Hot soup is the ultimate consolation for the cool autumn and wintry nights that are upon us. A bowl of something warm and nourishing is a comforting hug that restores us after a long, weary day. For this reason, I have often said that really good soup cookery requires a lot of love and patience: love to put into the soup and the patience to simmer slowly and season repeatedly until it’s just right.
Though we often rely on recipes, making soup can extend well beyond the narrow bounds of written measurements and the confines of recipe books. After all, not all carrots are created equally sweet nor all potatoes equally large, so tweaking and seasoning are likely needed to adjust the taste accordingly. Soups can grow and stretch without much effort; a generous pot gives freely…especially when unexpected guests are on their way. Add an extra handful of veggies or and an additional cup full of broth – they are easily incorporated into your favorite soup and allow you to feed one more.
I prefer a less formulaic approach to my soup making, more of a general method and guide that can be applied to any set of different flavor profiles and ingredients. This approach gives me a general guideline to follow while leaving a wide open space for creativity and innovation. Try this approach that works especially well for pureed or “creamed” soups (even ones without actual cream added).
Follow these simple steps for the “creamed” soup of your choice:
1. Sauté: Sauté your mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and aromatics (spices, herbs, garlic, etc.) in oil or butter until softened over medium heat.
2. Add your starring vegetable: Add the main flavoring ingredient to the pot and coat in fat for a few minutes (for example, add the broccoli in a “cream of broccoli” soup).
3. Add liquid: Add your broth or stock of choice. Add enough to slightly cover the contents in the pot, which should be immersed. Note: Adding too much liquid can water down the flavor of the soup. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower to a simmer, cooking until all vegetables are tender (cooking times will vary depending on the hardness of the vegetables being cooked).
4. Puree: Immersion blenders are amazing and everyone who likes to make soup should own one! (If not, puree in a blender or food processor until velvety smooth).
5. Cream soup: Add a touch of heavy cream or milk or sour cream (or non-dairy versions of the like) for a luxurious finish. This is always the last step – never boil the soup after cream is added to prevent curdling (and if reheating, heat gently).
6. Season, taste, season, taste, season, and taste again. Once you know these six steps, then you can start adding your own personal touch to your soups – maybe a splash of white wine or a handful of parmesan cheese. I like to add fresh snippets of herbs at the end of cooking to maximize the fresh flavor, but you can also sprinkle chopped herbs on top as a garnish before serving time. Served with some good crusty bread or crackers, you’ll be on your way to heartier meals and happy bellies ‘till springtime!
Note for adding grains:
If the purpose of adding grains is to thicken the soup (but you don’t care about tasting the actual grains), then add early on when adding broth to cook the grains. If the purpose is to taste the grains and enhance with texture, then add cooked grains at the end after pureeing.