Rouses Chef Shows You How To

make soup even better

  1. Your soup is really only as good as its stock (or broth). Roast leftover bones and vegetables in the oven for about 30 minutes before you put them in the stockpot to add more flavor and richness to your stock.
  2. If you’re making beef stock, toss the bones and vegetables in tomato paste before roasting them — this adds an even greater depth of flavor. When you’re finished roasting, deglaze the pan with a little bit of water or wine. Scrape up the fond — the yummy bits of gradoux that get stuck to the bottom of the pot when you cook — and add it to the soup stockpot.
  3. Bouquet garni is the French term for the small bunch of herbs tied up in cheesecloth or in butcher’s twine that is used to flavor soups or stocks. Though thyme, parsley and bay leaves are traditional, almost any kind of herbs can be used in a bouquet garni. Dill, for instance, adds a nice flavor to chicken. Make sure you adjust the size of your bouquet garni according to how much soup or stock you’re making — if you’re making a large pot’s worth, increase the size of that bunch of herbs accordingly.
  4. Only add enough liquid to cover the solid ingredients in your stockpot. Too much water will dilute the flavor.
  5. Simmering lets you gently cook all of the ingredients until they are tender; it’s also a way of getting flavors in a dish to meld together. Bringing the stock to a boil will cause it to be cloudy and emulsify the fat into the stock, which makes it greasy, so this needs to be a slower process.
  6. Don’t have stock bones on hand? Premade stocks are fine. Simmer the scraps of some carrots, onions, celery and herbs in the store-bought broth before making the soup to add extra flavor.
  7. If you’re adding wine to your stock, don’t add it until the vegetables have cooked for at least 20 minutes; otherwise, the vegetables won’t soften.
  8. Layer flavors all along the way. Remember to season with salt not just when the soup is done but at every stage of the cooking process. Taste constantly and adjust as you go.
  9. When making a puréed soup like baked potato, don’t blend all the liquids and solids together at once. Instead, work in batches. And always hold back some liquid; you can use it to thin the soup later if needed.
  10. I keep old Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese rinds in ziplock bags in the freezer to have on hand for enriching soups and stocks. Add the rind when the soup is ready to simmer. The rind will not completely dissolve, so remove it before serving.
  11. A little acid — white wine, beer or a squeeze of citrus — will liven up almost any soup. I like to add Crystal hot sauce to our crawfish bisque (Crystal has a little more vinegar than Tabasco). Start with a little bit of acid, then taste and adjust.
  12. On a similar note, adding a big tablespoon of tomato paste will increase the sweetness and tang of beef-based soups, helping to brighten the rich flavors.
  13. Noodles are the very last component you add before taking a pot of soup off the heat, because if you add them too soon, they get mushy. If you’re making more chicken noodle soup than you need, set some aside for freezing before you add the noodles. You can add fresh ones when you reheat it.
  14. There’s not much you can do to fix a too-thin soup other than keep simmering and reduce it. If the soup becomes too salty during reduction, you can add a little bit of sugar and acid (citrus, wine, beer, Crystal, etc.) to try and offset it. Or, you can absorb some of the liquid — and the salt — by adding rice, pasta or potatoes.
  15. Here’s an old restaurant trick — heat your soup bowls before serving soup. Ladling hot soup into cold bowls changes the temperature of the soup. Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature, turn it off, place soup bowls inside, and allow them to warm up for 10 minutes. You’ll thank me.
  16. Remember to garnish. Top turtle soup with chopped hard-boiled eggs; drizzle olive oil on lentil soup; add a dollop of sour cream to black bean soup; and top homemade tomato soup with a bit of fresh chopped basil and some croutons.
  17. You know the phrase, “It tastes better the next day?” That’s true of many soups. Broth-based soups can be reheated in the microwave, but if the soup is made with dairy products (milk, cream, eggs or cheese), you’re better off reheating it on the stove so the ingredients don’t separate.
  18. Thick soups like chowders tend to become thicker the longer they sit. Add a little broth, milk or half-and-half while reheating to thin the soup. Taste it before serving, because adding more liquid means you will probably have to adjust the seasonings too.