Come late fall and winter, soup looks so good you don’t just want to dig in with a spoon, you want to fully dive in.
Most of us have memories of a good curative soup growing up. Mom’s medical advice may not have always been based on real science, but she was pretty much always right. Get in out of the cold, wash your hands, and thaw your bones with a heaping bowl of tomato basil, lentil, minestrone, or bacon celery root soup. It’ll nourish your body and push away what ails you.
In fairness, there really is no bad soup. With a trusty base, you can throw in just about anything, Swedish Chef-style. But having tried some really fantastic recipes—chicken sausage, butternut squash, onion—we know that some are deserving of higher positions on your favorites list.
As we enter the season of feasts and comfort food, consider these five stellar soup recipes:
Thai Chicken Soup
- 6 cups rich chicken stock or store-bought stock
- 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1.25 oz can coconut milk, preferably light
- 3 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken meat
- 1 cup chiffonade of fresh Thai or regular basil
- 1 cup diced fresh ripe red tomato plus extra as a condiment
- 2 Thai bird chilies or Serrano chilies cut crosswise in thin slices (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus 2 limes cut into wedges as a condiment
- 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce, preferably Nuoc Mam, plus extra as a condiment
- .5 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus extra as a condiment
- 4 scallions sliced, white and green portions
- 1 dozen sprigs fresh cilantro
- In a medium pot bring the stock and lemongrass to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then turn off the heat and allow the lemongrass to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the lemongrass, and then pour the stock back into the pot. Add the coconut milk, chicken, basil, 1 cup of the tomato, and 1 teaspoon of the chilies. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Taste the soup, then add lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce. Ladle into bowls and serve with the remaining chilies and lime wedges, soy sauce, and fish sauce at the table so everyone can adjust these flavors to their liking.
Corn Chowder with Jalapeño Cream
Renowned chef Wolfgang Puck knows his soups. This recipe gives a classic corn chowder a nice kick of spice.
- In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock and white wine to a boil with the garlic and thyme. Add the clams, bring back to a boil, cover, and steam until the clams are just opened, 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl and discard any unopened clams. Remove the clams from their shells and set aside.
- In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter. Sauté the onion, leek, carrot, and celery over moderate heat, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Pour in the clam liquid and bring to a boil. Add the corn cobs and the corn kernels, reserving 1 cup of kernels for garnish. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cobs and strain the soup into a clean saucepan. Transfer the strained vegetables to a blender or food processor, pour in the cream, and process until pureed, still retaining a little texture. Stir back into the soup and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, add the reserved clams, and simmer for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
- While the soup is cooking, prepare the jalapeo cream. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
- Ladle the soup into heated bowls, making sure that there are clams in each bowl. Spoon a little of the jalapeo cream in the center, passing the remaining cream in a small bowl. Garnish with the reserved 1 cup corn kernels and serve immediately.
Playschool Tomato Soup
A vegetarian staple from chef Jamie Oliver, this soup never disappoints. Devour it on its own or whip up a grilled cheese and take in one of the greatest age-old combos in all of food (plus, you’ll have some warm bread for dipping).
- 2 carrots
- 2 leeks
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 onions
- 6 large ripe tomatoes, on the vine
- 4 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- 1 organic chicken stock cube or vegetable stock cube
- ½ a bunch of fresh basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cans of quality plum tomatoes
- 6 0z alphabet pasta
- 8 slices of sourdough or your favorite bread
- 4.5 oz mature cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Peel and slice the carrots, then trim, wash, and finely slice the leeks and celery. Peel and roughly chop the onions and the tomatoes.
- Toss all the vegetables and the tomatoes together in a deep roasting tray, along with the unpeeled garlic cloves and a lug of olive oil, and season well.
- Spread the veg into one layer and pop in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the veggies are golden and slightly caramelized.
- Dissolve the stock cube in 5 cups of boiling water. Pick the basil leaves and finely chop the stalks.
- Place the picked leaves into a pestle and mortar and bash to a paste, along with a good pinch of sea salt. When it’s completely smooth, muddle in just enough extra virgin olive oil to give it a spoonable consistency. Keep to one side.
- Toss the basil stalks into the roasted veg and squeeze the garlic out of its skins into the tray. Carefully transfer the tray to the stovetop (or scrape the veg into a large saucepan), then add the canned tomatoes and stock.
- Gently bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until thickened, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you go.
- Remove the tray or pan from the heat, then, using a hand blender pulse the soup until smooth.
- Return the soup to the burner over medium heat, season to taste, and stir in the alphabet pasta. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked.
- Meanwhile, toast the bread and coarsely grate the cheese.
- Ladle the hot soup into bowls, scatter over most of the cheese and stir it through. Top each bowl with a piece of toast, scatter over the remaining cheese, and finish with a drizzle of the basil oil. Or mix it up and add the toast and cheese to the bowl first, then add the soup and basil oil.
Chunky Tomato Soup with Roasted Okra
With some southern flare and plenty of flavor, this mesmerizing soup from chef and restauranteur Carla Hall will outmatch even the coldest of winter days.
- 1 pound okra, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 onions, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 celery rib, diced
- .5 teaspoon chile flakes
- 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- Preheat over to 400°F with a half-sheet pan on center rack.
- Toss the okra, 4 teaspoons oil, and .5 teaspoon salt in large bowl until evenly coated. Spread on the hot pan in a single layer. The okra should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan.
- Roast until the okra is brown and tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the onions and half teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring for 1 minute, then add garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots, celery, chile flakes, and half teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 3 cans of cold water, and .5 teaspoon of salt.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Divide the soup among bowls and top with the roasted okra. Serve immediately.
Matzo Ball Soup
This recipe from Andrew Zimmern is, as he describes it, about as good as his grandmother’s. He rightly refers to matzo ball soup as “Jewish penicillin” and this medicinal and tasty batch is sure to satisfy.
- 5 large eggs, 3 separated
- 1.25 cups matzo meal
- .25 cup melted chicken fat (schmaltz)
- .25 cup minced onion
- 2.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- .5 teaspoon garlic powder
- .5 teaspoon onion powder
- .5 teaspoon baking soda
- .5 teaspoon baking powder
- .25 teaspoon of cream of tartar
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 three-pound chicken
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
- 1/3 pound rutabaga, peeled and diced
- 4 large parsley sprigs, plus more for garnish
- 4 large dill sprigs, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for forming the matzo balls
- In a large bowl, beat the 3 egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
- In a separate bowl, combine the garlic powder, onion powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, 3 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs, and pepper. Whisk to incorporate. Add the schmaltz, minced onion, beaten egg whites, and matzo meal. Fold together until fully combined. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the batter and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Add the whole chicken and return the stock to a simmer. Cover and cook for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and let cool slightly, then shred the meat; discard the skin and bones. Reserve half of the chicken meat for another use.
- Strain the soup into another pot set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, rutabaga, chicken meat, parsley, and dill sprigs. Remove the matzo ball batter from the fridge. Using the vegetable oil to keep your hands moist and prevent the batter from sticking, roll golf ball-sized matzo balls and gently place in the soup. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes.
- Serve, garnishing with chopped dill and parsley.
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