I make two or three soups a day at Hudson Valley Desserts in Saugerties, NY. Each is made from scratch, with the chicken or vegetable stock each recipe calls for also made from scratch. They are delicious and very popular additions to the menu, but all lack a dimension I’ve been searching for in my cooking at home. Now I’ve found it.
When cooking commercially for a crowd as I do, making two and a half gallons of soup at a time, it really has to be a one-size-fits-all proposition. At home I can just make soup by the bowl. That allows me to layer the tastes, textures and complexities of each element to build a satisfying meal in a bowl.
It all began when the weather turned cooler last fall. I started to serve just a bowl of good homemade broth for dinner one night a week. It was meant as a night of no excess; a way to keep weight down as the lower temperatures cranked up my body’s cravings for rich, heavy, caloric meals. Gradually I added a fresh vegetable or two, then some ramen noodles crept in, until it became a satisfying bowl of (conventional) soup.
Then, suddenly, broth was all the rage, with the new broth-only restaurant called Brodo (Italian for broth) opening in Manhattan, and my broth dinners were on the culinary cutting-edge. That’s when I took it to the next level.
Now each element is different. For instance, last night I heated some rich, homemade beef broth for a really spectacular soup. I began with leftover roast chicken which I fried in seasoned olive oil (called Galician Oil because of all the paprika) with onions and garlic until it was browned and just crispy. I set that to warm, uncovered, while I stir-fried a package of Fresh Farms Oriental Salad, adding the all-natural ginger salad dressing for the last toss. Meanwhile I boiled water and blanched some broccoli and some green beans. Then I put it all together.
First went the crispy chicken mixture, next to it in the bottom of the bowl went the stir-fry salad. Layered on them were the blanched vegetables. I poured hot beef broth over top to fill the bowl a little more than halfway and topped the whole pile off with the package of Asian noodles and slivered almonds that also come with the salad. That last touch adds a nutty crunch (and the only carbs) to a complex dish.
It’s all real food, healthy and balanced nutritionally, with enough different tastes, temperatures, textures and mouth-feel to satisfy any hunger. The bonus? Not only did I not gain weight over Thanksgiving and Christmas (the two biggest eating holidays of the year) but I actually lost a few pounds, and I feel great!