Delicious Winter Soup

03 Jan 2015

Nothing beats the winter chill of January and February like a steaming bowl of soup or stew. Versatile and delicious, these no-fuss soup recipes are filled with good-for-you veggies, oysters, zesty chicken, and more.

Recipes and Text By HOLLY HERRICK

The recipes in Part I are adapted from my latest cookbook, The French Cook – Soups & Stews, and Part II recipes are original, brand new “Americanized” recipes for this article. The recipes and the pictures tell the story of each, but I urge you to do something as you prepare them to make them their very best – taste and season. It will make your soups taste better, and personalize each recipe just for you. Bon appetit!

Oyster and Parsnip Bisque

(Makes 8 to 10 servings) 

Parsnips and oysters may sound like odd bisque-fellows, but they actually make a lot of sense. Panais, like turnips, are sweet, lovely root vegetables frequently used in French kitchens. Their sweetness plays beautifully with the oysters, and the starch in the parsnips gives a velvety texture to this heavenly bisque. If making this soup ahead, hold off and add the oysters and cream just before serving. Use the freshest raw oysters you can find, and don’t discard the brine except into the soup pot. It is one of the key flavors to the bisque. 

6 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 leek, trimmed to 1 inch above the white root, halved vertically, well rinsed and finely chopped 

2 medium shallots, finely chopped (about 1 cup) 

2 medium parsnips, peeled, quartered vertically, and finely chopped 

1 tbs finely chopped fresh thyme leaves 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1⁄2 cup dry vermouth, plus 1 tbs optional 

1⁄2 cup good-quality Chardonnay 

4 tbs all-purpose flour 

4 cups low sodium boxed seafood/fish stock 

1 cup finely chopped oyster or chanterelle mushrooms, tough feet removed 

3 (8-ounce packages) Willapoint Oysters (3 cups) 

1 cup heavy cream 

1 tbs finely chopped fresh thyme leave

In a 5 1⁄ 2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add leek, shallots, parsnips, and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring several times, for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables have softened (do not let them color). Add 1⁄ 2 cup vermouth, increase heat to medium-high, and cook down to a glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Add Chardonnay and cook down to a glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Scatter the flour evenly over the pot and stir to combine. Whisk in fish stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. 

Reduce to medium/medium-low and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, skimming off any initial foam that rises to the top. 

Purée until frothy smooth with a blender or food processor. Return to the pot. Add mushrooms, oysters, and cream. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce to medium, and cook through for 5 to 8 minutes, until oysters are firm and opaque. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Finish with 1 tbs. of vermouth, if desired, and fresh thyme. Serve very hot. 

Onion Soup “Soubise” with Fried Shallots

(Makes 8 servings)

A sauce soubise is prepared with a béchamel (milk + blond roux) thickened with puréed onions. It is a simply magnificent concoction that goes with everything from pork chops to steak. As a soup, it is essentially the same exact thing, except that the onions are cooked down and sweetened with rich cream, and the soup is later finished with stock, herbs, and more complementary goodness. This is about as delicious a soup as imaginable, and it packs just as much onion flavor as its classic cousin, French Onion Soup. 

4 tbs unsalted butter 

6 medium white onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 8 cups) 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1⁄3 cup dry vermouth 

2 cups heavy cream 

5 sprigs fresh thyme, bundled together with kitchen string 

2 cups vegetable stock, divided 

4 tbs all-purpose flour 

1⁄2 cup Chardonnay or another white wine 

For the fried shallot garnish: 

1 tbs olive oil 

1 large shallot, halved vertically and thinly sliced 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a 5 1⁄ 2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot over medium heat. Add onions and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Stir to coat, and stirring once or twice, cook gently over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions have just started to soften. You do not want the onions to brown or take on any color. 

Increase heat to high. Add vermouth and reduce down to nothing, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and fresh thyme bundle. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer over medium/medium-low. Cook uncovered on a low simmer until reduced by half and the onions are tender and sweet, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and discard. 

In a small bowl or measuring cup, gradually drizzle 1 cup of the vegetable stock into the flour, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Pour mixture into the soup pot. 

Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil, stirring. Add wine and cook down for 5 minutes to reduce. Add remaining 1 cup vegetable stock. Reduce heat to medium and heat the soup through, about 5 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings. 

To prepare the shallots, heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over high heat. When oil starts to sizzle and move around the pan (2 or 3 minutes), add shallots all at once and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss shallots to coat and distribute evenly. Continue cooking, tossing, until shallots are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. 

Serve the hot soup garnished with a small mound of shallots. 

Three-Cheese and Cider Soup with Apples and Four-Spice Croutons

(Makes 4 to 6 servings) 

One chilly winter afternoon many years ago in Chalabre, France, I spent a few hours with my friend Olivier as his apprentice, studying the nuances of preparing fondue. For him, the most important part was the cheese selection (he loves Comté) and the ratio of cheese to wine. His silky, fragrant concoction was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Like Olivier’s, it uses Comté, but also nutty Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses, for sturdy aged flavor. Instead of wine, a splash of fresh apple cider gives a sweet, acidic edge that is recalled with fresh, thinly sliced apples used as the dipping conduit to eat the soup, which is topped with crunchy croutons seasoned with piquant quatre épices. (Note: To make your own blend at home, combine 1 tablespoon each ground white pepper, ground cloves, ground nutmeg and ground ginger and store excess in a sealed container). The soup base and croutons can be made ahead and stored a day or two in the refrigerator and in a sealed container, respectively.

3 tbs unsalted butter 

1 large shallot, finely chopped 

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

3 tbs all-purpose flour 

3 cups unsalted chicken stock or vegetable stock 

3⁄4 cup fresh apple cider (not concentrate) 

1 cup grated Comté cheese 

1⁄2 cup grated Gruyère cheese 

1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

2⁄3 cup heavy cream 

For the croutons: 

2 tbs olive oil 

1⁄2 small day-old baguette, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes 

1 1⁄2 tsp quatre épices (see blend recipe in head-note)

Generous pinch of salt 

For the garnish: 

2 Granny Smith apples 

Juice of 1⁄2 lemon 

In a 5 1⁄ 2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook until vegetables are just softened, 5 minutes. Add flour, stir to coat vegetables, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Add apple cider and reduce by approximately 1⁄4 cup. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the three cheeses until melted. Simmer another 5 minutes. Add cream and cook gently over medium heat for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. 

Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it just begins to bubble and move across the bottom of the pan. Add bread cubes and toss to coat completely with the oil. Sprinkle the quatre épices evenly over the croutons. Toss to coat. Season lightly with salt. Continue cooking until croutons are light golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Reserve warm. (Note: Once the croutons have cooled, seal them in a plastic container and hold a few days at room temperature. Reheat briefly in a 425-degree oven or in a sauté pan over medium heat to crisp before serving.) 

Just before serving, slice apples and toss with lemon juice. To serve, ladle the hot soup into shallow bowls. Top each with a small mound of warm croutons. Arrange 3 or 4 slices of apple on the edge of each bowl, or arrange on a plate, for dipping into the soup. 

Rustic Sausage, Cabbage and Potato Soup

(Makes 8 servings)

Thrifty, seasonal ingredients of winter give this soup a rustic edge that’s largely inspired by my mother’s German family recipe box. Take the time to slice the cabbage and onions very thinly, so that everything cooks evenly and looks surprisingly sleek and elegant when served. This is a wonderful do-ahead soup. Add the sour cream and fresh parsley just before serving.

1 pound sweet, ground pork sausage

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 medium head green cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored, and very thinly sliced (about 5 cups)

6 cups low-sodium chicken stock

2 cups water 

2 cups skin-on, scrubbed fingerling Yukon Gold potatoes, halved or cut to equal size 

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp dried sage leaves or ground sage

2 tbs Chardonnay

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up with your fingers to crumble. Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Stir until evenly browned and cooked through over medium high heat, about 5 minutes. Drain off all but one tablespoon of excess fat and discard. Add onion and cabbage, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir to coat and combine. Cook until just wilted, about 10 minutes.

Add stock, water, potatoes, salt, pepper, sage, and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium/medium low and cook uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender. (Note: You can stop at this point, cool, refrigerate and cover overnight). To finish, whisk in sour cream and parsley. Bring to a boil and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.

Tomato and Carolina Gold Rice Soup with Fresh Thyme and Sherry Vinegar

(Makes 8 large servings)

During the winter, when fresh tomatoes are far from their prime, it’s always a good idea to have good quality canned tomatoes in the pantry. I look for them when they’re on sale and prefer sweet, whole San Marazano plum tomatoes, but another canned tomato type or cut will work. I keep a bag of fragrant Carolina Gold rice in my freezer (where it stores best) year-round. The two come together beautifully in this deep red, tart/sweet soup that thaws winter’s chill with every, delicious sip.

2 tbs olive oil

10 large cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and coarsely chopped

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp Sherry vinegar (or substitute Sherry wine)

Two 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes

1 bundle of ten fresh thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string

3 cups chicken stock or water

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp honey (more or less to taste)

1/2 cup Carolina Gold rice (or substitute Basmati)


Sour cream

Fresh thyme sprigs

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot. Add garlic, onion and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add Sherry vinegar and cook for 30 seconds to reduce. Add canned tomatoes, thyme bundle, chicken stock, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and honey. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to medium low. Cook uncovered for 25 minutes.

Remove and discard the fresh thyme bundle. Blend mixture with a food processor or blender until smooth. Return mixture to the pot. Add rice, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until the rice is soft and the soup has thickened, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. The soup will thicken as cooking, so add an additional cup or so as needed to render soup consistency. Heat through thoroughly. Serve in individual bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a garnish of fresh thyme sprigs.

Zippy, Zesty Chicken Soup

(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

Chicken legs are simmered with traditional aromatic vegetables and lime zest to form the fragrant stock base for this piquant soup. Later, the chicken is finely diced; the broth is strained, and finished with sweet red bell peppers, fresh lime juice, garlic and hot pepper flakes.

For the stock base:

2 chicken legs (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin on, and cut in half at the joint between the thigh and the leg

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8 large chunks

2 stalks celery, trimmed, rinsed and cut into 1”-lengths

5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

8 branches fresh parsley

Zest of 2 limes (reserve limes for juicing later in the recipe)

20 whole black peppercorns

2 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

10 cups water

To finish:

2 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 large red bell pepper, halved, cored and cut into a 1/8”-dice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Juice from (reserved) two limes

Reserved strained broth

2 medium tomatoes, skin-on, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes (more or less to taste)

Generous dash hot sauce

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Prepare the broth base. In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot, place cut chicken legs, onion, celery, garlic, parsley, lime zest, peppercorns, salt, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to simmer over medium/medium low heat and cook uncovered for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and opaque to the bone (pierce with a knife to check). Remove the pot from the heat.

Remove chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, strain liquids from the solids using a strainer set over a large bowl. Discard the solids. Reserve the broth.

To finish the soup, heat original cooking pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, red bell pepper, garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pull chicken skin from the cooked chicken and discard. Pull the flesh from the bone, discarding bones and any cartilage. Cut chicken into thin, 1/4”-strips. Set aside.

Add the juice of the two limes to the softened pepper mixture, along with the reserved, strained broth, tomatoes, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer, cooking uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the broth has reduced by about two cups.

Just before serving, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Stir in chicken strips and fresh parsley. Heat through and serve immediately. 

Holly Herrick is a native of New England and has called Charleston home for fifteen years. She is a recipient of Le Cordon Bleu’s (Paris, France) Grand Diplome in Cuisine and Pastry. She is a professional food writer and the author of seven cookbooks.

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