With the days getting shorter and the summer slowly coming to an end, I am starting to dream of all the yummy soups I will soon cook. From scratch. Don’t get me wrong, on a very busy day I can be caught wielding a can opener toward a can of tomato soup or New England clam chowder, but on a chilly night with the sound of crisp leaves beneath your feet, nothing beats a bowl of hot, homemade soup. It can seem like a difficult task, but it is easier than you might think.
Let’s look at the following steps:
1. Sweat (draw liquid out of) the vegetables in a large sauce pot with butter or oil2. FOR CREAM-BASED SOUP ONLY: add flour equal to the amount of butter or oil that you used. This creates a roux, or thickening agent to help thicken the soup. Stir and let cook for about 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. IF NOT CREAM-BASED, SKIP THIS STEP
3. Add a stock such as chicken, vegetable, beef or fish stock. You can use other liquids as well. I’ve even incorporated clam juice when I’m making a seafood chowder. Go ahead, experiment! If it goes wrong, order out
4. Add additional ingredients if desired and bring to a slow bubble. For example, if making lentil soup with sausage, you may want to add the cooked sausage here. Simmer for at least an hour and a half to allow the flavors to blend.
5. You may consider blending or pureeing all or a portion of the ingredients, then add them back into the pot.
6. FOR CREAM-BASED SOUP ONLY: If you’re making a cream soup, this is where you would add the cream.
7. Top off with additional seasonings and garnish and serve hot.
Let’s replay this with actual ingredients:
Creamy Broccoli Soup
- 1 onion, small dice
- 2 celery stalks, small dice
- 1/2 cup leeks, small dice
- 1 & 1/4 lb. broccoli florets
- 4 Tablespoons of butter
- 4 Tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 1 pint heavy cream
1. In a large saucepan, sweat the vegetables (except ¼ pound of broccoli florets) in melted butter over medium heat, until the onion appears translucent.
2. Add the sherry and let reduce or cook down by about half.
3. Sprinkle the flour in and stir to combine, letting it cook for about 3-4 minutes. It might look clumpy but keep stirring and have faith. If you must, chant to yourself in your best fancy chef voice “I am making soup, I am making soup…”
4. Add the vegetable stock and stir to make sure all flour is mixed in well. Bring to a slow bubble.
5. Let simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring on occasion.
6. Puree the soup until smooth and return it to the pot.
7. Slowly stir in the heavy cream and set to a low simmer.
8. Add the remaining ¼ pound of broccoli florets and simmer until cooked through.
9. Serve hot. Serves 8-10.
TIP: The fresher the ingredients, the less seasonings you need to add. I have made many soups from scratch with not so much as a dash of salt and they turned out pure delicious, due to the strength of the ingredients. Always taste, taste, taste before adding seasonings
TIP II: Once you taste the final product, prior to adding any seasoning, try adding 1 Tablespoon of plain white vinegar at a time. After each added tablespoon, stir throughout soup, let sit for about 3 minutes and taste again. You will be pleasantly surprised. After adding 2-3 Tablespoons of vinegar in this fashion, if you still feel you need an extra bit of saltiness or kick, season as needed. I can say from experience, that smokers will season their food saltier and heavier by instinct, as their taste buds are harder pressed to taste the natural flavors of the ingredients.
TIP III: The generic soup instructions above can be applied to almost any soup and with some good humor and plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen, you will see how easy it is to create your own delicious, homemade bowls of goodness for you and your family.