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Wednesday, 22 August 2007
This article covers the basics of gourmet soup making as well as providing you with my 2 favorite recipes. It also has some helpful cooking and grilling tips. article body

While this report will cover the basics, soup making is a creative experience and the number 1 key is that if it tastes very good to you, it will probably taste good for everybody else, so in this report I will be using the term “to taste” quite often. Remember that you should add your seasonings gradually, and sample, because while you can always add more seasonings, you cannot take them back out. After adjusting your seasoning give your creation a chance to simmer to release the true flavor. (A note to smokers, take it easy on the salt because smoking numbs the taste-buds.) A tip from finer restaurants is to use white pepper. White pepper is similar in taste to black pepper, but it is very finely ground so that children and picky adults cannot see it. Be creative, and have some fun, I think the people in your life will love a gourmet soup!

Soup Making Basics:

This subject will be covered over the next several chapters and includes:
1) Mirepoix
2) Stock vs. Jar of Base or Bullion Cubes
3) Roux vs. Cornstarch
4) Seasonings
5) Creating a Cream Base


While I fully encourage you to use the resources available to you, and this most certainly includes leftovers. You cannot take a week old roast from the refrigerator and make an earth shattering soup, it will simply taste a week old. The fresher the ingredients, the better the soup!

Mirepoix:

Mirepoix is a term most commonly used to describe soup vegetables that include even parts carrots, onions and celery. Most hotels use a mirepoix in almost all of their soup. While these three vegetables give restaurant soups a rich character, if your family doesn’t care for one of these vegetables, onions for instance, then leave onions out. Use your own discretion, some people would never eat these vegetables raw, but love them in soup.

There are three common sizes of diced vegetables fine, medium, and stew size. Fine dice would be used in such applications as garnishing a consommé and are cut 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch or smaller. Medium dice is most commonly used in soups and are square between 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch. Stew size are cut in squares of between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch, and are used in some soups and stew.

Stock vs. Base:

For home use a good jar of base, or bullion cubs are the best options. Look at the ingredient list for actual animal content, and if you are sensitive to MSG, there are quite a few good bases that are MSG free. If using a salt based base, don’t add salt. Judge the beef or chicken flavor by the salt content, if you need more salt simply add more base. Remember when judging the amount of salt that not everybody has the same tastes, so better less than more. So if I write salt and pepper to taste, this is based on using a stock.

Chicken Stock:

You can use raw or cooked chicken, cover the chicken with water; add celery, onion, carrots, and a bay leaf; boil with a slow rolling boil for at least a couple of hours and strain. While most of the flavor will remain in the stock, if you wish you can de-bone the chicken and add it to the soup, but this is a matter of taste.

Beef Stock:

A good beef stock requires soup bones and needs to boil for a long time. Caramelize soup bone (bake until deep brown). Cover with water add; celery, onion, carrots, and some type of tomato product; and boil at a slow boil until the bone has had a chance to release all of the bone marrow. While in restaurants we cooked beef stock for 2 days, it takes at least several hours. Properly handling stock is important, either boiling a stock to fast, or cooling it to fast can make it bitter. When refrigerating a stock leave the edge of the cover open until it is cool. You should mostly cover the stock so that it doesn’t attract refrigerator flavors, but if it cannot breathe it may get bitter. If your stock is just a little bit bitter, use sugar much like any other spice, just a pinch to take the edge off. Before using chicken or beef stock either ladle away the fat (grease), or after the stock is cool remove the fat from the stock.

Consommé:

Consommé is just a very clear stock and can be achieved by taking a cool refrigerated stock, peel away or ladle away any fat, stir in a couple of egg whites, bring mixture to a boil, and ladle impurities off the top. When no more egg whites come to the surface strain mixture through a colander lined with cheese cloth.

Roux vs. Cornstarch:

While most, not all, restaurants use a roux to thicken their soups, for home use I prefer using a mixture of cornstarch and water. A roux is a mixture of even parts drawn butter and flour. To make a roux heat drawn butter then add flour until it is thick, cook on medium heat stirring often until the mixture smells like a fine pastry. This mixture can be added to a boiling soup, while stirring, until the proper thickness is achieved. Unless you are familiar with using a roux you may get lumps. Sometimes if you boil the soup for a while, and if the roux is properly prepared, these lumps will dissipate. You can also make a finger roux which is one part stick butter mixed with one part flour. Add ingredients together and mix with fingers, again add this mixture to a boiling soup until the proper thickness is desired. While roux takes experience to use properly, you gain a small richness in flavor.

I think you probably have used cornstarch and water, but just in case pour some cornstarch in a bowl and cover it with just enough water so that the mixture is easy to mix (I use my fingers). Add the mixture slowly to your boiling soup, while stirring, until the proper thickness is achieved. Note: it takes about a minute to know the exact thickness when using cornstarch so start a little thin. This process is very forgiving and if you need to add more cornstarch later that’s fine. Sometimes I’ll add this mixture, not only to cream soups, but maybe just a little to chicken noodle soup for instance, just to make the goodies float.

Seasonings:

Salt, pepper, and garlic (I prefer minced garlic in oil, but you can use any type of garlic) are the seasonings most used in soups. Some people will add 1 bay leaf to soup, and to release the flavor break the leaf in half, but if you’re not familiar with the flavor of bay leaf try using only half a leaf first. Other seasonings you may like in any soup depending on your tastes include a blend of Italian seasonings, thyme, rosemary, or basil. Try different things sparingly, but remember that the flavor of these herbs will be released gradually so don’t add too much.

Creating a Cream Base:

For the majority of cream soups you want to start with a chicken stock (interchangeable with water and chicken base, or bullion cubes to taste). There are several ways to whiten a cream soup, for a family try 1 pint of half and half. Alternate ways to whiten the soup are with 1 cup heavy cream, milk, or if you want a particularly rich soup combine non-dairy creamer along with any of the other whiteners. Bring your mixture to a boil and then thicken, while stirring, until it is the consistency that you desire, or until it sticks to a spoon. One spice that will really change the richness of the cream soup is a small amount of garlic. Add other ingredients.

Cream of Chicken Wild Rice:

Preparation:

Buy a 4 or 8 ounce package of wild rice and cook it according to the directions on the package. If you prepare the 8 ounce package there are many ways to use the leftovers in other dishes. Cook and dice one large or two medium boneless skinless chicken breasts, and dice a cup of medium mirepoix.

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups half and half
1 cup powdered non-dairy coffee creamer
2 cups prepared wild rice
1 cup mirepoix medium diced
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast cooked and diced (substitute with any cooked chicken)
2-3 Tbls. Cornstarch + water (add to preferred thickness)
salt, pepper, garlic to taste


Put 4 cups of chicken stock into a kettle and bring to a boil, mix whitening agent into stock, I prefer a pint of half and half, along with a ½ cup of non-dairy coffee creamer for this recipe, and bring back to boil. Thicken your mixture, while stirring, until the desired thickness is achieved, it should stick to a spoon. Then add the ingredients listed in Preparation. Boil until the vegetables are aldante (not completely soft), and then add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. When you add the wild rice, the rice may absorb liquid so if the soup gets to thick add a touch of milk or water.

Experiment with the ideas on this report, and find out what your family truly likes, and have a little fun, have the kids help or whatever it takes to have a positive day.

Soup of the Week Newsletter

I’m in the process of creating a “Soup of the Week” newsletter on a subscription basis. If you like the information I’ve provided here, I truly hope you will subscribe and please share this report with all your friends. This newsletter will also contain an “Ask Loren” section to answer any cooking questions you may have. Some of these questions will be published in the newsletter. This will provide you an opportunity to share your own personal cooking website.

Grilling Tip:

A personal note about charcoal BBQ Grills. I prefer to use non fluid types of charcoal lighting. I use a device where you place the charcoal in the top and newspaper underneath to light the charcoal. You can get one at Wal-Mart or Target. You can also get electric lighters. (Tip: cut the bottom out of a 3lb coffee can place it in your grill. Put the electric lighter in the can and fill it up with charcoal.) This prevents getting that lighter fluid taste into your food!!

This site will also include helpful cooking tips such as the following marinate for a summer barbeque.

Teriyaki Marinate

This marinate is good for chicken or steak.
1 cup soy sauce (8 ounces)
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp. Minced garlic (packed in oil), to taste
Optional: ½ tsp. red pepper flake (the kind for pizza), to taste, if you like spicy foods


Mix ingredients in bowl until sugar is dissolved, pour over meat in a plastic container and cover (or you can use a sturdy ziplock bag), soak overnight or 2 nights in the refrigerator, and grill. This mixture will taste strong, but not all of the flavor will impregnate the meat, and it will be wonderful!! If you have a large family, or you are serving a party, make enough sauce to cover the meat. Discard any leftover marinate because it is contaminated with the blood from the meat.

This is great for grilled boneless skinless teriyaki chicken breast and can be served with rice pilaf, with or without melted Swiss cheese, and sometimes I like to add chopped cashews to the rice because it compliments the chicken nicely. I also really like grilled boneless skinless teriyaki chicken breast sandwiches with melted Swiss cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, and shredded lettuce on a nice sesame roll.
Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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