Soup’s on (my list of things to improve)

A month ago, I graduated from the School of Canned Soup and took on the challenge of making homemade soup.  Did I mention I’m a soup nut and that I eat it every single day?  But until recently, I had never made my own soup.  Not once.  In the past month, I’ve tried two different soup recipes I found online.  They were both incredible.  Then last weekend, I was at the store and realized I’d forgotten to find another recipe and write down ingredients to purchase.  I bought a box of chicken broth, a can of white beans, and a variety of vegetables and thought, how hard can it be?

What resulted was a soup so flavorless that the only thing with less flavor is a glass of water.  I mean, it was pretty bad.  Soup seemed so simple.  I’ll tell you what I did, but you have to promise not to laugh.  For the record, I was going for something on the “healthier” side.

My ingredients:
-1 can white beans
-1 can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
-1 cup chopped carrot
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-1 cup frozen green beans
-3/4 cup frozen corn
-3 cups chicken broth
-1 clove minced garlic

I sauteed the garlic, carrot, and onion in some olive oil for about five minutes.  Then I added the rest of the ingredients and simmered for about 10-15 minutes.  After I let it cool, I stuck it in the fridge so I could eat it throughout the week….and that was my first mistake.  I didn’t do a taste test.  Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.

So, the soup didn’t taste bad per se, but it didn’t taste great.  To be more precise, it didn’t taste like much of anything.  At first it was a blow to my ego, but I know I’ve gotta learn.  I read up on what makes a GOOD soup and I know what I’ll do differently next time.  First, I’ll plan for more flavor.  Salt, pepper, herbs, spices, more veggies (or different veggies), and whole grains.  And if I’m going to make the effort to cook a more flavorful soup, why the hell wouldn’t I taste the darn thing as it cooks?  (Seriously, what kind of a chef doesn’t jump at the chance to taste while they cook?)  I also read that the quality of the chicken broth might have made a difference.  Ask my fiance, I’m a tightwad; when I see a box of chicken broth that costs $4 sitting next to one that costs $1.50, there’s no argument as to which one I’ll buy.  Unfortunately, I think I may need to give the $4 box a try next time.  Most importantly, the next time I make up my own soup recipe, I need to think outside the box.  The soup I made was nothing more than a glorified package of frozen mixed vegetables.

I think I’m going to stick to other people’s soup recipes for awhile.  I obviously need to take some time to broaden my horizons.

After one bite of my soup, I needed a shot of good whiskey.


7 thoughts on “Soup’s on (my list of things to improve)

  1. Your basic concept was not bad at all, you just didn’t cook in a good order or for enough time. For example, when using onions for soup, you want to get them much darker than 5 minutes will do to get some nice sweetness out of them. Same with the carrots. I would have sauteed the onions for 15-20 minutes on a medium heat. Then toss in carrots and garlic for 10 minutes. Move it so the garlic doesn’t burn! Then add in the tomatoes, cook another 5 minutes or so. Start to crank the heat up a bit, and toss in your corn. Give it another 5 minutes, then toss in you stock. Let it get to a boil and drop the temperature to a simmer and leave it for 10-15 minutes. Finally toss in your green beans and white beans (rinse them off first!) and let them warm up and serve, maybe with a nice piece of garlic bread.

    Spice up your flavor a bit by adding in some red pepper flakes at about the 30 minute mark. Also, mix in 1/2 cup of white whine about 5 minutes before adding your stock (to cook off the alcohol and develop more flavor). Remember to taste as you go, and season accordingly. Always go spare with the salt.

    Soups are ALL about developing flavors and layering them up. Just do them 1 at a time and it will be much better, I promise. For example, I made a easy squash soup this evening like so:

    Get oven hot at 400F

    1.- Saute 1 small chopped up onion
    2.- In my large pot, toss in 2-3 slices of chopped up bacon on a medium heat.
    3.- Chop up 1 small butternut squash (remove the skin and seeds) into 1 inch chunks. Peel and chop up 2 small to medium potatoes. them both in a bowl with a little olive oil, kosher salt (a heft pinch) and some fresh pepper (4 grinds or a medium pinch).
    4.- Put on a foil lined baking sheet and put in the oven at 400F for 15 minutes
    5.- Keep moving those onions and bacon!
    6.- Once squash and potatoes are cooked (take one out, taste it), take them out of the oven.
    7.- Remove bacon from pot, but leave the fat behind. It’s FLAVOR
    8.- Increase pot heat to medium high. Toss into the pot the squash, potatoes and onions. Let them brown for 5 minutes while stirring around in the bacon fat.
    9.- Put in enough stock/broth (chicken or vegetable work well) to just cover veggies. Cover pot, wait for it to boil.
    10.- Reduce heat to medium low. If you have a immersion blender, use it to blend it all up in the pot. If you dont, carefully blend it to smooth in a blender, in batches. Do NOT do it all in one go. It WILL make a mess.
    11.- Put it back in your pot. Serve with a toss of your delicious, fresh made bacon bits.

    You can also add about 1/2 cup heavy cream to the soup if you want a creamy, richer soup. Sounds complicated, but it’s 4 ingredients basically.


  2. Oh, and you want to learn how to make your own stock. Once you start cooking, you’ll have PLENTY of chances to make your own, face blisteringly good stocks. Let me know if you want more wall of texts on that.


    • Wow, you are so helpful! I appreciate all of the input you’ve given me here. 🙂 I have read that making your own stock is the way to go, but I’m still intimidated by the thought…I’ll get there eventually! And feel free to add all the walls of text you want, I promise they will help me!


      • Dont be afraid of stock. It is one of the easiest things to make, and very very hard to mess up.

        Chicken stock:

        1.- Any chicken remains from prep work that are raw, toss in a big ass pot and brown them up. Bones, skin, etc. Internal organs (the giblets) set aside. DO NOT TOSS OUT. Dont need to brown them.
        2.- Once meat. bones and skin have a little brown on them, toss in some roughly;y chopped veg. Just get it into usable chunks. Dont worry about peeling onions or garlic for this as all the eveg will be discarded at the end. I compost it for my garden, but normally for stock I use the leftover bits form prepping my veg for dinner (celery ends, carrot peel, potato skins) and supplement it with whatever I want to add. Normally for stock I use 2 medium onions, 7-8 garlic cloves, 3-4 celery ribs, 3-4 carrots and potato peels. This is for 1 whole chicken carcass worth of stock, so if your just working with a couple leg quarters for exmaple, I would go about half on it all.
        3.- Toss in a bay leaf or 2. Maybe some thyme or rosemary (fresh) with some parsley.
        4.- Add enough water to cover everything by about 1 inch.
        5.- Bring to a boil.
        6.- Lower temperature to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. GO EASY on the salt. Remember, you can always add it later, but you can never take it out. Cover the pot.
        7.- Leave that shit alone! Seriously. Let it simmer for a couple hours. Add more water if it starts to get low. Maybe a gentle stir every 20-30 minutes.
        8.- Once it’s simmered for a few hours (the more the better, up to about 4 I would say), your done. Get a container out, and strain your stock through it with a sieve and some cheesecloth to catch all the little herb bits. You now have delicious home made chicken stock.

        I have ice cube trays specifically for this, so I fill them with stock, freeze the cubes, then put them in a ziploc bag and back in the freezer. I freeze most of my stock this way. This way, when you need it, you can portion it out very easy and use it for anything. Soup? no prob. Sauces? easy peasy. Maybe portion out a cup at a time in some separate bags and freeze that separate, so you have exactly 1 cup, or whatever portion size you want.

        You can do this with beef, pork, or even shellfish. Shrimp heads and shells make AMAZING stock, especially for risotto.


  3. Oops, forgot to add in there at step 2, also add the giblets with the veg and herbs.

    When you filter it at the end, all the veg waste can be composted, all the protein (bones, organs) should be tossed, unless your making a gravy. Then you could use the liver and kidneys for the gravy.


    • You are so helpful! Seriously, thank you. I guess it never occurred to me it would make so much and can be used for so many things.


  4. Another ting I forgot to add, is I usually rough chop the bones as well. Like leg bones get chopped in half crosswise, same for the breast bone. This lets you get some of that tasty marrow into the stock and it adds a lot of flavor.

    I thought stock would be especially good for you because you mentioned you like soup a lot. I rarely use plain water when cooking unless it’s to steam something for example, or boil. Otherwise almost everything will be more flavorful with a vegetable or chicken stock. Most veggie based soups for example, or tons of sauces.



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