Soothing, healing, delicious soups. We need them this winter, just like mac needs cheese. But not every home cook is ready to stock up. Despite your longing for a hot bowl of soup, the thought of soaring over a huge pot with a chicken carcass can send you straight to Campbell’s.
There is another way. Many, in fact. Making soup is deceptively simple, and a number of chefs and cookbook authors, from Amanda Frederickson from “Simple Beautiful Food” to Meera Sodha from the enticing, veggie-centered “East,” offer hacks and recipes to make soup an everyday reality. Even Pacific Catch, the Bay Area chain of sustainable fish restaurants, including one in Corte Madera, shares its recipe for silky-soft salmon soup, which is ready in about 30 minutes.
Here’s the first big revelation. Frederickson, the professional chef and recipe developer behind the #FridgeForaging series, does not make scratch broth. “I would love to tell you that I make my own chicken fund, but I do not,” she says. “I use an organic vegetable broth from Whole Foods.”
Frederciskon makes it a delicious nutritious turmeric stew with spinach and chickpeas, which starts with thinly sliced, sautéed onions. Next, cumin and turmeric to build up flavor while toasting the spices, releasing aromas. Finally, stir in a cup of lentils and make sure they are coated with the onion-licked spices before pouring in the broth and simmering with chickpeas from a can.
Frederickson raises his finished bowl of fresh dill and a blob of sour cream.
“I’m really into toppings on soup,” she says. “Crispy breadcrumbs, toasted nuts, fresh herbs, caramelized onions. They make such a difference. “
Her favorite soup chopper uses a blender to make creamy vegetable soups that do not contain cream. The basic recipe can be used with any vegetable, from carrots and parsnips to cauliflower or broccoli. Frozen vegetables also work. Just use what you have, says Frederickson.
Then, in a Dutch oven, sauté vegetables with chopped onions, salt, pepper and a little garlic, if you like, until soft. Use a stick blender or puree in portions with a regular blender.
“Just remember the key to creaminess is to cook the vegetables until they are super soft,” she says.
In her award-winning cookbook, “East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing” (Flatiron Books, $ 35), Sodha writes about caramelizing onions until they decompose into a “soft, sweet pasta.” These onions are the base for her caramelized onions and chili ramen, a soup recipe for noodles inspired by a French onion soup that Sodha ate at a café in Paris.
In her version, the smooth, sticky onions are combined with miso, vegetable stock, bird chili and cooking sake to make what Sodha calls “a very special tasting soup.” A soy sauce-marinated hard-boiled egg adds creaminess. To veganize the dish, omit it. (If you can not find the choy sum the recipe calls for, we think bok choy would work just fine.)
Heavy cream – and plenty of it – is a must for seasonal classic seafood juices, including Pacific Catch’s salmon soup. The base of the soup, which is part of the special winter menu at all 10 Bay Area locations, includes diced celery, onions, garlic and crushed apple-tree-smoked bacon, plus water, cream and mussel base purchased at the store. Mix in your roux, continue to stir and simmer.
“The bacon and mussel base contributes greatly to its tasty taste,” says Pacific Catch’s regional chef Rowena Rillo. The salmon comes last.
“We use a sustainable Norwegian Kvarøy salmon of good quality and grill it to order with the bread and other cold cuts,” she says.
If you feel adventurous, you can make a fish fume with heads and legs from salmon from your favorite fishmonger and use it as a base for your salmon juice or a salmon stew with fennel, leek and Hungarian paprika.
Although there is no homemade fondue in Pacific Catch chowder, Rillo says it is the most important ingredient in any soup, even those made at home.
Frederickson also has a hack for it. She does not like chicken stock bought in the store.
“I use the bones from a rotisserie chicken and throw them in the Instant Pot for an hour,” she says. “Just fill it with water, add a bay leaf and some black peppercorns. It makes a great broth. “