How to Make Awesome Soup Without a Recipe

Updated: Jun 24

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I Love Soup

I've Always Loved Soup

but

I never knew

How Easy it is to Make It

( ... until about 10 years ago )




Before I begin one of my inevitable stories, I want to point out that

today's entry is not intended as a recipe

It is my guide to "The Stuff You Should Know to Make Soup "




When I was a kid, about once a week or so, My Mom or Her Mom

who lived in the same house with us, would cook up a big pot full of some type of wonderful soup. Although I had my favorites, it didn't seem to matter what kind of soup they made. It was always amazingly good. It was, as it turns out...

Perfect Soup



I could smell the wonderful aromas as soon as I came into the house. As soon as they told me it was ready, I would dive right in and have at least two big steaming hot bowls of it along with half a loaf of fresh, warm, crusty Portuguese bread with sweet butter. I would eat until I felt the food coma coming on, then waddle off to the living room couch with my belly making sloshing sounds and a thoroughly satisfied look on my face...


Once I got older and moved out of the house, I only had the opportunity to have that great soup when I would come home for a whole weekend. My sister Julie always made a really tasty Split Pea with Ham soup, but I could only manage to get some of that once a year if I was lucky.


In between times, if I was in a restaurant, I might sometimes take a chance and order soup. But, although there is no such thing as bad soup, restaurant soup just didn't have the same Magic and Love that you could taste in the old fashioned homemade soups that those ladies made.


By the 1980's my grandmother had become stricken with Alzheimer's and had to go into a nursing home. Then in 1990 my mother passed away, followed 9 months later by my father.


I had become a 35 year old orphan. There was no old homestead to return to any more and honestly, at that point I had a lot more on my mind than where my next bowl of soup was going to come from. But ... skipping ahead 15 or 20 years, I realized that my soul was really starting to "Jones" for those steaming, aromatic bowls of goodness from my youth.


So after watching The Food Network for a few years and seeing a lot of people make a lot of different soups, I decided to go for it myself... How hard could it be??


I was amazed to discover that making good soup is probably one of the easiest things to do in a kitchen. (It is actually easier to make soup than it is to clean up afterwards)


So let's begin driving out the Fear of Cooking by talking about how to go about making soup.

At the same time we will end up with a really satisfying meal that can feed you and your family for at least 2 days, maybe longer...

Soup Factoid #1:

It turns out that soup is one of those miraculous foods that

actually tastes better after it sits in the refrigerator.

This is true for about a week... After that, not so much.


So Where Do We Begin?

Let's start with my opinion, and move on to the facts later.


There are only 2 types of homemade soup. Perfect Soup and Good Soup. There is no such thing as Bad Homemade Soup


OK. Now for the facts ... There are 5 Things that go into making any variety of soup.

  1. Liquids - Water, Stock, etc... even Beer in some soups

  2. Chewy Stuff - The ingredients that are still chunky and solid when the soup is done

  3. Mushy Stuff - The ingredients that break down as the soup cooks

  4. **Seasonings - Be sure to taste a spoonful now and then and season as the soup cooks

  5. LOVE - This was the essential ingredient in the soup my Mom and Grandmother made

** For Chicken soup like this, you might want to try some of these ...

salt, black pepper, dried parsley, dried chives, onion powder,

garlic powder, celery seed, marjoram, thyme and sage


You need to have the correct proportions of all 5 Things to make Perfect Soup.

But don't get worried. It's hard to mess this up.


Soup Factoid #2:

Even if you accidentally put way too much Seasoning (#4),

all is not lost. It can still be Good Soup.

Just add more Liquid (#1) to dilute the seasoning.



Remember, it's your soup... so RELAX and feel free to add whatever seasonings that you like. (cayenne pepper, chili powder or red pepper flakes will Kick it Up a notch or two)


So let's get moving ... You have some decisions to make.



THE PROCESS


STEP ONE: Decide what kind of soup base you want to use

All soups begin with some type of "stock" or "broth". It is made by putting something (veggies, chicken, beef, etc...) into water and boiling it to extract the flavors and nutrients. So choose whatever type of stock appeals to you today.


Let's say, you want to use Chicken stock. If you are in the mood and have the time, it's real easy to make it. But you can buy it ready made at the supermarket and that's what I generally do. So let's use the store bought kind for our first pot of soup.



STEP TWO: Decide if you want to have Animal Protein in the Soup

(Chicken, Beef, Sausage, Fish, etc)

This counts as part of the Chewy Stuff from #2 above. We want this stuff to still be around when the soup is ready to eat.



STEP THREE: See what kind of fresh vegetables you have around

In my experience, you can make delicious soup using whatever veggies that you feel like putting in. I've used all kinds of stuff and have never felt like anything was a mistake. Experiment with whatever fresh veggies you have in the house. The more the merrier. You can use frozen veggies if you don't have fresh ones, they taste good too (just not as good as fresh)


The only thing that you must remember is this: Some vegetables cook faster than others.

So put them into the soup starting with the ones that take the longest to cook.


I use this simple rule to determine which ones to put in first:


The harder the vegetable is, the longer it will take to cook


This means Don't Put the Soft Vegetables In Until the Harder Ones Have Been In the Pool for a while.


If you don't do it that way, I promise you that the soup will still taste Good. It just won't feel right.



Here are some of the items that I often put in my soups in descending order with the Hard ones at the top of the list. All of these items should be washed and cut into pieces the size that you usually find in soup.


  • Carrots and other root veggies ...Turnips (or Beets for hearty but RED chicken soup)

  • Red or White Bliss Potatoes (don't use Russets. They fall apart too quickly)

  • Onions (they're not very HARD, but put them in early .. They add a ton of flavor) 

  • Cloves of Fresh Garlic - Don't worry, the flavor will mellow as they cook

  • Celery Root - not one that most people have around but it really adds flavor to soups

  • Celery

  • Corn

  • Peas

  • Kale

  • Spinach


STEP FOUR: Let's Do This


CUT YOUR INGREDIENTS INTO SPOONABLE SIZE

  • MEAT: It doesn't matter if it's thighs, legs or breasts. They're all good. Cut the raw skinless chicken up into whatever size chunks you like, keeping in mind that you will be eating this with a spoon.

  • VEGETABLES: Once again, cut everything up into appropriately sized chunks . Put aside the Hard Veggies in a separate bowl or pile from the Soft Veggies. They will be going into the soup at different times.

OK. TIME TO START COOKING YOUR FIRST POT OF SOUP

  • Put your soup pot on the stove, set the heat to MEDIUM and pour in a little cooking oil. I like Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO for short) I use it for pretty much everything, but any cooking oil is OK to use (not motor oil). Pour in just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Once the oil starts to get swirly looking it is hot enough. If the oil starts to smoke, turn down the heat ( see Use Your Knobs )

  • Put the chicken chunks in and stir them around to brown them a little on all sides. I say brown them, but for chicken, White is the new Brown ... Go easy, you don't want to cook them all the way through, the boiling water will finish what you start here.

** Congratulations, you have just learned how to Sauté **

  • Now you can sauté the chopped Onions and Harder vegetables. Season them with a little salt and pepper as they cook. Salt draws the tasty juices out of the vegetables and meat and makes more flavor available to the soup.

  • Keep an eye on the Onions. Once they start to get a little translucent, it's time to pour in your boxes of Chicken Broth and turn the heat up to HIGH and bring it to a Boil.

  • When the whole thing starts boiling, it's time to Use Your Knob again. Bring the heat down to MEDIUM LOW or whatever setting makes it only Bubble a little bit. This is called Simmering .

  • The soup needs to SIMMER for an hour or two, but check the Hard Veggies every 10 minutes to monitor them as they soften. You can scoop one out and test it with a fork.

  • When the hard vegetables are about as soft as the uncooked Soft Veggies, it's time to put the rest of the vegetables into the pot

  • Taste it and adjust the seasoning to your liking

  • Allow to simmer for an hour or two, taste and adjust seasoning again.


Congratulations are in Order!!

You just made Chicken and Vegetable soup

... and I'll bet that it's gonna taste really good.




Until the Next Time ... So Long from Bob's Diner

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