Six Secrets to Simple, delicious Soups
How to Cook Homemade Soup
Soup can be anything you want it to be – quick, hearty, light – and once you master the basics, you can experiment endlessly with your favorite vegetables, beans, and meats to make tasty meals in no time. Cooking homemade soup can be easy and makes wonderfully satisfying meals.
1. Start With Delicious Liquid
Soups are mostly water, but it’s often disguised as broth or stock, wine, or milk. Whatever the liquid in your soup is, use one that you would want to drink.
The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth. Best to use homemade, but a good stock cube will save time and a whole lot of hassle!!
When adding wine to soups, be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the harshest of the alcohol.
2. Sweat the Aromatics
Aromatics include onions, leeks, garlic, and often celery and carrots. Cooking them over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not browning, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.
Clean and chop leeks to remove grit.
3. Use the right tools
A large and heavy pot, a powerful blender or immersion blender, an ample soup ladle.
4. Salt in Layers
Canned and prepared soups are known to be high in sodium. There’s a reason: all that water takes a lot of salt to flavor! The difference between soul-satisfying homemade soup and “why did I bother?” homemade soup is often in the salt. Cooks, afraid of over-salting, create pots of soup just a teaspoon or two shy of proper seasoning.
Salt soup as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you cook them. If you’re cooking the meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before serving and add salt until you taste a hike-up in flavor, then stop.
5. Hit It With Freshness
You’ve used great ingredients. You’ve cooked and salted them properly. How to make the most of it all before it hits the table? Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt. A hit of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep, delicious, melded flavors in the rest of the soup.
6. Garnish Like a Pro
Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper (although they both make great garnishes for many soups!). Chefs know that the best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.
Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a silky leek soup)
Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht)
Bitter on savory (herbs or black pepper on lentil soup or almost anything!)
Salty on sweet (diced prosciutto on sweet potato carrot soup)
Homemade Chicken Stock
Making homemade chicken broth or stock is easy and adds incomparable flavor to soups, sauces, and a myriad of other dishes. This simple, flexible recipe will bring your cooking to new heights as you banish processed, sodium-laden canned broth from your kitchen and start cooking with rich, wholesome, deeply flavorful stock. This recipe calls for fresh chicken. No doubt, this makes the clearest, most flavorful stock. But feel free to add additional bones or parts from roast or grilled chickens. I keep a bag in the freezer and add left over chicken parts and bones to add to the pot when I make stock.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
- 4 lbs. fresh chicken (necks, backs, wings, legs, bones)
- 2 onions, peeled or leeks
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 carrot (optional)
- 8 black peppercorns (optional)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
- 2 sprigs fresh parsley (optional)
- 1 tsp. salt
- Put chicken in a large pot and cover with 6 qt. cold water. Bring just to a boil. Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the surface.
- Add remaining ingredients, return just to a boil, and reduce heat to maintain a steady, gentle simmer. (Excessive boiling will make a cloudy broth.)
- Let cool to warm room temperature. Strain and discard solids. Keep chilled and use or freeze stock within a few days.
- Well frozen broth will keep for months. I freeze stock in 1- and 4-cup containers to use whenever recipes call for broth or stock.
- Defrost and bring to a boil before using.
Makes approximately 6 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock.
Note: Many recipes for stock do not call for salt and even warn against adding salt to stock with horror stories of overly-salted dishes arising from salty stock. The teaspoon of salt called for in this recipe adds just a tiny note of brightness to the stock and helps draw
Flavors out of the ingredients; it is not enough to fully season the stock or any resulting dish.