Episode 103: Soup for Supper

Sara Moulton Chicken StockHearty soups have always struck me as meals in themselves. They’re not only substantial, they’re easy to make. After all, you can toss nearly anything and everything into a broth and call it soup. My soups fall into the nearly-everything category. In each of them all the usual dinner food groups are present – protein, starch, and vegetable. The difference, of course, is that this time they’re not lying on a plate; they’re floating in a bowl of a flavorful broth. (The broth becomes flavorful as the soup cooks – it requires no extra time.)

Recipes

Tips

Chicken wings make the best stock in my opinion because they have:

  1. The fat from the skin which is a conductor of flavor.

  2. The meat which contributes chicken flavor.
  3. A ton of gelatin from the bones which adds body.

When you are cooking every day, save vegetable scraps – the ends of the onions, carrot stems, leek greens, etc and put them in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer for that Sunday you decide to make stock.

When cooking a steak or any other protein, season it before you cook it. It will taste more intensely like whatever it was to begin with (for example steak). If you season it afterward it will taste like steak with a salt hat.

Even if you are going to serve a soup cold it is best to puree it while it is hot; it will come out much smoother. The best tool for this job is the blender. Years ago when the food processor was developed I retired my blender thinking that the food processor could do everything a blender could and better. I was wrong. You never get the same silky texture from a soup or pureed dish as you do when you put it in a blender. But you must be careful or you will end up wearing it. You should only fill the blender about one third full with hot liquid and then leave the lid very slightly ajar to allow for the heat to escape and cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel. Let it rip for quite awhile to make sure you get that creamy texture and then, if you want, you can pass it through a strainer to get rid of any residual tiny lumps.

Tools

When you have leftover stock, whether it is homemade or canned, you should freeze it. You can put it in resealable zip lock bags (just make sure you lay them flat until they freeze) or in ice cube trays or in this kitchen gadget called “food cubers” which I discovered when we were doing our annual “kitchen gadgets $20 or under” for Good Morning America. For more information or to order on line, go to foodcuber.com.

Ingredients

When buying bay leaves look for the Turkish variety, not the Californian. California bay leaves are way too strong and will take over whatever stew/sauce/stock/soup you are making. I love many things from California but not their bay leaves. However, if all you have in house is their bay leaves, just use half the amount that the recipe calls for.