In February, 2010, Chef Cardie Mortimer was trying to get out of his car when his lower spinal discs collapsed and he found himself paralyzed. He was rushed to St. Barnabas, transferred to Hackensack University Hospital and eventually spent almost a month in rehab at West Caldwell Care Center. Lying in hospital beds and learning to walk again gave him a mission. He would use his cooking skills to give back to other people suffering medical ordeals. If there could be such things as music and art therapy, he figured, why not culinary therapy?
Shortly before Christmas, Chef Cardie took his act to Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey, where he talked about New Orleans soups, Birmingham barbecue, Greek yogurt, his mother, the difficulties of getting to the bathroom in a wheelchair and the evils of double-dipping — and generally worked tirelessly to entertain a roomful of disabled adults. True to the idea of therapy, he made the program interactive and multi-sensory — passing around bags of fresh herbs to smell — and ended his presentation with a quote from the Wizard of Oz: “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”
Chef Cardie’s next Culinary Therapy presentation — for the Adult Diabetes Support Group of Cedar Grove — will be Wednesday, Jan. 11, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Community Church of Cedar Grove, 65 Bowden Rd. A $5 donation for the American Diabetes Association is requested. To register, call 973.239.3875. When he’s not doing Culinary Therapy, Cardie Mortimer — a Southern-trained chef who now lives in Verona — caters private events and teaches at Kings Cooking Studio. Read more on his website. Here’s the recipe for the soup he served at the Cerebral Palsy luncheon.
Chef Cardie’s Southern Roasted Garlic, Red Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup (serves 12)
Salt and pepper, more for re-seasoning
3 whole large garlic heads or 10 cloves of garlic peeled
2 medium white onions, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
Several dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
3 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, reserve 1/2 cup for garnishing
1 lb. of smoky bacon, diced and fried crispy, reserve 4 slices for garnishing
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put potatoes on a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Bake, uncovered for 25 minutes. Wrap garlic cloves or heads of garlic with top 1/4 of head cut off. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes until caramelized. Reserve 1 cup of cooked potatoes.
In a 3 qt. saucepan, heat remaining oil. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, garlic, thyme and onions and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, milk and the half and half. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. During the last 5 minutes of simmering add in the cheese and the smoky bacon.
Using a stick blender immerse and blend until fairly smooth. I like mine a bit chunky. Garnish with some reserved potatoes, some crumbled cheese and a bit of fresh parsley.