Cream of stuff

The weather outside is frightful which I find quite delightful because it means that it is time to make another batch of cream of stuff soup, so called because the basic recipe is nigh-well infinitely variable. All you do is boil some veggies in broth until tender, then mix with a cream-roux base and voila! instant yumminess!

To make a pot of this ever-so-simple soup, you’ll need:

2 c diced vegetables [1]
2 cubes chicken bouillon [2]
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk [3]
1 c water
Appropriate herbs and spices [4]
1/4 c asiago cheese (optional; best with potatoes)
1/2 c meat (optional; use chicken or the appropriate meat)

Start by putting the water and bouillon cubes into a medium saucepan and bringing it to a boil. While you wait, dice the vegetables into roughly 1/2″ cubes. Try to make the cubes all about the same size so that they will cook evenly. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and add the vegetables and herbs and spices.

While the vegetables are cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add in the flour and stir until it forms a loose clump. This is a “white roux” and is the key to a good cream-based soup as it adds richness without changing the soup’s flavor. Now slowly stir in the milk, adding a little at a time and waiting to be sure that the milk is completely absorbed before adding any more; this prevents lumps and gives a nice, smooth feeling to your soup. Once all of the milk has been added, let the mixture come to a simmer and then take it off of the heat. The simmer will cause the fat and flour to form a nice, thick base.

If you are adding the cheese or meat, now is the time to do it. Mix the cheese and meat into the cream base just before you add everything else.

Once the cream base is ready, take half of the boiled vegetables and add them to it. Using a masher or hand blender [5], mush up the remaining vegetables and broth, then stir into the cream base. Salt and pepper to taste and you are done. I like to serve mine with toasted cheese on bread, but pretzels, crackers, or a nice, strong bread works just as well.

Enjoy!

John

[1] My favorites are potatoes or broccoli, but the recipe can use almost any veggie or combination of veggies. Carrots makes a nice, bright soup, as does fresh spinach. Celery and corn mix in an interesting way. Baked garlic makes an unusual but tasty starter. And adding mushrooms to the potatoes gives a truly deep, rich flavor. Be daring!

[2] For a completely vegetarian version, use the vegetable bouillon cubes. But don’t use the beef cubes, as they will skew the flavor.

[3] This is one of the few times that you will want to use whole milk instead of skim or low fat.

[4] I.e., the spices and herbs that belong with that vegetable. I like to use dill with the carrots and broccoli, and rosemary and  thyme with the potatoes, and pepper on everything. Again, be inventive and see what combinations you like best.

[5] Be careful if you use a blender. This is freakin’ hot and nothing spoils a good meal like hearing someone moan and whine about how they are covered with third-degree burns and can we please go to the hospital now?

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