Cook by the Book: Soup’s On!

Vegetables and cheese“To feel safe and warm on a cold, wet night, all you really need is soup.”
Laurie Colwin

Soup: the ultimate comfort food. It warms you up on a cold winter night and even has the power to fight the common cold. You can make it as simple or as complex as you like and it’s very adaptable. You can also throw it in the slow cooker or let it simmer on the stove all afternoon, while you attend to more important things – like that book you just picked up from the library.

Some very creative people have come up with great ways to share their love of soup – from Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers, providing care and comfort with hot bowls of soup to women and children in shelters, to “Soup Nights” popping up in neighborhoods across the country. Soup Night is all about building community, through soup. Once a month, one house on the street hosts a soup night, making large quantities of soup. The neighbors provide the salad, bread and dessert and also their own bowls and spoons. It’s a wonderful way to get to know your neighbours and helps people feel less isolated: “Soup night has become a way for people to come together when it’s cold outside, and it’s created a community on this block in ways that no one could have anticipated.” (Jessie Mindlin, Portland).

There’s also the Soup Peddler, David Ansel, from Austin, Texas, who started delivering soup on his bicycle and became so popular that he had to hire a whole fleet of bicycle peddlers to keep up with demand.

One of our own Cookbook Club members has been working on soup recipes for two years, with her sister. They want to create a compilation of 52 soups – a different soup to try each week for a year. Here is Tanise’s favourite French Onion soup recipe:

FRENCH ONION SOUP – makes 6 servings

1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 ½ lbs. onions, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. sugar
6 ¼ cups beef stock
1 ½ tbsp. all purpose flour
2/3 cup sherry
Salt & Pepper
Gruyere cheese, shredded
Day old bread slices or sliced baguette (optional)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter with oil in a large pot. Add onions and stir to coat them.  Cook over medium heat until onions begin to soften (20 or more minutes depending on the size of the pot).
  2. Stir in thyme. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook the onions for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and golden yellow.
  3. Uncover pot, increase the heat slightly and stir in the sugar. Cook until the onions start to brown (15 to 20 minutes).
  4. Increase heat slightly, stirring frequently, until onions turn a deep, golden brown (30 minutes).
  5. Bring stock to boil in another pot. Stir the flour into the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the hot stock and sherry. Season soup. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. For those who like the bread slice in their soup, put a piece of day old bread or baguette slice into the individual onion soup bowl. Cover with the soup and top with shredded gruyere cheese. Put under broil and broil until cheese is bubbling and melted.

Additional Comments:

  • This soup yields a thick soup. Those preferring more broth in their onion soup are advised to use 7 cups of broth.
  • A large soup or stockpot is needed for this recipe.  Vegetarians can replace the beef stock with a hearty vegetable stock that has a deep flavour (attained through somewhat caramelizing the vegetables before adding the water).

If you’re interested in the history of soup, check out An Exaltation of Soups by Patricia Solley. It has soup recipes for just about every occasion you can think of – from celebrating marriage to honoring the dead, and is also full of interesting stories, poetry and quotes.

Here’s the rest of the cookbooks that Cook by the Book tried for Soup’s On night, with our photos of the finished product. Mmmmm!

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And the links:

-Carole

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