Sitting by a cozy fire, curled up with a book and a nice hot bowl of soup? No way! Winter doesn’t get all the credit for this delicious and easy culinary delight. Soups are meant to be enjoyed year-round. If you think of soup as a light, refreshing meal that can be served warm, cold or at room temperature, you’re well on your way to year-round soup satisfaction.
In general, all soup making begins the same: by sautéing aromatic vegetables in some kind of fat. Depending on the origin of the soup, the aromatics may change a bit, and the fat that you use may vary, but the technique to create it is generally the same. Next, the pan is deglazed with some flavorful liquid, to maximize the result of the caramelized aromatics. Other ingredients are layered in, in the order of their cooking time, until the entire dish has come together. For this reason, soup, once mastered, is the easiest improvisation in a cook’s repertoire.
Soups require very little equipment—a knife, a pot, sometimes a blender, and a soup bowl. We may think that chopping lots of vegetables makes soup too much work, but now, the abundance of frozen and fresh chopped vegetables makes even the most daunting soup easy work. Soups are great for improvising and using leftovers; the chicken left over from last night’s baked chicken or veggies languishing in the crisper can be made into meals for later in the week.
Many soups are based on chicken or vegetable stock. There are varieties available in the grocery store that will pass, but homemade stock will elevate your recipe to the next level. Making your own stock is not difficult; most of the preparation time is hands-off, while the broth is simmering. You can freeze in any portion size—I use all different-sized containers, then after they’ve frozen, I pop them out of the container into a large freezer bag. Having four or more quarts of homemade stock in your freezer will make you feel like you’ve got the world by the tail!
I’ve included recipes for chicken and vegetable stock, and some special soups that would be great in the spring. Enjoy!
Chicken Stock (makes 4 quarts)
This makes a darker-colored stock
appropriate for most soups. If your recipe calls for a light chicken stock, skip the roasting step and just start with all the ingredients in the stock pot.
6 pounds chicken necks, bones
1 large onion, rough-chopped
3 large carrots, rough-chopped
3 ribs celery, rough-chopped
2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
16 cups water (filtered if possible)
Put the chicken and vegetables in a large roasting pan and roast in oven preheated to 350 degrees until browned, about 45 minutes. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a large stockpot and add bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Add wine to the empty roasting pan, and scrape the bottom to get all the brown bits. Add this wine mixture to the stockpot with the water. Bring to a high simmer, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and let cook for 3 hours, replacing the water as it evaporates, and skimming any gray scum that forms on the top. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth, and cool for an hour. Decant into smaller containers and chill. Skim any fat and residue that congeals at the top of the container, and freeze for up to 6 months.
Vegetable Stock (makes 3 quarts)
Vegetable stock is useful and easy to make with things you may have hanging around in the vegetable drawer.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots, sliced
2 onions, quartered
2 potatoes, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
10 white mushrooms, halved
1 bunch parsley (stems, or leaves
2 bay leaves
12 cups water (filtered if possible)
Heat oil in a large stockpot, and sauté vegetables for 10-15 minutes until soft and browned. Add the parsley, bay leaves and water. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Strain, taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste, then cool for an hour. Decant into smaller containers and freeze.
Chilled Avocado Soup (serves six)
If all the ingredients are cold to start, this soup can be ready in fifteen minutes or less! This is a great appetizer for a crowd, served in tiny demitasse cups or shot glasses.
2 cups water
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh dill
½ cup jumbo lump crab
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Remove avocado pits, and scoop the flesh into the blender. Add the next 4 ingredients and puree. Add more water to adjust consistency to a soup. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper.
Toss crab with lemon juice in a separate bowl.
Spoon into cups and garnish with crabmeat.
Asparagus Soup (serves four)
Asparagus is available year round, but fresh local asparagus
makes this soup the best.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, peeled and chopped
into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
Combine asparagus and chicken stock in a saucepan and cook ten minutes, until the asparagus is tender. Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender until smooth. Return to the saucepan and add the milk and cream. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for five additional minutes. Spoon into bowls, and garnish with lemon rind.