A hearty winter soup is really a stew cut up in small pieces. It consists of a broth or stock, a protein ingredient, vegetables, and herbs and spices. We have long been used to canned soup as a quick and inexpensive meal and, while it has served us well, it doesn’t compare to the real, made-from-scratch (with love) masterpiece. Here are some suggestions on how to make some entrée-class soups that will make you proud of your culinary skills and satisfy your soul.
Italian Wedding Soup
Place 3/4 pound of ground turkey in a bowl. Add 1 egg, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper.
Combine these ingredients with a wooden spoon and your hands. Form them into small meatballs, about 3/4 inch in diameter, and refrigerate.
Chop 1 Spanish onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the vegetables at low heat for 5 minutes. Pour in 2 quarts commercial chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Add the turkey meatballs and simmer until they are cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add 1/2 cup whole-grain orzo (or other small pasta) and cook until al dente.
Remove the leaves from 1 head of Tuscan kale (or regular kale) and slice into thin strips. Add these to the soup and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Add back the turkey meatballs and check for seasoning. Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and serve.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Using a boning knife, separate 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds) into 8 pieces plus the backbone.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Brown the chicken pieces at high heat on both sides and remove, being careful not to burn. Transfer the chicken to a soup pot and cover with about 3 quarts cold water.
Place the sauté pan back on the heat and add 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and stir with a wooden spoon. Add this liquid to the soup pot. Bring the broth to a boil and skim the surface of any foam. Add 1 quartered onion, 1 coarsely chopped carrot and 1 stalk of celery.
Lower the heat to a simmer and season with a bouquet garni made of 1 leek, 6 parsley stems, 4 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf tied together with a piece of string. Add 12 whole peppercorns and let the stock simmer for 45 minutes.
At this time, remove the chicken with tongs and set aside.
Continue cooking the stock for another 45 minutes and strain into a clean pot.
While the stock is cooking, make the noodles: Combine 2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Make a hole in the center and, using a fork, stir in 3 egg yolks, 1 whole egg and 1/4 cup water. If it seems very dry, add another tablespoon of water.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead with your hands to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic film and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, discard the skin and bones from the chicken and dice the meat into small pieces and set aside.
Slice 2 carrots, dice 1 head of celery root and dice 1 onion, placing all the vegetables in a bowl.
Unwrap the noodle dough and cut into 4 pieces. Flatten these on a floured surface and roll them into rectangles as thin as possible. Cut these rectangles into thin strips and place on a floured towel to dry.
Bring the stock back to a boil and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the cut vegetables and simmer until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the noodles and continue cooking until just tender, another 5 minutes. Add the diced chicken meat along with 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Check for seasoning and serve.
Note: Making the stock and noodles from scratch is well worth the trouble.
Beef Short Rib Soup
Heat a Dutch oven and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Brown 2 bone-in short ribs of beef at high heat on all sides, being careful not to burn. Lower the heat, remove the beef and set it aside.
Stir in 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and 1 chopped stalk of celery. Continue cooking and add 1 tablespoon sliced garlic, 1 tablespoon tomato paste and the browned short ribs.
Cover with 2 quarts water and 1 cup red wine. Bring to a simmer and season with a bouquet made up of 1 sliced leek, 6 parsley stems, 4 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf tied together with string. Simmer at low heat for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the short ribs and cut the meat off the bones. Remove any fat and gristle and dice into quarter-inch pieces and add it back to the soup.
Add 1/2 cup farro (or substitute barley) and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Add 2 cups fresh cut green beans and continue cooking until tender. Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Taste for seasoning and serve.
Southwestern Chicken Soup
Heat a Dutch oven and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Brown 2 pounds of chicken thighs on both sides at high heat and remove.
Lower the heat and add 1 cup chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and 1 chopped stalk of celery. Cook for 5 minutes, add back the chicken and cover with 2 quarts water.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and season with a bouquet garni consisting of 1 sliced leek, 6 parsley stems, 4 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf tied together with string. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
While this simmers, rinse 1/2 pound dried black beans, cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans, place them in a soup pot, cover with water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside. When cool, discard the skin and bones and dice the chicken meat.
Strain the stock into a bowl and wash the Dutch oven. Place it back on the heat and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add 1 cup chopped green onions, 1/2 cup each of diced red and yellow pepper, 1 minced jalapeno pepper (seeds removed) and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook briefly and add the chicken stock along with the cooked black beans and 1 package of frozen corn.
Add back the diced chicken along with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce.