Building vs. Making A Pot of Soup
Anyone that has called or texted me within the last few weeks that has asked me, “what are you doing,” my answer was either, “I’m doing some food prep,” or “I’m building a pot of soup.” The reason why I just didn’t say something like “making” a pot of soup is because to me there is a big difference. Making soup for me is doing something quick, just to get something hot and delicious on the table. Building a soup involves layering and balancing flavors in order to elevate the simple dish of broth, veggies and proteins into a pot or bowl “O… M… G!!!”
I know, I sound a bit pretentious, or a bit like a soup snob, but let me explain what I mean.
In building most of my soups, I start out by cooking or just browning my meat proteins in the pot in which the soup will go into. The meat has to be at the very least preseasoned (just simple salt and pepper) if not marinated for anywhere from an hour to 24 hours, depending on the soup and the time allotted. After the meat is browned or cooked to my satisfaction (after a good fond–the brown bits or carmelization from cooking the meat proteins–builds up) I’d take it out of the pot, add a tablespoon or two more of the oil I used (if necessary), and add in my aromatics and/or other herbs and veggies: onions, celery, ginger, carrots, tomatoes, fennel, mushrooms, bay leaves, chopped herbs, garlic, etc. While cooking the aromatics and these veggies (seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper) the natural waters that are in these elements will begin to appear and give a little moisture to the bottom of the pot, thus loosening up those browned bits and remnants from the meat protein that was cooked and extracted from the pot earlier. Next, if needed for the soup, I’ll add a paste of sorts, whether it be tomato paste, or a bit of a concentrated stock paste, such as Miso or chicken. After a minute or two, I can add my broth, stock or water, stir, simmer, and later add in any other additions, such as any veggies, dried herbs, beans or any legume, and the meat that started the whole pot of soup.
Building a soup simply means layering flavors while bringing out natural flavors, balancing them from the foundation–browned elements–to the last addition (usually for me it’s a bright fresh herb, again depending on the soup). Making a soup can make your family say, “Yummy!” But, building a soup makes them say, “Giiiiirrrrllll…… SLAP YOURSELF! THIS IS SO SOOO GOOOOOD!” That last one was direct quote from my mother, by the way!
So, here’s what I worked on within the last few weeks:
White Bean Chicken Tortilla Soup
One of the things that I love to do is to eat a great meal or dish from a restaurant, and then replicate it at home, based on the taste and textures that I experience. This soup was inspired by a chicken tortilla soup I had in the prior week. Going online to see about finding a recipe, I found that one of the elements (heavy cream) was used, and for the people who I was cooking for, this was a no-go! And so, I decided to tweak a few things in the collection of recipes that I found online, and made this chowder-like tortilla soup with pureed as well as whole white beans (NOTE: if you desire a thinner broth, simply add more water or chicken stock). With the addition of marinated chicken, black beans, nopales, chicken stock, corn and other aromatics and personal blended seasonings, what we have is a smooth and creamy soup without the cream. The soup itself can be topped with cheese, extra nopales, avocado, sour cream, green onions, tortilla strips, or anything you’d like.
Minestrone with Italian Turkey Sausage and Ditalini Pasta
Most of the versions of Minestrone that I have seen did not have any sort of meat in it. However, I made this one with Italian Turkey Sausage (ground turkey, personally seasoned with Italian seasoning and a sausage seasoning from a city market in St. Louis, MO), due to the fact that my father needed a little bit more than a vegetable soup. Instead of making a separate protein to accompany this soup, why not add a little seasoned meat? This made it a complete meal, good enough to satisfy my father and the entire family. To build this soup, cook the meat first, then take it out and set it to the side. After sauteing the veggies, add the garlic, then the tomato paste (both times making a little opening in the midst of the veggies, allowing them to come in contact with direct heat, blooming the flavors even more). Personally, I use 2 parts beef stock to 1 part chicken stock, however either stock can be substituted with veggie stock. Add in the beans and meat, and either collards or chard, top it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley, and you have yourself a fabulous soup!
Miso and Chicken Ramen Bowl
I absolutely love using authentic ingredients, especially when it comes to my Asian dishes! What I personally do not care for are the pre-packaged, just add water, instant, ready anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes type of replicated Asian type cuisine. And so, I made a special trip to Chinatown to get exactly what I needed to make this delicious bowl. For the broth itself I cooked my marinated chicken breast tenders in the pot itself, then took them out, then added in the minced garlic, onions and ginger from the marinade. Add in some miso paste, then the water. The broth is brought to a boil, then poured the already cooked noodles (not the packaged styrofoam type noodles that we’ve been warned to never eat) and veggies, such as carrots, Bok choy, sautéed shiitake and oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts and a little bit of nori (seaweed) strips. I know that the thought of seaweed may be off-putting to some, especially when there’s chicken involved. If it makes you feel any better, use shrimp instead.
So, these soups have been nourishing to myself and my family. Since it’s Autumn I will be making plenty of pots of soup. In the future I will be posting about those as well as other foods that I make. If you’d like to know more about how to make these soups, leave a comment below!
Be blessed in Jesus’ Name!
*Featured image by Be.YOU.Tiful Photography, by J. Motley