Making soup is easy. Learning how to make winter soups is tricky.
With these tips, you’ll learn how to make winters soups that are warming, hearty and satisfying.
First, lets start with the components of a soup.
1. Aromatic base: Onions, carrot, celery, leeks, garlic, shallots (2-3 cups)
2. Broth: Chicken, Vegetable or Beef (approximately 4 cups, may need more if using dried grain)
3. Vegetables: Cabbage, zucchini, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc (4-5 cups)
4. Protein: beans, chicken, sausage, beef, lamb or pork (1/2 pound, optional)
5. Starch: rice, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, root veggies (2-3 tbsp dried grains, 1-2 potatoes)
Use a medium to large saucepan with a thick bottom or a dutch oven.
If you are using a protein like sausage or beef, this is the time to cook it. If you are using chicken breast, my preference is to dice it up small and poach it in the last 15 minutes of cooking. If you are using thighs or drumsticks, you can sear the meat and cook it in the soup.
Choose your aromatics. Most soups do well with 1 medium to large onion, 1 large carrot, and 1 large celery rib. At its most basic, 1 chopped onion is great.
Using 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, cook your aromatics on medium heat for AT LEAST 10 minutes. Season these with a good pinch of salt to draw out the moisture. No cheating. This is crucial in developing a strong but subtle flavor base for your soup.
Cook your vegetables. In this soup, we’ll a total of 4 cups of shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and potatoes. But you can use any 4 cups of combination of vegetables. I wouldn’t add more than 1/2 to 1 cup of tomatoes.
To coax out the flavor of your vegetables, add them to your aromatics, stir, and cook an additional 4-5 minutes until they are softer, and you can smell their distinct aromas.
Pour in the broth. Add just enough to cover the vegetables by about a 1/2 inch. Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Cook for several hours. Ideally, transfer the soup to a 300 oven and bake covered for 2-3 hours. You can also transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. The idea is to slow cook the soup over a period of time – this is the best way to develop a minestrone like heartwarming, comforting soup that’s perfect to eat in the dead of winter. A slow, long cooking isn’t ideal for all soups – but the best bet for this.
A few more tips
- Use a quality stock. If you can’t make your own, getting a frozen stock will cost a few dollars more but your soup will have a greater depth of flavor. Boxed stocks are fine in a pinch – here are your best bets.
Here’s a recipe using this example. You can mix up the protein and vegetables too!
- 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 celery rib (1/2 cup)
- 1 carrot (1/2 cup)
- 4 cups green or savoy cabbage, shredded
- 2 small russet potatoes, sliced thinly (2 cups)
- 8 ounces Pork or Chicken Italian Sausage, sliced (about 1 cup) You can use any 8oz of protein here, including beans, chopped in small dice
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Cook the sausage. Warm a dutch oven or large saucepan on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, and cook the sausage until brown on at least one side. You don't need to cook the sausage completely through because it will cook in the soup. Remove to a plate.
- Saute the aromatics. Let the pan cool for a minute. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil, add the onion, celery and carrot with a pinch of salt. Saute on medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until the onions and veggies are cooked through. If the pan is dry, add more olive oil - the vegetables will soften best when they have enough oil to saute.
- Saute the vegetables. Add the vegetables, including the tomatoes and potatoes to the pot. Stir. Cook 4-5 minutes.
- Add broth. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and transfer to a 300 oven. Cook the soup for a minimum of 2.5 hours, and up to 3.5 hours.
- When the soup is done, break down the potatoes with a wooden spoon and serve with crusty bread.