A Trio of Winter Soups

Before Melissa McCarthy was entertaining audiences with her raunchy and hilarious comedy, she portrayed Sookie St. James, the decidedly G-rated and clumsy chef extraordinaire on “Gilmore girls”.  Sookie is known for her interesting flavor combinations and one would expect to find her on “Iron Chef” one day kicking the stuffing out of the likes of Bobby Flay, Geof Zakarian, and the unflappable Morimoto.

In one episode, as she and Lorelei are vying for a catering job for Lorelei’s judgmental mother, Sookie presents a “trio of winter soups”.  Something about that phrase makes me very hungry for soup and is the theme of my post tonight.

Now that fall has arrived and the weather has begun to cool, I have started experimenting with soup recipes and have discovered a great trio of winter soups to share with you.

Chicken and Corn Chowder

This is a recipe I found digging through some of my Mom’s old cookbooks.  This one came from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe insert – a pretty good find!  Both A and K are crazy for corn, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Not only was this an easy recipe with only a few ingredients, it was a huge hit.  K even asked for seconds, which from a three year old is a rave review.  One of the best things about this recipe is how quick and easy it is to make – from start to finish it only takes 30 minutes and is completely doable on a weekday for dinner.

Here’s what you’ll need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 32 oz container chicken broth
1/2 cup green sweet pepper (I used canned green chiles for some extra heat with good results)
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups instant mashed potato flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Red chili flakes if you want more heat

I used a large, sturdy stock pot.  To start, combine the chicken, corn and broth and bring to boiling over high heat, then reduce and simmer for 12 minutes.  Take out the chicken and corn and place on your cutting board.  (Tip from me to you: I didn’t want to deal with cutting hot corn off the cob, so I cut it while cold and then added the cobs to the pot along with the kernels.  That way the juices made their way in and I didn’t burn my fingers.)  Add the green chiles, milk, and potato flakes (I was able to find a small packet that had just the right amount at the grocery store).  Shred the chicken and return it to the pot.  Heat everything and season with salt and pepper as needed.   I think it’s best served with a crunchy loaf of french bread, but cornbread could be good, too!

Porcini Mushroom Soup

My friends Callen and Andre turned me on to an amazing food blog a few years back called 101cookbooks.com.  It’s a cornucopia of primarily vegetarian recipes that are tasty, simple to make, and help me to explore different flavor combinations that I otherwise would overlook.  As I perused the site last week looking for inspiration for my grocery list, I came upon this recipe.  I modified it a bit and was really pleased with the results.  K wasn’t a big fan, but A was impressed.  The original recipe can be found here.   Here is what you’ll need:

2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 container sliced crimini mushrooms (this was my addition)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots
1 1/2 lbs new potatoes
3 garlic cloves
4 cups of water
2 tsp salt

The first step is to steep the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water for 15 minutes.  You can do this first and then finish the rest of your prep.  The mushrooms will become soft and fragrant.  In the meantime, using a big pot, saute the cut shallots in a little bit of olive oil for a few minutes.  Cut up the potatoes into small pieces – I did mine in thirds – and then add to the pot with the shallots and the olive oil.  Let them cook for another 3 or 4 minutes while you chop the garlic, then toss the garlic in.  It starts to smell really good about now!  Add the porcini mushrooms and the water they soaked in, the 4 cups of additional water, the crimini mushrooms, and the salt.  Bring it back to a simmer for ten minutes and then test to make sure the potatoes are cooked through.

This was excellent with warm, buttered french bread.  Next time I want to try smearing some goat cheese on the bread; something tells me that would be a great contrasting flavor to the mushrooms in the soup.

Tomato Soup

The last soup in my trio is a longtime favorite that I learned from my friends Mike and Sonja.  I served this last year at work for an on-site fundraiser and we ran out.  The original recipe makes a lot of soup, so what I have noted below is a halved version and makes enough for 4 to 6 servings, plenty for us for dinner and lunch the next day.  I like making this from scratch rather than popping the can of Campbell’s.  Don’t get me wrong, this was a staple of my childhood and I have a can in the cupboard right now, but there is something very satisfying about cutting and combining all of these veggies.  It just feels healthier.  And I can use all organic ingredients which makes me feel like I’m doing something good for A & K.  Here is what you’ll need:

1/4 cup stick butter
1 cup cut up celery
1 cup cut up carrots
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 28 oz can of chopped or whole tomatoes
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf
14.5 oz chicken broth
1 cup non-fat milk
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp curry powder (you can omit this but trust me, it’s actually really good!)
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste

Using a sturdy pot, melt the butter and sauce the onions, celery and carrots until they start to soften.  Next, add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, basil, bay leaf, and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leave and puree the mixture with a hand blender.  Add the milk, paprika, curry and pepper.  Stir to blend and add salt as needed.

Of course I serve this with grilled cheese sandwiches.  I mean, how can you not?!  K likes to dip her sandwich and will eat a full bowl of this soup.  She doesn’t even know how many vegetables are in it!!!

I hope one, or all, of these soups inspire you to try something new this weekend.  The forecast is for rain, perfect for a steaming bowl of chowder, mushroom, or tomato soup, don’t you think?!


 

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