Archive for the Category ◊ Soups ◊

24 Oct 2010 French Onion Soup

As a newlywed, wed to a man who owned a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“, French Onion Soup was one of the first things I learned how to make well, thank you Julia Child, and one of the first things I got high praise for. I first made this soup in 1981. It seems everyone loves French Onion Soup, and since it’s getting harder and harder to find a good French Onion Soup at a restaurant, there is  always an appreciative fan base.  French Onion Soup isn’t hard to make, it’s just a bit time consuming to finely slice 5 cups of onions and then  caramelize them, but once that is over it’s smooth sailing.

I remember the first time I had the so-called French Onion Soup at Marie Callender’s.  I was so disappointed, it was the worst; sliced onions boiled in beef stock topped with a crouton and too much cheese.  Shame, Marie, shame.

Here’s the first tip for French Onion Soup, the onions need to be caramelized, Julia’s method is the best I’ve found.  Tip number two, the better your beef broth, the better your French Onion Soup.  For years I used canned beef broth, and was happy with it (just go easy on the salt elsewhere in the dish).  The new “Better than Bouillon” bases would probably work, too, but again, watch the salt.  I’ve just now started to make my own beef broth.  It’s not as intuitive as chicken broth.  Basically I buy two packages of meat from the market, approximately one pound of stew beef, and two pounds of beef bones (often beef ribs).  I throw them in a pot, along with with some onions, carrots, and celery, a bit of garlic, a grind of pepper, and a bay leaf, cover with water and simmer for 2-4 hours.  Then I strain, refrigerate overnight, remove the hardened fat, strain again, and then use in the recipe.  It’s a bit of a bother, but I feel good about the broth,  it’s real food, with no additives or preservatives., and it’s no more expensive than buying cans of processed beef broth.

French Onion Soup is a bit of a bother to make, but it’s worth it.  Larger bowls, with two croutons, are satisfying as a meal (as long as there is a nice dessert!  Ohhhh…, some people might want a sandwich or a baked potato or a slice of quiche, too), and it’s very elegant in small bowls, with one crouton, served as a starter.  Most people swoon over French Onion Soup, so it’s usually a safe dish to make for company.

French Onion Soup

5 cups thinly sliced yellow/brown onions (slice into rings, or half rings)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 quarts hot beef broth (canned, or make your own)
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of Cognac (approximately)
6 slices of a good quality French baguette
approx. 2 cups grated Swiss cheese

Melt butter, stir in olive oil to blend, then stir in sliced onions.  Cover and saute for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir in salt and sugar, and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.

In another pan, heat the beef broth to simmer.

Stir 3 tablespoons flour into the onion mixture over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Immediately stir in one scoop hot beef broth.  When broth has totally been incorporated into the flour, gradually stir in the rest of the broth.  Add wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Partially cover pan and simmer (not boil) for 40 minutes.

Toast the baguette slices.

To serve: ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon Cognac.  Top with a toasted crouton and approx 1/3 cup of cheese. Broil until the cheese melts.  Then serve. Makes six servings.

Now you too can make better French Onion Soup than any restaurant. I guarantee it. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

14 Sep 2010 Baked Potato Soup

I found this recipe in the crock pot cookbook “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman.  So, I tried this recipe in the crock pot.  When I was in the midst of it, I was thinking “WHY”?  Why cook potatoes for 5 hours in the crockpot, when they only take 20 minutes on stop of the stove?  It’s not like the crockpot did anything special to the potatoes, plus I still had to peel the potatoes, blend the soup, cook the bacon, chop the green onions and grate the cheese. Does cooking the potatoes for 5 hours in the crockpot make more sense than boiling them for 20 minutes?  I don’t think so.  I liked the soup though.  LOVED the soup, so I revised it to make on top of the stove (didn’t take much revising…).

This soup starts with water! You don’t have to find 2 or 3 quarts of chicken stock to get started (which makes it economical, too).  Just boil five pounds of potatoes (one small $1.99 bag) in water until done.  Blend.  Then serve with baked potato toppings of butter, sour cream, grated cheese, chopped green onions, and crumbled bacon.  Soooo yummy. So easy!

Baked Potato Soup

5 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz. bacon, cooked crisply, and crumbled (OK, so I used a bit more than 1/2 lb.)
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2-3 cups grated cheddar and jack cheese blend (to taste)

Peel and dice the potatoes.  Cover with cold water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil.  Boil until potatoes are falling apart (cooked more than you would for mashed potatoes).  Depending on the size of your potatoes, this could take 20-40 minutes.  Turn the heat to low.  Add in butter and half-and-half.  Simmer until butter is melted, about another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  Stir in sour cream.  With an immersion blender (the blender-on-a-stick thing), blend soup until creamy. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender.  Be careful, and don’t fill up blender more than half full.  Hot liquids tend to splash out when the blender is turned on).  Return soup to stove and turn on heat to medium.  Gradually blend in the grated cheese (to taste).  Stir in the chopped bacon and sliced green onions. Taste.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve hot. (I actually prefer this soup the second day.  I like to have the flavor of the green onions and bacon settle into the potatoes.)

Mmmm. Make this your first soup of the season. It was mine!  I’m happy!

 
02 Jun 2010 Chicken Tortellini Soup
 |  Category: Main Dish, Pasta, Poultry, Soups  | Tags: , , ,  | Leave a Comment

This soup is delicious, hearty, and very, very easy to pull together. It’s a staple around here. Everyone likes it. You could leave out the chicken, I often do now (I seem to want to eat less meat as I get older), but don’t skip the leek or the fennel seeds because, working together they crank this soup up from good to GREAT.

Chicken Tortellini Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 small onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 T. dried basil
2 tsp. fennel seeds
6 c. chicken stock (homemade is best)
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 (9-oz.) pkg. cheese tortellini
1/2 bunch spinach, coarsely chopped (no stems)
1 1/2 c. diced cooked chicken or turkey
Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy skillet. Add in leek, onion, garlic, basil, and fennel seeds and cook until onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Pour chicken stock into pot, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add zucchini and carrot, cover and simmer for 5 more minutes. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Stir tortellini into boiling soup cook until tender, uncovered, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and cooked turkey, heat through. Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 main dish servings.

Thanks for visiting!

24 Feb 2010 Coconut-Lime Shrimp Bisque (in 20 minutes!)
 |  Category: Seafood, Soups  | Tags: , , ,  | 6 Comments

It’s cold and raining here in California. Surprisingly cold. Soup weather cold. But it’s Tuesday at 6PM. I’m in the grocery store, hungry, and wanting soup for dinner. Do I grab a can? Noooo…, those cans do NOT contain “soup”! The contents of those cans have a soup LOOK and when warmed they have soup TEXTURE, but they really don’t have any taste. Look and texture can fool some people to think the can contents have taste, but they don’t. Oh dear, I got on my processed food rampage, didn’t I? So sorry. To make a long story short…, this soup is one of my favorites. Once you have all the ingredients it can be on the table in less than 20 minutes, and it tastes d-i-v-i-n-e. Don’t be scared of the ingredients, trust me and try it! My 15 month old grandson slurped up his bowl and then whined until he got to have some of mine. This is one soup where the broth is probably more yummy than the shrimp! Can you imagine? BTW, don’t use Jumbo Shrimp, they are too big for one bite and don’t fit on the spoons. You can make this with all shrimp, or half shrimp and fish, or use scallops or half scallops and half shrimp or half fish…, it’s all good.

Coconut-Lime Shrimp Bisque

1 T. olive oil
5 chopped shallots (about 3/4 cup)
1 T. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
8 oz. bottle Clam Juice (In a pinch, can sub chicken broth, or a can of clams with the juice)
14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk (the low fat version has no taste)
grated zest of one lime
1 1/2 – 2 lbs med/large raw (shelled) shrimp, firm white fish (cut into pieces about 1 1/2 inches square, or scallops (or any combination of the three)
3 T. freshly squeezed lime juice (from one large lime)
2 green onions, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil and saute shallots until tender, about 3 minutes. Add in ginger, turmeric, and cumin and saute for an additional minute. Stir in clam juice, diced tomatoes, coconut milk, lime zest, and shrimp, fish and/or scallops. Simmer until seafood is cooked, about 7 minutes. Stir in lime juice, green onions and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve. See how fast this is to make? You can do it! Makes 4 -6 servings.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  It’s always so good to have you here!


24 Jan 2010 (Cream of) Celery Soup
 |  Category: Soups, Veggies  | Tags: ,  | One Comment

I love celery. I love the crunch of it, I love the smell of it, I love the taste of it…and I love how it works with other ingredients rather than overpowering them. As a kid I even liked that Cream of Celery Soup in the red and white can. Imagine! My Sunset magazine arrived this morning with a recipe for Celery Soup, and it even had a “Staff Favorite” star. Can you imagine what happened next? Yep, quick drive to the store for a fresh bunch of celery. I was a bit concerned about how good the soup would be, as the only seasonings are salt and pepper, but it works! The soup is great, very mild. I like it even without the caramelized apples and sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese. I do wish I had made some crispy croutons or some crusty bread to have on the side, so I will also post a recipe my friend gave me for Rustic Rosemary Bread. I think I just might serve this as a starter for my next Dinner party. It’s perfect, light, tasty, pretty, and won’t interfere with the main course at all. Until then though, I will enjoy this as a light lunch.

(Cream of) Celery Soup

1 bunch of celery, roughly chopped into chunks about 1″ wide (1 1/2 lbs)
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 qt. (4 cups) chicken broth or vegetable broth (I used homemade chicken stock)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Combine celery, onion and broth/stock in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until celery is cooked. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small frying pan and add chopped apple. Cook apple, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until apple is caramelized. Let broth-celery mixture cool for a bit, then whirl in a blender until smooth (do this in batches, and if soup is still hot, do it in small batches). Return soup to pan, stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Heat gently. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with caramelized apples and blue cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Based on a recipe from Sunset Magazine, Feb. 2010
Nutritional Analysis (from Sunset)

204 calories, 9 g protein, 13 g fat, 14 g. carbo, 2.8 g fiber, 515 mg sodium, 37 mg chol.

Thank you for being a fan,

Polly

21 Jan 2010 Polly’s Seafood Chowder
 |  Category: Main Dish, Seafood, Soups  | Tags: ,  | 2 Comments


It was my turn to host book club tonight. The book was “Ahab’s Wife”, which I knew we had to discuss over a bowl of chowder and a slice of pie. Not having made Seafood Chowder before, I began a search for a great recipe. I found one in the book “The Book Club Cookbook” by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp (which actually had a whole chapter on “Ahab’s Wife”) and another I found on “Laura’s Best Recipes” attributed to Chef David Wells. I made one, which was good, but not great, then I made that one again, took some stuff out, added parts of the second recipe plus some crab and creamed corn, adjusted the method…and “Voilà!” a GREAT Seafood Chowder! Really, it is good. Everyone at book club said so!!! I am quite proud of it. This recipe makes a vat of chowder, and the leftovers reheat very well in the microwave-the seafood doesn’t get overcooked and rubbery.  LOVE this recipe.

Polly’s Seafood Chowder

6 slices of bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled (apple smoked if possible)
2-3 Tablespoons fat from cooked bacon (if you can’t bear it, use olive oil)
1 cup diced onions (can sub some shallots for the onions-I used one and then made up a cup with the onion)
1 cup diced celery
2 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1 bottle clam juice (or seafood stock)
1 cup white wine
1.5 lbs (total) of Yukon Gold and Red potatoes, diced (I used half of each)
1 cup diced carrots
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 – 4 green onions, diced
1 lb. firm white fish, cut into small cubes (snapper, halibut, cod-I used cod)
1 lb. raw scallops, cut into small pieces, if large
1 lb. raw shelled shrimp, cut into halves or thirds
3 cups frozen corn (can substitute 1 can creamed corn for 1 cup of frozen corn)
16 oz. lump crab meat (found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores…Lucky and Costco carry it in San Jose)
2 cups half and half or whipping cream (I used the whipping cream. Bad Polly, bad Polly)

Set aside cooked and crumbled bacon. (I save only the meaty parts and discard all the fat) In bacon grease left in pan (remove excess if you have more than 3T) sauté onions, shallots and celery for about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, bay leaves, chicken broth, clam juice, white wine, finely diced potatoes and diced carrots. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Remove bay leaves. Remove one-half of mixture (4 -5 cups) and blend or puree until smooth. Return puree to pan with non-pureed mixture. Stir in thyme, tarragon, salt, pepper, corn, and creamed corn (if using). Can be made up to this point and refrigerated overnight (Which I recommend because it gives the flavors a chance to meld, and gives you the chance to skim excess hardened fat of surface before continuing). Bring base to a simmer and then continue. Stir in green onions, diced fish, scallops, shrimp, corn and half-and-half or whipping cream. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in crab and reserved cooked and crumbled bacon. Let chowder sit for 10 minutes before serving.

This makes a whole heck of a lot of chowder…3 qts…which is 24 cups. If you have seafood lovers in your circle, then it’s about 12 hearty servings. I have found that leftovers reheat very well in the MW. YUM!

Thanks for visiting!