For most of the country, January will remain cold as it always does, even if the recent Polar Vortex has subsided. Regardless, there is a good reason why it is National Soup Month. Soup comforts the soul when the temperatures are well below freezing. It is great during the wintertime, when colds and flu sicknesses become something of the norm, to cuddle up under a blanket with a nice bowl of warm soup. Soup may not have many scientifically proven medicinal qualities, but it always makes me feel better during the month of January. Here are some delicious soups to make at home or in your establishment to celebrate the month-long holiday.
French Onion Soup
I love onions. I put them on my hot dogs, pizza, steak, eggs and pretty much any food item that isn’t overly sweet or sour. It’s no surprise that French onion soup is one of my favorites. This French onion soup recipe from famed French chef Jacques Pepin is one of the best I’ve ever had. It takes some pretty usual soup suspects in vegetable stock, salt, and pepper and mixes them with flavor powerhouses like garlic and gruyere cheese to form a succulent masterpiece. All of these items are easily attainable at every grocery store that has a nice selection of cheese. This recipe from Care2.com serves six and takes a little more than an hour to prepare.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (3-5 onions)
10 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped very fine
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper (or more, to taste)
24 very thin slices of French bread
1 pound gruyere cheese
6 12-ounce ramekins or oven-proof bowls (for cooking and serving)
Preheat broiler. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in onions and cook until just browned. Add stock, garlic, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. While the soup is boiling, arrange bread slices on a large baking sheet. Toast in oven until browned. Adjust the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Place ramekins on a baking sheet. Divide toast evenly among ramekins.
Pour soup over bread, filling each ramekin half way. Add more stock to each bowl gradually, filling to the top. Sprinkle about 2 1/2 ounces of cheese over each bowl, making sure the cheese doesn’t fall into the liquid (the cheese won’t brown properly if it sinks into the bowl.) Press the cheese along the sides of the bowl so it forms a nice crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese has browned. Serve immediately.
Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
Grilled cheese and tomato soup have always been a fantastic combination. But if you’re like me, you eat the grilled cheese too quickly and don’t get to enjoy it with the tomato soup as long as you should. This recipe from DamnDelicious.net alleviates me of this issue with its grilled cheese croutons. Yes, you read that correctly. The soup features a potpourri of boastfully flavorful, yet easily attainable ingredients that make it unlike any tomato soup you’ve ever had. It takes approximately 35 minutes to prep and cook and serves four.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¾ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Grilled Cheese Crouton Ingredients
4 slices wheat bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Heat olive oil in a grill pan over medium-high heat. Spread ½ tablespoon butter over 1 side of each bread slice. Turn the slices over and top 2 slices with cheddar and place remaining 2 slices of bread on top, buttered sides up. Add sandwich to pan and grill until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes per side. Let cool for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and mash, using a potato masher, until broken down into smaller pieces. Stir in heavy cream and brown sugar. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Puree with an immersion blender. Stir in vegetable broth until heated through, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with croutons, garnished with parsley.
Chinese Chicken and Vegetable Soup
No matter what time of year it is, I always get a cup of soup when ordering Chinese food. Egg drop and wonton soup are some of my favorites. This easy to make recipe from OregonLive.com features many Chinese food staples such as ginger, scallions, napa cabbage and soy sauce. Though many of the ingredients may seem exotic, they can usually be found in your neighborhood supermarket. The wonton crisps act as cracker substitutes and really round this soup out well. This recipe serves four.
6 medium scallions
4” x 1” piece fresh ginger, unpeeled
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
½ cup rice wine, sake or dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups thinly sliced carrots
4 to 5 ounces sliced or cubed shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons cornstarch whisked with ¼ cup water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into ½” cubes
3 cups sliced bok choy or napa cabbage
1 cup frozen peas (do not defrost)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Wonton Crisp Ingredients
12 square wonton wrappers
½ teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the wonton wrappers into ¼” strips. In a bowl, toss the wonton strips with the oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange the strips in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake on the oven's middle shelf until golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. Meanwhile, place the scallions on a cutting board, then use the side of a large knife or a rolling pin to lightly smash. Cut the ginger into thin rounds, and then slice each round into thin matchsticks.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the smashed scallions, sliced ginger, garlic, rice wine and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the solids.
Add the carrots and mushrooms and simmer gently, covered, for 5 minutes. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the cornstarch-water mixture in a stream while whisking. Return to a boil. Add the chicken, bok choy, peas, soy sauce and sesame oil. Cook gently until the chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each portion with some of the wonton crisps, if using.