Soup is one of those foods that everyone should know how to make!
Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and travelling cultures, rich and poor, healthy people and invalids. – http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodsoups.html
But it isn’t the history of soup that makes it great. Soup is a wonderful way to make BIG flavors with modest ingredients. As a kid, I hated soup. I found it salty, or mushy, lacking in yumminess. But since I have been cooking for my family, I have formed a little love affair with the stuff. I make some sort of soup every week and it couldn’t be easier. For you, I have gathered some handy tips you can do to take your soup from just OK to slurptastic!
Tip 1 – MAKE YOUR OWN STOCK/BROTH
The base of your soup is the foundation of the flavor. If you are making a clear broth soup like chicken noodle, delicious home-made chicken stock is the way to go. What is the difference between stock and broth? FLAVOR! To be a stock and not a broth, the difference is in the bones. Without the boiling of bones, what you get is broth. Stock is deeper and richer in flavor and usually color. Below are some ideas you can use to make your own stock/broth to use as the base for your soup or any meals really that call for it.
- SO BEEFY STOCK/Broth- so technically this is broth since the way to this yummy brown liquid requires no bones. To make the most delicious beefy soup base I place my beef roast (whatever cut you like) into my crock pot seasoned with SALT ONLY! That’s right, cook that puppy dry! Couple hours later you will have the most delicious beef roast you ever had, but also about a a cup or two flavor-rich broth that will kick other broths tookus. This method is my secret ingredient for the best French Onion Soup you’ll ever eat!
- CHICKEN STOCK – ever buy those whole rotisserie chickens from the store? After you pick the bird clean, keep the carcass in a plastic bag for later broth makin. Save those wing bones from your bbq or debone a raw chicken, either way you are looking for those bones to make your next soup the bomb. If your bones are raw, I throw them in the pot first with a little oil and let them brown a bit. Then add onion, carrot, celery, whatever flavors you like. Use this broth in chicken noodle soup, chicken tortilla or any soup really. Chicken flavored stock or broth is super versatile.
- FISH STOCK – keep those shrimp shells & tails (raw or cooked), fish skin, crab leg shells, oyster or clam shells, really any kind of shells in a bag in your freezer. When its full, make stock! I like to add tomato to my fish stock since I usually will only make this sort of stock for bisque, but you don’t have to. You can also add some lemon peels.
- VEGGI BROTH- I only use veggi scraps for my stock/broth since the solids get thrown out anyway. When I chop that top off my onion (sometimes clean skin too), I throw it in the stock bag I keep in my freezer. I do the same with the carrot stumps, celery tops, asparagus bottoms, bell pepper middles, tomatoes that are going to mush or any clean part of the veggi that we don’t eat, generally parts closest to the stem of the veggi. (Go ahead and toss-out black, rotten or otherwise yucky parts of the veggi. Use your judgement) Substitute this broth for either of the above if you are avoiding meat, or use if you just don’t have any meat on hand and want to make yummy soup!
**FRUIT: keep a bag of fruit scraps in the freezer too like pineapple skin, cucumber tops, orange, lemon or lime peels and such for making yummy fruit infused syrups. **
Other things in your kitchen to add some zing to your stocks/broths:
- Wine – try a little red in your beef stock or white with the others.
- Garlic – whole, skins, whatever you got!
- ONION GOES IN EVERYTHING! That is, if you like onion 😉
- Jalapeno or pepper tops/stems
- Bay leaf, whole pepper corns and any other spices you like.
- Parmesan cheese rinds
When and How to salt
TASTE IT! TASTE IT! TASTE IT! I must confess, every time I fill a pot of water to boil, I add a little salt. Making broth/stock is no exception. You want to leech the yummy flavors and oils from whatever you are boiling and IMHO, salt does the trick! So add a little in the pot when you start, but be sure to taste things as you go along. The first taste comes after everything comes to a boil. With broth and stock, things will be boiling for a while. As the liquid reduces, all the flavors will intensify so it is important not to add too much salt in the beginning and even more important to taste things as you get closer to the end. The final taste should come just before you the soup is finished and the final salting and flavor tweaking should happen then as well. If it is already too salty, that’s okay, just add a bit of water or milk to help things out.
Tip 2 – The pot thickens
Some soups fail or prevail on their consistency. No one wants a watery broccoli and cheese soup, for example. Some soups are just meant to be thick. There are many ways to thicken your soup, here are the tricks I know and use:
- MOST Soup recipes call for a roux to as the main thickener in the soup. A roux is made by melting butter or fat in a pan, then adding an equal amount of flour. Browning the flour lightly, then adding the liquid base. Most cream based soups will use this method, but I use it for almost everything, except clear soups like chicken noodle where a roux will make the final product a little cloudy.
- CLEAR Soup: the old standby-corn starch. Add a tablespoon of corn starch to about two tablespoons of cool liquid and stir to combine completely. Add to your soup while its boiling to get instant results. If your soup is still too thin, add a little more. NOTE: you will not see the effects of the corn starch until the liquid boils, so keep that in mind.
- RAW NOODLE TRICK: (read this trick online somewhere)if your soup is just a little too thin, add a raw noodle to the pot to suck up the extra moisture, then just remove it before serving.
- CREAM, CHEESE* or BUTTER will thicken your soup also! Watching those calories, use a little cornstarch in your skim milk!
- HIDE THE VEGGI: if you have a stick blender, this trick is wonderful and healthy! Before adding the solid components to your soup (meat chunks, chopped veggies, etc.), add chopped veggies like eggplant, potato or squash to the liquids and cook until tender. Then use that immersion blender to puree the veggies into a silky, thick base. Then toss in your ingredients as desired.
- TOO THICK: add more liquid, duh! It really isn’t rocket science.
*BTW, I have found that it is best to add the cheese at the end (once you remove it from the heat) or just before service. If you boil cheese, it will separate or sink to the bottom and burn, or just stick to your spoon. Of course, this is true for real cheese, go ahead a boil the velveeta or kraft singles, cheese food seems to act a little differently.
Tip 3 – TASTE THE SOUP
There is no substitution for this. You MUST TASTE IT. Use the same method as with the stock. Taste it first when it comes to a boil, and really every time you add something to the pot, but at least at the end.
Feel free to add your own tips in the comment section! Thanks for reading!