October light on a prairie church, which may have doubled as a schoolhouse
It's October, and soup sounds good on the chilly nights. Soup recipes include the ultimate comfort foods in our (and most likely your) families. There is nothing quite like them, especially for a crowd on a cool night. Many soups are meals in themselves. What’s even better is that many of these are very forgiving recipes that encourage and respond well to experimentation, substitutions, or panic-stricken corrections. Ask us how we know. Better yet, don’t.
Many soups really didn't have written recipes as much as they had vague directions that start with making a stock and end with "...and see what else is in the refrigerator that can be added." For many households, the soup pot stayerd at the back of the stove on a permanent low simmer, with ingredients tossed in the night before for the next day's supper. Dinner is the big main meal at noon in the country, remember. Supper is a lighter meal, at night, and often consists solely of a hot, hearty soup and some form of bread.
Here are a few of our favorites from the Simple Gifts files. We've already shared the definitive, classic chicken and dumplings recipe; the first three of these are from the Pennsyvania Dutch side of the recipe box.
Basic white chicken broth6 lb. chicken backs, necks or bones, or 6 lb. stewing hen cut into 8 pieces
1 medium-sized onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 bouquet garni (10 fresh thyme springs, 1 large bunch parsley, 1 bay leaf tied together, or 2 T dried thyme, 1 bunch parsley, including stems, coarsely chopped, and 1 crumpled bay leaf, all in cheesecloth bag)
Trim excess fat and all skin from chicken. Put vegetables and bouquet garni in the bottom of a 10- to 12-quart stockpot, add the chicken and pour over enough water to barely cover. Heat over medium to high heat until the eater comes to a simmer. Turn the heat down low enough to keep broth at a slow simmer and cook for about 3 hours, For the first 30 minutes, occasionally skim off any fat or froth that comes to the surface. When broth is done, strain into clean heat-resistant container. Let cool for an hour before refrigerating. Next day, spoon off and discard any fat on surface. Yield: 3 ½ quarts.
--Dolly Shaffner Hess
Dolly’s matzo soupSent to Gene, Friday, November 7, 2003. In her own words:
I like to soak the chicken in salt water overnight...Use as much chicken as you like, any parts you want. After soaking, rinse well and put into a pot big enough to hold it and enough water to cover it. This is not an exact science so you have to use common sense with the seasonings.
Add to pot:
- ½ to 1 tsp (more or less) coriander seeds—crushed—amount depends on how much chicken you use and how much you like the delicate lemon flavor of coriander
- 1—3 cloves (more or less) of garlic—chopped finely if you plan to leave it in or sliced if you intend to skim it out.
- 1—2 ribs of celery cut in chunks or ¼ tsp celery salt—not seed
- ½--1 tsp whole black peppercorns or ¼--½ tsp ground
- 1 tsp salt to start—add more later as needed
- If your matzo mix has a flavoring packet in it, add it at the end.
Meanwhile, mix the matzo ball dough as directed on the box. Drop by small spoonfuls into simmering soup. Cook as directed on box. Serve immediately. Bon appetite!
--Dolly Shaffner Hess
White bean soup with rosemary2 T olive oil
1 ½--2 cups finely chopped yellow onion (1-2 medium)
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 large branch rosemary (5-7”)
~3 cups drained cannellini beans (2 14.5-ounce cans)
4 cups chicken stock or broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large, wide-bottomed stock pan or saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add onions, garlic and whole rosemary branch and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the beans and stock, cover partially, increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer and cool for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool for 5-10 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary branch. Transfer cooled soup to a food processor and puree in batches. Return soup to pot and place over medium heat until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.
--Dolly Shaffner Hess
This one will warm you through in any weather.
Tortilla soup2 fresh medium tomatoes
½ cup light olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fresh jalapeño, chopped
8 cups chicken broth, with bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 6” corn tortillas, cut into slivers
Hold tomatoes one at a time over the burner flame, using a long-handled fork, or cut in half and broil cut side down on foil under broiler. Skin will brown and is easily peeled off. Squeeze seeds and juices from peeled tomatoes and chop. Heat all but 3 T oil in a small skillet and sauté garlic, onion and jalapeño until wilted and just beginning to turn golden. Add tomatoes and sauté until juice evaporates and mixture thickens a bit. Add to chicken stock in a 3-quart saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes and adjust seasonings. Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 T oil in a heavy 10” skillet and brown tortilla strips in batches, turning frequently so that strips are and even golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Divide strips among 6 to 8 bowls and ladle soup over them. Garnish with grated Monterey jack cheese, minced jalapeños, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, sour cream or yogurt and lime wedges.
Happy Monday. Happy 50th birthday to Gnat! We will provide a birthday feast when we see you next.