How to Soup

Hi everybody! Patricia Ladd’s one-time favorite Wiess freshman here, ready to teach you a thing or two about making soup. Of course you want to make soup. It’s filling, inexpensive, and delicious. If you don’t cook much but want to get comfortable in the kitchen, the soup pot is a forgiving teacher. Also, even though making soup takes a few hours, most of that time is hands-off.

1. Stock

You can make perfectly good soup with water, but making stock is easy and using it gives soup a deeper, fuller flavor. Bones and gristle from meat and scraps from most vegetables have lots of flavor to offer, so hold onto them as you cook! Collect these treasures, along with vegetables that are starting to look iffy, in something airtight in your freezer, like a big Ziploc bag or Tupperware container.

Start with: onion, celery, and carrot form a trio called “Mirepoix” that acts as the backbone of vegetable stock. You should probably also use a bay leaf and peppercorns (or black pepper), but if you’re missing any of this stuff, don’t let it stop you from making stock.

  • Throw in: whatever vegetables going into your soup have a home in your stock. Garlic, lentils, corn cobs, pepper cores, zucchini and squash tips, parsley stems, potato skins, tomato cores, mushroom stems, bean tips, apple cores, and green onion ends are all great choices. My secret ingredient is the top inch of a jalapeño, which gives the whole pot a satisfying kick.
  • Go easy on the: celery and Brassica vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) will dominate the flavor if you’re not careful. One stalk’s worth of celery is plenty. Any of the other ingredients should fit in the palm of your hand. My cookbooks are split on whether eggplant lends a meaty or bitter flavor to stock. You decide!
  • Avoid: citrus rind, banana peels, spinach, anything downright rotten, beets unless you’re ok with deeply dyed soup.

I use whatever has filled my ziploc bag, with little regard to the soup’s ingredients. And my soup is great. Don’t sweat it.

Dump at least 4 cups of scraps into a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to simmer. If you’re using animal parts and you’re not in a hurry, give them a few hours’ head start. The vegetables should simmer for about an hour and a half. Strain out the solids, and you have yourself a pot of stock. Nice!

2. Stuff

Maybe you’re cooking from a recipe, and if so follow it and be strong. If, however, you fancy yourself a renegade, you should try making up a soup as you go. Shoot for variety in ingredients, and don’t be shy. Do pay attention to each ingredient’s cooking times, giving denser or larger pieces a head start.

  • Meat: if you eat it, adding chunks of meat takes you halfway to a decent soup
  • Aromatics: onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bell pepper
  • Starch: chunky pasta, root vegetables (potato, turnip, parsnip, beet if you’re ok with deeply dyed soup), pumpkin, butternut squash, hominy
  • Texture: beans, corn, zucchini, mushroom, peas, summer squash, cabbage
  • Acid: tomato, tomatillo, lemon juice. If you’re using a lot of acidic ingredients and the soup tastes funny, try adding sugar.
  • Spice: parsley, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram

Soups cook best right at a simmer, and heavy-bottomed pots make hitting this sweet spot a breeze. But any big pot can make soup. Check in periodically to prevent overcooking, but if the soup gets away from you just run it all through the blender.

3. Finishing touch

If you want to take your soup to the next level,

  • Purée some or all of it. Run some or all of your soup through a blender or food processor for a full-bodied broth or totally smooth soup, respectively. Purée in small batches and take care to avoid steam burns.
  • Swirl a spoonful plain yogurt into each bowl without stirring it in all the way, if the soup is already somewhat thick.
  • Top with crackers, cheese, pumpkin seeds, or chives.

That’s all there is to it! Enjoy your soup. If it came out lackluster, try adding a little salt. If that doesn’t help, serve it in a bread boulle. Everything tastes good in a bread boulle.

 

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