There are so many good soup products in supermarkets these days—canned, frozen, and dehydrated—that one might ask “Why make one from scratch?” There are a number of things one can do to already prepared soups to make them better, and there are several ways of combining two or more commercial products that will produce amazingly tasty results. The Bean-<Turtle> soup found here is the result of one such example.

But there are also wonderful soups that do not base themselves on commercial products and are not available commercially, at least with the same quality that you can give them by making them yourself. My Cheese-Tortilla soup is one outstanding example.

So, I present in this chapter a number of soups that I consider to be outstanding examples of a rocket scientist’s craft in the soup kitchen.

Homemade Consommé ¶

This recipe is for a clear soup that would make a fine light introductory course to a more elaborate meal. But here it is intended as a rich meat preparation that can be used as the base for other soups, for sauces, and for entreés. Strictly speaking, a stock is an unseasoned liquid that is extracted from things like meat, bones, and vegetables by simmering slowly in water until all the flavors have been extracted. Because it is unseasoned, it doesn’t taste complete on its own; however, it makes a fine base for soups, sauces, and such. A broth on the other hand, adds seasoning (e.g., salt), spices (e.g., black pepper), and perhaps wine, to turn the mere neutral stock into a more delicious and potable form. Broth is seasoned stock. Bouillon is French for broth. And consommé is clarified meat-based broth. There!

It is my usual practice, when preparing meat for a meal, to cut away, to the extent feasible, the fatty parts of the meat so as to reduce its caloric content. Additionally for chicken, I buy thighs with the skin still on, and then I remove the skin and trim away as much of the fat as I can. I usually also remove all bones. But I don’t throw these trimmings away. No! I put them in a zip-baggie and stow them in the freezer until I have enough to make my consommé. I also save the carcasses of fowl critters that I have served with their bones still within. The recipe is the following:

  • all the saved-up frozen trimmings, bones, carcasses, etc.
  • 1 quart water per pound of trimmings, etc.
  • ½ tsp lower sodium beef or chicken base per cup water
  • ½ cup chopped onion per cup of water
  • ½ cup chopped carrot per cup of water
  • ½ cup chopped celery per cup of water
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves per quart of water
  • 2 or 3 peppercorns per cup of water
  • 1/8 tsp ground thyme per cup of water

Place all ingredients in stockpot large enough to hold them. Turn the burner up on high until a simmer begins. Then turn the heat down to maintain a low, gentle simmer. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged while simmering, covered, for at least 3 hours.

Let the stock cool sufficiently enough to strain it through a fine mesh into plastic storage containers without damaging them (or you), and discard the solids. Cool the containers in the refrigerator overnight. Remove and discard the solidified fat from the top of the gelatinous residue in each container and store the containers in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer indefinitely. To use, thaw and add to soups, stews, sauces, etc., wherever a meat broth is called for.