Enjoy Soup for a Casual Summer Supper

Jun 21, 2019 at 08:00 am by Easywaygourmet

While the summer is hot, when rain is pouring down and the skies are dismal, sometimes we seek the need for something warm and comforting.

Regardless of the heat, if I am in the doldrums, homemade soup can be just the ticket to lift my spirits. It's one of the easiest meals to make, can be light and refreshing if made with a clear broth or sturdy and satisfying if it's a touch thicker and filled with more ingredients.

One of the best early summer parties I enjoy having is a soup supper. We keep it casual, with one or two kinds of soup, bread, a big garden salad and some simple dessert. This is the perfect kind of party if you want to have an early night and send everyone home happy and feeling healthy.

The best thing is to make it a kitchen buffet, where people help themselves directly from soup or stock pots on the stove. This frees you up to enjoy the evening while leaving the soups on a low setting to stay warm for second helpings. Somehow, it also makes people feel more welcome and relaxed, especially in an open designed kitchen situation.

There are few rules about making soup, but I do have some recommendations.

First, always start with a mirepoix to create a base of flavors and to make your soup special. This is something like the “holy trinity” you hear cooks from Louisiana talk about. Usually, I mince carrots, celery and onion in a food processor and then sauté them either in butter or bacon fat, depending on my recipe and plans.

If you want to make a chunkier soup, just chop your mirepoix instead of mincing it. If you are going for a Creole vibe, add some red and green peppers to the mix. If you want a richer, more robust soup, you may want to caramelize the mirepoix before adding stock or other ingredients.

If you want a creamy soup, add flour to the mirepoix after the vegetables have softened and cook it until the flour is slightly golden. Then add your liquids and whisk until you have a creamier consistency.

If you want a clear soup, be sparing with the fat in which you cook the mirepoix or use a non-stick soup pot. Add your stock or broth directly into the mirepoix, then add any other ingredients you like.

If you are thinking of having a soup supper for friends and family, decide first if you want to serve something rich like a cream soup or chowder or you want a lighter meal like a chicken noodle or beef vegetable soup.

If you want to offer a choice between rich, creamy chowder and lighter style soup, you can make one base and turn it easily into two kinds of soup. For instance, you can use the same mirepoix for a clam chowder as you would use for a chicken vegetable soup.

Once you have the mirepoix sautéed, split it into two different soup pots. Add flour and a little more butter to make a roux for the creamy style soup, and just add stock or broth for the lighter style soup.

I confess that I like creating a clam or seafood chowder and a creamy chicken mushroom soup as the second choice—but if I knew I had several dieters in my group, I might go for the clear broth-based soup as my second.

Here are two soup recipes I used just last night for a gathering of friends who enjoyed both.

Creamy Chicken Vegetable Soup

1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots, peeled
4 Tablespoons butter or bacon fat
8 mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 cup cooked chicken meat, chopped
2 teaspoons tomato puree (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mince the onion, celery and carrot finely in a food processor. In the bottom of a large soup pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add the minced vegetables. Cook the vegetables until the carrots are softened, about five minutes. Push the vegetables to one side of the pot and melt the other tablespoon of butter in the empty side. Add the mushroom slices and sauté them until they are golden brown, about another five minutes. Add the garlic and mix all the vegetables together well. Add the flour and stir it in well, cooking for another few minutes, until you can no longer see any white flour in the mix. Whisk in the stock and cook, stirring until the soup thickens slightly and is creamy looking. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook, stirring, until the soup is heated through. Lower the heat to very low and keep it hot until you are ready to serve it.

Creamy Clam Chowder

6 slices thick cut bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 small onion
2 stalks celery
2 carrots, peeled
1 clove garlic minced
4 Tablespoons flour
4 cups milk
1 cup chopped potatoes
2 cans chopped clams with broth
1 teaspoon dried dill leaves
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 teaspoons fresh chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy soup pot, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat until the fat is rendered out of them,and they are brown and crispy. Leaving the fat behind in the pan, take the bacon pieces out of the pot with a slotted spoon and put them on a paper towel to drain. Mince the onion, celery and carrot together in a food processor. Add them to the bacon fat in the pot and cook them, stirring until the carrots are soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and the flour, stirring well to mix the flour into the vegetables and creating a roux. Whisk the milk into the mixture, stirring until the soup starts to look creamy. Add the potatoes and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are softened, and the soup is thick. Add the clams and seasonings. Lower the heat as low as you can, still keeping the chowder warm. Serve it with a sprinkling of fresh dill and the crispy bacon pieces on top.