We have a problem in my house. My toddler is addicted to soup.
I’m not even kidding. She’s asking for it at every meal, and since she knows I have some in the refrigerator, she keeps opening the fridge and demanding it. This kid’s enthusiasm for soup is both hilarious and unnerving.
Not that I can blame her, really. I love soup, and I love making soup. My husband is of the opinion that soup is not a meal and I humor him, most of the time, by serving it as a starter or accompaniment. But to be entirely honest, a hearty chicken soup is as much a meal as anything else, in my opinion.
Let’s go back to the beginning here, do you make soup? From scratch, I mean, no packets, bouillons or mixes needed. If your answer is no, it’s time to try. It’s so simple, I am absolutely telling you, if you can cook at all, you can make soup.
You don’t even need a recipe. Guidelines are all you need, and before you know it you’ll be throwing things in the pot and seasoning like a pro, whipping up pots of fragrant, amazing soup, and just in time for the cool weather rolling in.
Starting in the fall, I make a big pot of vegetable soup nearly every week, and Little Miss and I eat it throughout the week for lunches. In the past I would fish out the veggies for her but now, she wants her own bowl with the full experience in it for her. She eats the veggies, then points to the broth and says “soup!” before either asking for help with her spoon or feeding herself (really, rather neatly for a two year old).
Now, why is soup awesome?
- It’s warm and hearty, and you can make it with nearly anything.
- It lasts several days in the refrigerator, and the flavors combine even better after sitting for a day or two.
- You can freeze leftovers in plastic freezer bags for easy defrosting at a later date.
- It’s wonderfully nutritious, with all the amazing nutrients from the veggies seeping into that yummy broth.
If you’re one of those people who fish out the chunks and leave the broth, I’m not going to go so far as to call you a heathen, but I’m going to imply it. Strongly. Ahem. I don’t mean restaurant or supermarket soup, I mean homemade soup. As mentioned in my list above, all the nutrients that cook out of the ingredients go into the broth, and if the soup is done well, it should be absolutely delicious! There is no real skill necessary to make chunks of chicken or veggies taste like what they are. The broth however, is an art, and art should be appreciated.
Are you ready for the guidelines, or should I keep pontificating? Nah, you’re ready for the guidelines.
Guidelines for the easiest soup ever, which you can and should modify to make all sorts of amazing soups:
Chicken: Chicken soup is the base for matzoh ball soup, and matzoh ball soup is amazing. I do generally use matzoh ball mix (the matzoh ball mix, not soup mix) for convenience, but the soup is all from scratch. Adjust your amounts to what you need and your seasoning to taste.
First you take a pot. Add a little olive oil and let it heat up, then sear some skinless chicken thighs on both sides and set them aside. In your hot pot, saute 1-2 diced onions, then add some chopped carrot and celery and a parsnip if you wish (they cook down softer than carrots and add a sweet, earthy flavor). Give it a few minutes so your veggies get a little color. At this point I like to do some basic seasoning with salt and pepper to mix into my veggies, then I add my water. How much depends on how much soup you want; eyeball it, you know what soup looks like. I don’t think I make pots with less than 8 cups of water, honestly. Now I crank up the heat until the water starts to boil and add some seasonings; fresh or dried parsley, dried dill, and maybe a little garlic powder. Once the water is boiling I carefully drop the chicken thighs in, cover the pot, reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour or two or three. Honestly, the order in which you do these things doesn’t terribly matter as long as it all goes in the pot, but I do recommend the searing and sauteing for extra flavor.
Give it an hour or so for your chicken to cook, then taste your broth. The chicken fat will have added color and flavor, and the chicken should be falling apart, so fish it out, shred it and toss it back in. Does your broth need more salt? A little more herbs? Add as needed, and simmer as long as you have patience. If you make your soup the day before you need it, the time in the fridge will allow the flavors to marry beautifully, and once cold, you can skin off extra chicken fat before warming and serving (you’ll see it, a thick yellow coating on the surface).
Congrats, you made chicken soup. If you want matzoh balls, follow the directions on the packet.
Vegetable: I’m going to surprise you here by telling you the method is nearly the same as above, except without chicken. My standard weekly cold weather soup is just a veggie soup. I saute onion and garlic with whatever veggies I have on hand – this week was a handful of chopped string beans, some broccoli, carrots, celery, cabbage and tomato. I’m big on tomato to flavor the broth in my veggie soup. I also added a handful of red lentils which cook down into nothing, adding a little body to the broth and a little protein too.
So. Olive oil! Chopped veggies! Water! Salt, pepper, garlic powder, dill, parsley, in, in, in! And just let it simmer. And simmer. Taste it and adjust your seasonings. Add chicken, or boil pasta or rice to throw in. Throw some grilled shrimp or parmesan cheese in. The possibilities are endless, and think about how many veggies you get into one dish!
And that’s it. Ilana’s first treatise on the wonders of soup is complete. If you’re a soup beginning, grab a pot and go! If you’re a seasoned (pun intended) soup maker, I’d love to know your favorite recipes!