Soup (er)

So, I’ve done like a zillion broth recipes on this blog now (here, here, and here). Mostly because one can never have too much broth, and broth is a staple for lots of amazing recipes. The most obvious type of recipe being soup.

The start of many classic soups is a mirepoix.

The start of many classic soups is a mirepoix.

Soups are a staple of many kitchens, and though they seem simple there are lots of places where people go wrong. They are fickle beasts, going from a bowl of warm comfort to bland “meh” in only a few steps away. Soups shouldn’t taste like they’ve been boiling in a pot for hours, and they should have more than one flavour note. They shouldn’t be “in between”- bold or simple, smooth or chunky…. none of this halfway business, or it will start to taste or feel like an incomplete attempt. Pick what you want out of your soup and go with it.

Layers, bb.

Layers, bb.

There are some basic essentials, that are important across the board:

Broth. The right broth makes all the difference- it is the basis for all soups, and makes all the difference. You can tell just by the smell when soups are made with store bought broth- they just don’t have any depth, they don’t coat your mouth because of a lack of gelatin, and they are essentially void of nutrients. If you don’t have any broth on hand, I recommend at least using an old vegetarian trick and using the soaking liquid from dried mushrooms (simple- dried mushrooms, cover in boiling water for 20 minutes, drain liquid and use) and caramelizing some onions in place of beef broth. Also, for certain vegetable or pureed soups the cooking liquid may be all that is required- keep that in mind when you are needing something quick.

Broth- tired of hearing how much it's a staple yet?

Broth- tired of hearing how much it’s a staple yet?

 

Texture. Velvety, crunchy, tender, and pebbled are all textures. Whatever one you are going with, you want to go all the way with. Little chunks doesn’t equal velvety, and wilted doesn’t equal crunchy. The mouth feel goes a long way in the initial impression, and is especially important to the more picky eaters among us. Commit to a texture and go with it.

Sometimes, it's all found in what you put on the top.

Sometimes, it’s all found in what you put on the top.

Acid. So many soups would benefit from a shot of something acidic to make the flavours pop. Fresh lime or lemon squeezed over at the end, a bit of vinegar, splash of wine- something to bring everything together. Without acid many soups fall flat.

Salt. Add enough! Seriously, nothing worse than a bland soup. Acid can change the perception of salt, so don’t finish salting until you add the acid.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to cover the pureed soup, the pour-over, and the stew. Hopefully it will be enough to get you through this cold (freaking cold, wtf mother nature, -26 is not cool) winter weather!

I feel like I should also take the opportunity emphasize this point again and again: most of what I am putting out there is way more technique than recipe. There are literally millions of recipes at your fingertips at this moment- I don’t want to out myself, but all the formulations of food I will ever have on this blog have been done before, in some kitchen, somewhere in the world.  Shhh! Other bloggers and food writers know that the same is true for them- it’s like porn, if the thought even occurs to you; it is on the internet somewhere.  The only things I can give you that may be useful, in my opinion, is the memory of techniques that you can turn into your own thing. I don’t know what your taste is like, how salty you like your food, how spicy, how strong- that is up for you to taste and adjust for. I know your pantry is probably not perfectly stocked, and you might have this, but not that, and you have a handful of this to use up…that’s just reality. For people that make most of their own meals, a majority of the time you are going from memory, technique, or necessity, not a recipe. That is usually the ultimate goal- the flexibility to make something with what you have, and to do that you may have to read recipes and extract useful techniques or idea. So hopefully this helps- I try and provide enough explanation and background to facilitate that process, and the actual amounts are given as mere suggestions. So, keep this in mind for the upcoming soup “recipes”.

And remember: when you have nothing else in common but snow peas and not talking, there’s always soup.

 

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