The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 16, 2013

Soup's On

Karen's Kitchen
Karen Freeman

TARBORO — Even though the weather has been very warm lately, it will be cold again soon. When the cold comes back, it will be soup time. Of course, any time can be soup time! We love soup around our house.

Our first recipe is ham and potato soup. It's a simple soup but will smell good and taste even better.

The second soup is my all-time favorite - French Onion. I love it with a good gooey cheese on top. It's not a hard soup to make, so give it a try.

The third is potato and cheddar. That's a hardy soup but will become one of your favorites. It also has ham so it's almost the same as the first soup but with cheddar cheese.

The last soup is a leftover or potluck soup with pasta in it. This recipe makes 20 servings so you will have some to freeze or share!

When winter rolls back around, enjoy the cold with one of these soups.

Ham & Potato Soup

3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes

1/3 cup diced celery

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup diced cooked ham

3 1/4 cups water

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules    

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.

French Onion Soup

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 large red onions, thinly sliced

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

1 (48 fluid ounce) can chicken broth

1 (14 ounce) can beef broth

1/2 cup red wine

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 sprigs fresh parsley

1 sprig fresh thyme leaves    

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 thick slices French or Italian bread

8 slices Gruyere or Swiss cheese slices, room temperature

1/2 cup shredded Asiago or mozzarella cheese, room temperature

4 pinches paprika

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in salt, red onions and sweet onions. Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy.

Mix chicken broth, beef broth, red wine and Worcestershire sauce into pot. Bundle the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf with twine and place in pot. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the herbs. Reduce the heat to low, mix in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep over low heat to stay hot while you prepare the bread.

Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, turning once, until well toasted on both sides. Remove from heat; do not turn off broiler.

Arrange 4 large oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill each bowl 2/3 full with hot soup. Top each bowl with 1 slice toasted bread, 2 slice Gruyere cheese and 1/4 of the Asiago or mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika over the top of each one.

Broil 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will cascade over the sides of the crock and form a beautifully melted crusty seal. Serve immediately!

Potato & Cheddar Soup

2 cups water

2 cups peeled and cubed red potatoes

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour    

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon white sugar

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup diced ham

Using a medium sized stock pot bring water to a boil, add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain reserving 1 cup liquid.

Stir in butter, onion and flour. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually stir in potatoes, reserved liquid, milk, sugar, cheese, and ham. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Pasta Soup

1-1/2 pounds ground beef

8 cups water

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) Italian stewed tomatoes

2 cups diced carrots

1-1/2 cups diced celery

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 envelope onion soup mix

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 cups cooked elbow macaroni

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained

In a stockpot, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add the water, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, green pepper, tomato sauce, soup mix, sugar and seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Stir in macaroni and beans; heat through. Discard bay leaves.

Yield: 20 servings (5 quarts).

To reduce preparation time when making Potluck Pasta Soup, chop the carrots, celery and onion early in the day or even the night before. Store in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator.

Did You Know?

Chicken Soup Tips and Hints

Although it's fairly difficult to ruin soup, here are some tips and hints to help you produce the most flavorful, satisfying result.

• Always begin with cold water, never warm or hot.

• When tasting to adjust flavors, use a stainless steel spoon, not a wooden or sterling silver spoon. Wood and silver disguise flavor on the tongue.

• A good soup really needs salt, preferably coarse salt. If you must avoid salt, know that the flavor will be greatly diminished. Adding no-salt or low-sodium broth concentrate will help.

• Don't turn your nose up at this: Chicken feet add not only robust flavor, but gelatinous body to the soup. You can find them at many Asian markets. Fresh chicken feet need to be scalded about five minutes so the skin and toenails can be removed before adding to the stockpot. Calf feet, veal knuckles and beef marrow bones achieve the same goal. Bones also leach nutritious calcium and minerals into the soup.

• If at all possible, do not use chicken that has been frozen. Freezing forces moisture from the tissues. When the bird is thawed, all that moisture ends up down the drain, leaving a dry and tasteless chicken.

• Unthawed frozen vegetables should not be added to the soup until the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

• Use tall, nonreactive stockpots for making soup. Fit the bird to the pot. The base should be just large enough to hold the bird and to cover it with a minimum of water. A pot of heavy construction distributes heat more evenly.

• To skim or not to skim? For clear soups, many recipes advocate skimming off the foamy solids that rise to the top as the soup cooks. However, there is not only flavor, but nutrition in those solids that will break down as the soup cooks. You can sieve the broth before adding vegetables. For a clearer broth, sift through cheesecloth. Or, you can skim. The choice is yours.

• Don't let the soup boil. It should simmer very gently or the meat will become tough and the broth cloudy.

• Dark meat has more flavor than white meat. If you are using chicken parts rather than a whole chicken, keep this in mind. Using only all white meat will result in a much less flavorful result.

• For those concerned about fat, make the soup in two stages. Cook the chicken with its aromatic vegetables and herbs on one day. Strain the meat and flavorings from the broth. Refrigerate the broth until the fat solidifies on top. Save the fat for other uses or discard. Continue with the soup. Do keep in mind that the majority of the flavor is in the fat.

• If you are planning ahead, cook the chicken with vegetables and herbs. Freeze the strained stock. If your planned future use includes chicken meat, freeze the meat in the stock to keep it from drying out. You can later thaw and add fresh vegetables, pasta or rice.

• For a richer broth, remove the chicken from the bones as soon as it is tender and refrigerate. Add the bones back to the soup and continue simmering until desired strength is achieved. Strain and proceed.

• Cool soup completely before freezing or refrigerating, preferably by placing the pot in a sink of ice and stirring. The pot should be uncovered while it is cooling.