I love this time of year when it starts getting nippy. It allows me to make soups and stews. After all it's a little hard to make a nice hearty soup when the sun is out and its 85 degrees most of the day. But when you smell the smoke from the fireplace and you hear the popping of the wood as it spews embers on to your area rugs that you place too close to the hearth, it just brings a nice warm fuzzy feeling to enjoy some homemade soup!
Soup is one of the easiest things to make! Period!
Once you learn the basics, you can add any and many items to it with delicious results. You always need couple of basic items.
Water, an onion or two, salt and pepper, some butter or oil.
The your flavoring stuff.
And that's it!
If you have a soup base or stock that will make it even better.
Here is a quick recipe for chicken stock.
1 Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot (8 quart) and cover with cold water. Add veggies like celery, onion, carrots, parsley. The quantiy of veggies is not that important. The more you use the better it will taste. You can even use parts of the veggies that you would discard. Like onion tops, celery leaves and tops, carrot ends etc. If you absolutely need a quantity to make this work, then start with a cup of celery, onion, and chopped carrots, and a 1/2 cup of parsley.
2 Add salt and pepper, about 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper.
3 Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer.
4 Simmer uncovered at least 4 hours, occasionally skimming off the foam that comes to the surface.
5 Remove the bones and strain the stock.
6 If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by simmering a few hours longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store.
7 I usually will take and freeze the stock into a zip lock bag. This way it lays sort of flat in the freezer and I can take it out, 1 quart bag out at a time as I need it. Some people just use ice cube trays and freeze them as cubes, then place them in a zip lock bag to avoid getting freezer smell etc.
9 If you think this is too much trouble and you want a easy way to get stock almost as good, you can buy dried soup base, like Knorr bouillon cubes or jars of Caldo de Pollo etc.
10 Or if you have access to a restaurant supply store you can get small tubs of soup bases. They come in all flavors such as ; beef, chicken, clam, ham, vegetable, tomato, lobster, shrimp and crab.
The only problem that you will have with commercial stock bases is that they are usually contain quite a bit of salt, whereas your own home made stock would not.
Back to the soup........
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
Then remove the husks from 3 or 4 ears of corn, lightly coat the ears with some vegetable oil and place on a piece of foil into a moderately hot oven (400 degrees.)
Let the corn roast until light brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the corn, let cool so you can touch it and work with it.
Then take the browned corn off the cob, either by scraping a knife down the cob or just cutting downward keeping the kernels whole as much as possible.
Put into a small dish and hold for awhile.
Then find a nice vessel, pot or kettle something that will hold enough so that you can throw it all in and not spill stuff over the side.
If I am making it for a couple of people and want to have left overs then a 4 to 8 quart pot is ideal.
take the onion and chop it to a reasonable size, this depends on if you are going to puree the soup later or leave it sort of chunky. That's up to you. Usually about 1/2 inch dice is fine.
Put some butter or oil into the pot and toss in the chopped onion.
Mix it around so the oil ( or butter) coats it, put on medium heat and cook it for about 10 minutes or until the onion gets translucent or just starting to brown.
Add the chopped garlic.
Add the pureed tomatoes or better yet if you can find the stewed tomatoes that's better.
Add the salt and pepper and stock, bring to a simmer.
Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the roasted corn and chipotle chilies, simmer for 10 minutes , taste and serve.
OK, now here's another lesson.
Instead of where you added the tomatoes and stuff, you have the makings of a basic soup base. You can add stuff like: More onions or leeks, potatoes and make a potato leek soup if you blend it and add some cream.
You can make it a vegetable soup if you add, some squash like zucchini or yellow squash, or other root vegetables. You can roast eggplant instead of the corn, less the tomatoes and make a great eggplant soup. Or add chicken and some small pasta and make a great chicken noodle soup. mushrooms and have a mushroom soup. then also you can add shellfish, etc, etc, etc. You can just experiment with the main flavors when you add them to the water, onion, salt and pepper and a soup base or stock and you have it!
Stuff you will need:
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from the 3 or 4 ears of roasted corn, removed)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or melted butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 large can or 28 oz of tomato puree
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper ( use white so it looks better, if you have it)
4 cups chicken stock
2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped fine, (to taste depending on your heat tolerance) you can also add the adobo if you like but be careful and add a tiny bit first, stir, then taste.
( Mexican corn is not as sweet as corn in the US, but you can find it. If not, you can sweeten up the soup and still have the great corn flavor by adding some honey to taste. Usually about 1 to 2 TBS.)
Once you get the program down on how easy it is to make soups, you can do wonders with them. For example, you make a vegetable soup one day, with the left overs you can them add meat to it or noodles and have a completely different soup.
Make a potato leek soup one day, couple of days later you can add shrimp or prawns to it with a touch shrimp base and you have a great shrimp chowder. Or clams, etc etc......