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How to Make “Cream of Anything Soup”

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“Cream of Anything Soup” is one of the easiest of soups to make. It can be practical and money-saving, too. Do you have some vegetables lingering in the fridge that are too limp for sautéing or too bruised for salad? Don’t toss them in the compost or the trash. They are perfect for “Cream of Anything Soup.” Think “Cream of Anything Soups” are too rich and fatty? You actually don’t need any cream for velvet-smooth, silky soups other than perhaps an optional few drops at the end. Do you think soups are just for winter – how about Chilled Cream of Asparagus this spring or Cream of Corn or Zucchini Soup this summer? How to Make “Cream of Anything Soup” is a fundamental kitchen technique.

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Mirepoix

“Cream of Anything Soup” is as simple as combining fresh vegetables, stock, and puréeing the mixture until smooth. However, it’s not about dumping a bunch of things in a pot. There’s a formula that consists of a series of techniques.

First, you want to start with the soup base. In its most simple form, the base of a soup can be onion. In French cooking, the combination of onion, celery, and carrot is called a mirepoix. Nearly all cuisines have an assemblage of vegetables that form the base for their soups, stews, and sauces. In Italian and Spanish cooking it’s soffrito and sofrito, respectively; in Cajun it’s called the Holy Trinity; and when we venture a bit further South into the Caribbean it’s called recaíto and is boldly flavored with chilies, garlic, culantro, and cilantro. All vegetable bases are cooked in a little fat or oil to concentrate the flavor of the vegetables and evaporate out some of the moisture, creating a full-flavored soup base.

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Bouquet Garni

Next up is an optional step, but it can make all the difference in building layers of flavor in your “Cream of Anything Soup.” It’s a flavoring sachet called a bouquet garni and is traditionally filled with parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and a bay leaf. (Notice I’ve reserved the parsley leaves and am only using the stems in the bouquet garni. I’ve reserved the leaves for garnish. It’s the most cost effective way to use many herbs and helps prevent food waste.)

This simple combination of herbs and spices is classic for French cooking. However, the flavor combinations are endless. Want to enhance your Cream of Corn Soup with Mexican flavors? Try adding cilantro instead of parsley. How about an Asian influence for your Cream of Carrot Soup? Try adding a piece of star anise to the sachet. The technique is the same regardless of the ingredients.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

Even though I want you to consider cooking by formula and not following a recipe, I’m going to share a recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup. The key ingredient of my “Cream of Anything Soup” dictates what vegetables are used in the soup base. In today’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, I didn’t want the color of the carrot or the flavor or the celery. I’ve solely used onions and concentrated their flavor by sautéing them until they are golden brown.

1. Cook the Onions until they are Golden

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2. Add the Vegetables

Next, the vegetables are added. If the vegetable has a high moisture content like mushrooms, summer squash, celery, or asparagus then they should sautéed to concentrate their flavor and evaporate some of the moisture. If the vegetable is more sturdy and dry such as potato, winter squash, or broccoli then no sautéing is required.

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3. Add Stock to Cover

Once the vegetables have cooked off some of their moisture, add stock just to cover. You don’t want them swimming in stock. If you think about standing in the deep end of the pool, add stock just up to the “shoulders” of the vegetable. And, remember, you can always add more, but it’s not as easy to take out.

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4. Simmer until Tender

Season the soup with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until tender. How long depends on the vegetable. Mushrooms will take less time than butternut squash, for example. Once the vegetables are tender, the soup is ready to puree. Make sure to remove the bouquet garni before you puree the soup!

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5. Process with an Immersion Blender

I love my handheld immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can also use a counter-top blender or even a food processor, just be careful not to fill the jar too full with the hot liquid. Leave it coarse for a more rustic soup, or purée it until smooth for a more elegant soup. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and that’s it, “Cream of Anything Soup.”

Lighten Up, Y’all!

You can serve the soup dairy-free or with a bit of heavy cream on the side. (It’s better to use heavy cream, as milk will dilute the soup. And, if you’re trying to lighten up, it’s better to leave it plain as low-fat yogurt may curdle.)

Need more soup recipes? Check out my Chunky Chicken Noodle — made with rotisserie chicken! You can have it on the table in under 45 mintues! Thanks for reading.

 

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

How to Cook Cream of Anything Soup on www.virginiawililis.com

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

Serves 6
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Course: main, Soup
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: food waste, mushroom, vegetable soup
Servings: 6
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 pounds mixed fresh mushrooms such as white button, cremini, shiitake, morel, and chanterelle, sliced
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock class or reduced fat low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • Bouquet Garni 5 sprigs thyme; 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley;2 bay leaves, preferably fresh; and 10 whole black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth
  • Heavy cream optional
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the stock and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to simmer. Cook until the mushrooms are very soft, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the bouquet garni. Purée the soup with an immersion blender.Leave it coarse for a more rustic soup, or purée it until smooth for a more elegant soup. Add the cream and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 1 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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