There is nothing better than a pot of simmering soup making use of the hearty and imaginative root vegetables, dark, leafy greens, hard-shelled winter squashes, meats and grains to nourish the body and warm the soul. A few simple guidelines for preparing soups can help you use those wonderful winter selections to offer a maximum of nutrition and flavor with a minimum of effort.
Clear Stocks and Broths
The secret to wonderful soup is starting with a wonderful broth or stock. The major difference between the two is that broths are intended to be served as is while stocks are also used for things such as braises and sauces. They both make great use of flavorful winter trimmings, leftovers, starch and vegetables. Meat and poultry broths tend to have a richer flavor than stocks because the meat (rather than the bones) is simmered to create the base, and then can be incorporated into the soup. Stock bones are generally just discarded. However, broths lack the body of stocks because of an absence of gelatin from the bones. No matter what route you choose, a rich, flavorful base must be provided for any type of soup to be scrumptious.
Makes 4 quarts
Make plenty and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
5 pounds of one of the following groups for the broth that will best enhance the soup
§ Chicken: neck, back, breast, legs or stewing hen
§ Beef: shank, chuck, bottom round or short ribs
§ Veal: shank, chuck or bottom round
§ Ham: hock (lower portion of the animal’s leg) or meaty ham bones
§ Turkey: leg, neck or breast
§ Fish: halibut, cod, flounder or other lean white fish. Use white vegetable for seasoning to keep the broth light
§ Seafood: shrimp, lobster or crab
7 pounds of a combination of appropriate vegetables, depending on the soup the broth will be used in
§ Vegetables: onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, parsnips, turnips, mushrooms, tomatoes, fennel, broccoli and cauliflower stems
6 quarts cold water
Salt to taste
§ Place the meat or vegetables and place in a large stockpot.
§ Add cold, salted water to the meat or vegetables.
§ Simmer gently for 2 hours.
§ Skim the surface as needed.
1 ½ cups yellow onions, roughly chopped
¾ cup carrots, roughly chopped
¾ cup celery, roughly chopped
1 épices fines containing
3 parsley stems, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon cracked peppercorns
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 clove garlic
(Épices fines (ay-PEAS feen) is a blend of herbs and spices usually combined in a small 6″ x 6″ cheesecloth bag tied with string and placed into the broth for full flavor.)
§ Chop the onions, carrots and celery.
§ Add them to the broth and continue to simmer for 30 more minutes.
§ Continue skimming and adjusting the seasoning throughout cooking.
§ Add the épices fines and simmer for 30 more minutes.
§ Strain the broth, and discard the épices fines.
§ Adjust the seasoning then cool.
§ Return the strained broth to the stovetop and simmer.
§ Adjust the seasoning if needed.
§ Garnish with shredded, julienne or diced the meat, poultry, fish, vegetables or herbs.
§ Use a good quality prepared broth or stock such as Imagine Stocks and Broths orfull-strength Perfect Addition Stocks and Broths for a quick fix if you’re short on time.
§ Make plenty of the of broth, seal in pint or quart containers and store in the freezer for use as the base for other soups.
Broths and stocks can be time-consuming and expensive. However, the quality of packaged products available at many high quality food stores offers a quick solution to hours of simmering. My favorite substitution is the More Than Gourmet Stocks and Sauces. When simply added to water, this preparation provides a quick and easy stock. On the shelf of your local store look for Imagine Stocks and Broths. This is a nice substitution that does not include gluten, fillers, yeast extracts, or MSG. Made from organic meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables, these stocks and broths can be furthered enhanced with fresh herbs, vegetables and meats, poultry and fish. When used full strength, Perfect Addition Stocks is another great all-natural line of stocks found in the freezer section.
Whether you are a purist who prepares the broth from scratch or a time-starved home cook who prefers to purchase it, either method will produce flavorful, healthful and satisfying soup. Simple guidelines for each “genre “of soup will lessen your time in the kitchen, heighten your enjoyment of the preparation, and deliver a more satisfying outcome.
1. Select the basic broth or stock.
2. Add the ingredients in proper order to avoid over cooking.
3. Stir the soup from time to time to prevent starchy ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
4. Hours on the stove will flatten the flavor and diminish the nutrients.
5. Thicken with more cream, roux or main-ingredient purée.
6. Season throughout the cooking process.
7. Add chopped herbs, citrus juice, zests, Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce as desired to give a zing to the soup’s flavor.
8. Prepare the broth in advance, then cool and refrigerate to easily skim off the congealed fat.
9. Blot clear soups of any traces of fat by floating strips of paper towel on the surface before serving.
10. Adjust the seasoning just before serving.
11. Ladle into a well-warmed tureen, individual serving bowl or soup plate.
12. Garnish just before serving to prevent the broth from becoming cloudy and the garnish from becoming overcooked and dull.
13. Reheat only the amount of soup needed to maintain color, clarity and taste.
Hearty soups usually start with clear broths or stocks. The addition of other ingredients causes the broth to lose its clarity. Some hearty soups are made from a single vegetable and others are made with meat, vegetables and starch such as pasta, rice, potatoes and beans. These hearty soups are prepared from start to finish in a single pot and are often finished at the last minute with fortified wines, vinegars, citrus juices, pesto or olive oil.
Cream soups are often flavored with a single vegetable, fish, poultry or meat. A prepared roux, flour, potatoes or a purée from of the main ingredient thickens the soup and then fresh cream finishes it.
1. Start with the main ingredient of the soup.
2. More fat is needed to start the main ingredients if flour will be added rather than a prepared roux.
3. Cook vegetables only in enough fat to keep them from burning.
4. Add simmering broth to the main-ingredient mixture and fully cook.
5. Stir the soup to prevent starchy vegetables from sticking.
6. Purée the soup if necessary.
7. Strain for a fine, velvety texture or leave as is for a heartier one.
8. Add more broth to thin the consistency.
9. Add enough cream without overwhelming the flavor of the main
ingredient, but too much cream can camouflage the taste.
10. Flat flavor or color indicates that not enough of the main ingredient flavoring was used or too much liquid was added.
11. Garnish with fresh herbs or a separately prepared main ingredient.
12. Develop a more rounded, mellow flavor by reheating and serving the day after preparation.
Thicker than cream soups, these coarser-textured soups are often based on dried beans, peas or lentils or sometimes even starchy vegetable as potatoes, carrots and squash.
1. Usually entirely puréed, but some of the main ingredient may be left whole for more texture.
2. Thick soups continue to thicken during cooking, storage and reheating.
3. Thin with more broth.
4. Sometimes are “finished” with milk or cream.
5. Often garnished with croutons.
“Bisque” is derived from the use of dried bread, called “biscuit” in French, as a compliment to these type of soups. Traditional bisques are based on crustaceans and are thickened with rice, rice flour or bread. They typically have a cream soup consistency, but many contemporary bisques can also be composed from a vegetable purée or roux.
1. Add potato to thicken if the main vegetable does not contain enough starch.
2. Strain the bisque with cheesecloth.
3. Simmer the cream before adding.
4. Adjust the seasoning, serve, garnish with the main ingredient and a spring of any fresh herb that is an ingredient in the soup.
Combined with a salad and warm, crusty bread, soups are the quick and easy dinner solution for winter.
Cooking has always been a part of Nancy Harvey’s soul. Although childhood culinary masterpieces were virtually nothing more that a pile of dirty dishes, the satisfaction of having created “something” and reveling in the accolades motivated her adventures in the kitchen. Through entertaining, cooking for the family and 27 years of catering, event coordination and consulting, this self-taught chef has found bliss in the kitchen and wants to inspire and empower home cooks to do the same.