First, great new board.
I am moving into a nice, new apartment with a pretty nice kitchen. I am a novice chef who never had the space to really practice, and utilize the kitchen (also, lived w/ too many roomates). Am looking to get started making some nice dishes that are not too difficult, but are satisfying and cost-effective. Want to explore the wonderful world of soups this winter...What are some great, easy soup recipes that I can prepare large batches of and have on hand?
Also, what are some hounds favorite "special" meals that are not as hard as they end up looking? I love roasting a chicken, preparing steak in the cast iron, and make a decent lentil soup. Can you guys help me step it up or expand on my options?? As always, thanks in advance.....
Congratulations on your move! I hope you'll happily cook in the new space.
For my money two of the easiest, (cheapest) and most comforting soups are French onion and potato-leek soup (aka vichychoise when served cold. You could look these up at epicurious.com
Here's a rough outline of how I make them
Take 2-3 large Spanish onion. Slice very thinly by hand or by mandolin. Melt several tablespoons butter in a heavy bottom soup pot. Add onions. You should have a LOT, a ridculous amount, in fact! This will over the next half hour melt down to a dark brown pile of caramelized onions. Keep stirring as they go transluscent to golden brown. Add in 1 quart chicken stock (I use Trader Joe's organic stock, lower in sodium than cans), 1 qt. beef stock, a bay leaf, salt and pepper, and 6-8 oz. dry white wine. Let simmer.
Serve as is or add a bread crouton with melted Gruyere, emmanthal or parm. cheese on top.
Potato leek soup
Saute the white part of 2-3 good sized leeks in a couple tablespoons butter, till soft but not browned. Add in 6-8 good sized peeled russet potatoes cut in small chunks. Cover spuds with chicken stock or vegetable stock. Add bay leaf. Simmer until potatoes are soft. Press through a food mill or ricer (don't use mixer or blender as spuds will get gluey.) Return mixture to soup pot. Add milk or cream to desired thickness--salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a garnish of chopped chives or parsley. Good hot or chilled...
I had to reply under this post, because these are my two favorite soups.
There are very few soups that are difficult. Also, soups are a great way to gain confidence because you can substitute and alter the recipe with very high odds of not wrecking anything. A very forgiving food. I've linked to James Peterson's, Soups cookbook, it is a good place to start.
The most intimidating thing to new soup makers is the question of stock. Unless you are making something that needs an absolutely sublime stock to succeed, you do not have to make your own homemade stock. Don't get me wrong, everyone should make stock just to understand it, but it is a time intensive and sometimes resource intensive operation for a little beef vegetable soup. What you need to do instead is buy some good quality bases. Everyone will have there favorite but you can buy 1 pound tubs at www.karlsburger.com for 4.50-5.50. One pound will make five gallons of stock (you use it as you go along, you don't make it all at once.) A base will last in your refrigerator for a very long time (think years). An advanced trick is to make your stock from the base, and then simmer some aromatics in it (celery, carrots, onion, fresh herbs) for a better flavor. Tie up the vegetables and herbs in some cheesecloth so you don't have to fish them all out later.
my friends love when I make this soup and it is very economical:
Mulligatawny - From LISE P.
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup white rice
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half - cut into cubes
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated
Saute onions, celery, carrot, and butter in a large soup pot. Add flour and curry, and cook 5 more minutes. Add chicken stock, mix well, and bring to a boil. Simmer about 1/2 hour.
Add apple, rice, chicken, salt, pepper, and thyme. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until rice is done.
When serving, add hot cream.
You can add what ever else you like in it (beans, corn, roasted red pepper), use turkey instead of chicken, use your favourite type of curry powder (or just the basic stuff you get at the grocery store) and double/triple the batch if you want to make lots. I add the cream directly into the individual bowls when serving, that way reheating is no problem. I think this soup is a great starting point for making your own amazing creations!
Look up some online basic recipes for stew and stuff as well, follow the key ingredients and directions and add whatever you think you might like! You'll surprise yourself at how good your changes will be.