle. They’ve been honing their cooking skills in anticipation of the imminent arrival of a baby Bitner, and the consequent departure of their social lives. Jason: I did not get to try your soup. I am so sorry! I don’t know how that happened. But I hear it was very good. Send me the recipe!

Sheila and Millicent

And, anchoring the end of the table, our friend Millicent Souris, whom Sheila and I have known for years, since her days as in the music biz in Chicago. Fast forward a few years and here she is in Brooklyn, cooking at the Roebling Tea Room. (Which is freakishly close to my old Williamsburg apartment. But I digress) She brought a hearty black bean soup with accompanying cheddar biscuits. My notes say that the stock was made with chicken and “some pork ideas.” Millicent! Help me decipher that!

Not pictured, somehow, was our final soup cook, Dave Klopfenstein, an old friend of Sheila’s and keeper of the blog Dave’s Kitchen. How did I miss trapping him with my camera? Anyway. He brought a terrific, delicately balanced cream of celery soup served up with spiced croutons and fresh gremolata. Thanks, Dave!

Me with NYCCAH executive director Joel Berg

Now, I realize this is ridiculously long — is anybody still reading? — but I haven’t gotten to the best part(s) yet!

As the evening unspooled we checked in periodically at the donations table, only to back away in awe. Finally, I took the overflowing crock pot back to the office to sort it all out.


In three hours, with nine soup cooks, we raised $900.

That’s $100 a soup!

As you know, all the money raised by our out-of-town adventure is being donated to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, an advocacy group that does excellent work both on the ground, in terms of hooking hungry people up with emergency food assistance, and at the policy level. So I was geekily thrilled when executive director Joel Berg turned up fresh from taping an interview with BNN. (To watch the entire feature go here.) Berg is sort of a rock star in the world of hunger policy: a radical with the establishment bona fides to get his message heard. I can’t tell you how cool it was that he came out to our event. Thanks so much to him and his staff for all their work; they promise to put that $900 to good use.

And then, it was time to clean up.

I mentioned earlier that the Bell House has two rooms, right? Well, at some point during our soup party, lithe young women pulling wheelie-bags behind them began to wend their way through the bar towards backstage. What was our counterprogramming? A burlesque show!

When it was all over I trotted back and forth for an hour from front lounge to backstage slop sink to wash out the crocks, each time making my way past slouchy tattooed girls wearing nothing but pasties, glittery underpants, and bouffant wigs. “Excuse me! Comin’ through! Sorry! I didn’t mean to touch your boob!”

Flying as I was on a sleep-deprived adrenaline high, this was deeply surreal. A Soup and Bread first!

Which got me thinking about the future. Can the Hideout handle Soup and Bread: Strippers?

If nothing else, it’s good to have goals.