(PCM) In addition to Hot Tea Month, January is also honored as National Soup Month – and, really, could they have picked a better time? Cold days and hot soup go together like, well, bread and butter (which you’ll need to sop up all that soupy goodness!)
Soup is loosely defined: fill a pot with water, add stuff, mix, and heat. It can be as fancy or as slapdash as you want it to be. If you’re looking to warm up your January nights with something special, you might try a French consommé (a rich, clarified broth) or a thick and creamy seafood bisque. Or, if you’re shivering and hungry and ready to eat now, all you really need is a can opener.
Soup is versatile, forgiving, and open to creative interpretation. It can be a great way to save money by repurposing leftovers or using up odds and bits from the back corners of your fridge.
Want to make great soup? Here are some general tips:
– Don’t throw away your holiday carcasses or roasts – save them for making stock! Combine bones, skin, fat and bits in water with vegetables, herbs, and spices to taste. Simmer for several hours until your stock is dark and aromatic, skimming off excess gunk as you go. Let cool, then strain broth into containers for future use.
– Make extra and freeze what you don’t need – one Thanksgiving turkey can make enough broth to last an entire year!
– Salt and sauté vegetables first to bring out maximum flavor, then add them to your stock. Taste as you go and season again only right before you serve to avoid over-seasoning.
– Add a starch (potatoes, flour, pasta, rice or beans) for thickness or to rein in an overly-salted soup.
– Consider cooking times needed to keep your ingredients at their ideal texture: thick-cut potatoes and carrots may take longer to soften, whereas fresh greens or frozen peas need only a moment.
– The right garnish can bring your soup to the next level: try sprigs of fresh-chopped herbs, grated cheese, or a swirl of yogurt or cream.