1. Start With Delicious Liquid
- Soups are mostly water, but it's often disguised as broth or stock, wine, milk or cream.
- The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth.
- When adding wine to soups, add the wine after you have sweated off the vegetables.
- Be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the harshest of the alcohol.
- For cream- or milk-based soups, use fresh dairy products.
2. Sweat the Roots Man!
Aromatics include onions, leeks, garlic, and often celery and carrots. Cooking them over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not browning, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.
Peel and chop onions as uniformly as you can so they cook evenly.
3. Use the Right Tools
Technically all you need is a heat-proof vessel and heat, but if you want to make soups that shine a large and heavy pot, a powerful blender or immersion blender is going to work wonders.
4. Salt in Stages
Canned and prepared soups are known to be high in sodium. There's a reason: all that water takes a lot of salt to flavor! The difference between soul-satisfying homemade soup and "why did I bother?" homemade soup is often in the salt. Cooks, afraid of over-salting, create pots of soup just a teaspoon or two shy of proper seasoning.
Salt soups as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you cook them. If you're cooking the meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before serving and add salt until you taste a hike-up in flavor, then stop.
5. Make your soups look Alive!!
You've used great ingredients. You've cooked and salted them properly. How to make the most of it all before it hits the table? Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt. A hit of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep, delicious, melded flavors in the rest of the soup.
6. Garnish like a Chef
Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper (although they both make great garnishes for many soups!). Chefs know that the best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.
- Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a silky leek soup)
- Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht)
- Bitter on savory (herbs or black pepper on lentil soup or almost anything!)
- Salty on sweet (diced crisped pastrami on sweet potato carrot soup)