Winter Wonder Soup strengthens the spirit as it nourishes the body

Winter Wonder Soup strengthens the spirit as it nourishes the body

The drive home from our winter vacation in northern Washington was an exhausting day hike, a 4-hour trip that took eight hours due to snow showers and icy roads. The morning after we got back, I was enjoying a cup of coffee and a bowl of Malt-O-Meal when, over the noise of my husband’s shower, I heard a constant dripping-dripping-dripping-dripping from the dining room. I looked up and there it was just below the bathroom upstairs: a stain of damp, raised plasterboard with a crack in the middle that sent a shower of fat water droplets splashing down on the floor. I grabbed a pot from the kitchen to catch the current and watched in front of me our daughter’s college class fly away through that hole in the ceiling.

Today’s lowering gray sky did not cheer me up. There was not enough snow on the ground to be able to sled, but there was just enough to keep our car in the driveway. We could not get to the store to refill our fridge, still relatively empty after our vacation. If we wanted something to eat besides a bowl of cold cereal or a piece of toast, I had to be creative and make a meal based on what I found in our freezer and pantry. Soup seemed to fit the bill, not only in terms of something that warms our bodies, but also something that could strengthen our relaxed mood.

I love soup. And do not forget the stew. I also quite love juicy. My father-in-law once made fun of me because I ordered soup as my main course at a fancy restaurant and he had a point. There were so many haute cuisine meals to choose from, why should I have a boring bowl of broth with something floating in it? Here’s why: I knew that even the humble soup in the fine establishment would be soul-stirring, and I was right. The soup was spectacular, a tasty delight that filled my senses and has stuck in my gastronomic memory to this day. I ended my dinner feeling happy and energetic while everyone else at the table moaned and kept their sore stomachs full of roast beef and mashed potatoes.

Not that I mind a stomach full of roast beef and mashed potatoes, after enjoying just such a state Christmas Day. But on this cold, gloomy Tuesday with the prospect of giant repair bills, I needed the soup’s energizing power. I needed the creative therapy of making something without a recipe, with nothing but my mind and bare hands. The solid soup that resulted was just the ticket, and although I will never ever be able to recreate it accurately, I share the guide if you feel inspired to make your own Winter Wonder Soup.

First, I browned half a pound of chicken sausage and a whole chopped middle onion in a large soup pot. I seasoned it with salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, dried dill and basil, fresh rosemary and a generous splash of my secret weapon: mushroom umami herbal powder, which is available from Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer and Target, among others. Then I added a 32-ounce box of chicken broth along with the salty pan drops from a chicken I fried a few weeks ago. (I always freeze au jus from any fried meat because it’s like a concentrated burst of tasty flavor in soup fondue. Alternatively, you can add a cube of chicken broth.) Next came a 15-ounce can of cannellini beans in the pan, a large reddish-brown diced potato , a 4-ounce can of pimientos, a 7-ounce can of mushrooms, approx. ½ cup each frozen spinach, frozen tri-colored peppers and sliced ​​baby carrots.

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