It’s always nice to have a stash of soup in the fridge.
Canned soups from the store are convenient to have around for last-minute lunches, but it’s a good cooking habit to have a handful of go-to soup and stew recipes that you can turn into several days’ worth of easy meals.
In this set of soups, you’ll find an array of flavors and styles, some heavy and others light, with plenty of vegetables and not quite as much meat as a chili or beef stew. In several of the dishes, mushrooms add a rich hit of umami. You can skip the mushrooms if you aren’t a fan of them everywhere except in the bisque, which is almost entirely mushrooms. That recipe is a good base recipe for other bisques that you could make with your favorite winter vegetables.
Use high-quality broth or bouillon if you can. The less expensive cubes are mostly salt, and a nice bouillon paste or boxed broth is a quick way to elevate a soup above what you might get by simply opening a can. If you have a stash of homemade broth in the freezer, make sure you use it up within about six months because the liquid can easily take on the off taste of freezer burn and can mess up your whole soup.
Creamy Mushroom Bisque
A make-ahead, adaptable, mushroom-powered soup is just the ticket for the holidays. For this soup’s inspiration, I turned to the flavors of France’s classic forestière and Italy’s cacciatore — forest or hunter’s stews — where the woodsy earthiness of mushrooms takes center stage. Starting with an excellent broth takes the soup from dull to dramatic. Simmering the broth with the stems of the mushrooms not only uses flavor-filled scraps that might otherwise be discarded, but it also infuses the broth with even more mushroomy depth. I recommend chicken broth (homemade, if you can) but substituting vegetable broth (and using vegetarian “fish sauce” in place of the Worcestershire) is how the recipe can be easily adapted for non-meat eaters. Omit the cream, and the soup can be vegan.
— Cathy Barrow
1 pound cremini mushrooms, caps thinly sliced and stems removed and reserved
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
1/2 cup chopped shallot
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
1/4 cup dry sherry (may substitute dry vermouth or unsweetened apple cider)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Combine the cremini mushroom stems, the dried porcini and the stock in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Once small bubbles begin to form at the edges of the liquid, cover, reduce the heat medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large heatproof pitcher or liquid cup measure, discarding the solids. Let cool undisturbed, during which time some sediment will fall to the bottom.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a wide, heavy skillet over high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the sliced creminis in a single layer; it may be necessary to cook the mushrooms in two batches, adding an extra tablespoon of oil. Reduce the heat to medium-high; cook undisturbed for about 8 minutes, until they are nicely browned and release from the pan without sticking. Turn them over; cook on the second side for 6 to 8 minutes until they are just as browned. Transfer to a bowl.
Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into the pan, add the shallots and cook, stirring all the time, over medium heat until wilted and translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the butter and garlic; cook for just 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme and rosemary, cooking for 3 or 4 minutes until the tomato paste is fragrant and slightly darker in color.
Return the sliced creminis to the pan and toss to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium-high; pour in the sherry and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the alcohol cooks off. Season with the salt and pepper, then taste; the mixture should taste slightly salty. Remove from the heat; reserve about 1/2 cup for a garnish.
Gradually pour the mushroom-chicken stock into a large saucepan, being careful to leave any sediment behind. Stir in the remaining cremini mixture; bring to barely a boil over medium heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream.
If you are blending the soup, remove the center knob in the lid of the blender so steam can escape. Place a paper towel over the opening. Puree in batches, until velvety smooth.
Return all the pureed soup to the pan; warm it through over low heat. Stir in the chives and parsley. Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed.
Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with the reserved mushroom mixture. Serves 8.
— Cathy Barrow for the Washington Post
French Onion Soup with Blue Cheese Croutons
When I was testing recipes for this book I was surprised by just how versatile a slow cooker actually is. The fact that you can slow cook your onions until they are beautiful, sweet and tender without having to watch them like a hawk was a revelation. What I like to do with this recipe is put the onions on overnight and give them a good stir in the morning, then add the rest of the ingredients a couple of hours before dinnertime.
— Dean Edwards
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 to 4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 (14-ounce) cans of beef consommé
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
Blue cheese croutons:
8 slices of baguette
3 1/2 ounces gorgonzola or dolcelatte cheese
Put the oil and butter in a large pan set over low to medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently. This may seem like a long time, but for this amount of onions you will need it. The onions will turn a lovely golden color. (Alternatively, you can start the onions in the slow cooker overnight and then transfer them to a large pot to continue with the recipe when you’re ready to make the soup.)
Add the garlic, herbs (save a few thyme leaves for garnish) and sugar, and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the vinegar, then add the consommé and water and season well. Cover and cook over the lowest heat possible on your stove for 2 to 3 hours to give the flavors time to develop and so that the onions turn beautifully soft.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the croutons, spread the slices of baguette with the blue cheese, then arrange on a baking pan. Bake in the heated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
To serve, ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with 2 croutons and garnish with a few thyme leaves.
Slow cooker method:
Put the sliced onions in your slow cooker along with the butter, oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well, then cover and cook on the low setting for 12 hours or overnight. When you’re ready to cook the soup, add the rest of the soup ingredients (save a few thyme leaves for garnish) and cook on the low setting for a further 1 to 2 hours to give the flavors time to develop and so that the onions turn beautifully soft. Add a splash of water if the onions look like they are catching. Season with salt and pepper. Follow the above steps to prepare the croutons and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
— From “Cook Slow” by Dean Edwards (Octopus Books, $19.99)
Italian Vegetable and Farro Soup
The farro — an ancient whole grain rich in iron and fiber — and butternut squash make this soup hearty and filling. If you’re looking for an easy way to work whole grains into your diet, this is it. Complete Step 1. In Step 2, transfer the mushroom mixture to the inner pot of a 6-quart multicooker. Stir in the squash, water, stock, and farro. Lock the lid; turn Pressure Valve to “Venting.” Cook on SLOW COOK (Normal) until the farro and vegetables are tender, about 4 hours. Complete Step 3.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8-ounce) package presliced fresh cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (from 1 onion)
1 cup chopped celery (from 3 celery stalks)
4 cups chopped peeled butternut squash (from 1 squash)
4 cups water
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1 cup uncooked whole-grain farro
5 cups coarsely chopped baby spinach (about 5 ounces)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 11⁄2 cups)
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the pepper; cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onions and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onions and celery are slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the mushroom mixture to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in the squash, water, stock, and farro. Cover and cook on LOW until the farro and vegetables are tender, about 4 hours.
Just before serving, add the spinach, parsley, basil, vinegar, salt, and remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper, stirring until the spinach wilts. Ladle the soup into bowls; top evenly with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serves 8.
— From “Everyday Slow Cooker: 130 Modern Recipes, with 40 Gluten-Free Dishes and 50 Multicooker Variations” by the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, $24.99)
Wild Shrimp and Sweet Corn Chowder
Recently some folks have undertaken shrimp farming on the Eastern Shore of the Bay with some success, but the overwhelming share of shrimp consumed here is wild-caught American. A couple hundred years ago there was a sizable shrimp industry off the coast, but now the largest catch is running from off the Hampton Roads area into North Carolina and then down the Atlantic coast into the Gulf of Mexico. The wild-caught American product is the best in my book, with a sweet taste and wonderful texture.
— John Shields
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups fish stock
2 cups sweet corn kernels
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups salted water
1 pound medium wild-caught American shrimp
Crumbled bacon bits, for garnish
Grated sharp cheddar, for garnish
Dill sprigs, for garnish (optional)
In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onion and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk, and stock. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft and some of them have begun to break down. Add the corn, half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes longer.
In a small saucepan, bring the 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp and stir well. Watch the shrimp closely; as soon as they all turn pink, about 2 to 3 minutes, turn off the heat and drain. The shrimp should be slightly undercooked. When they are cool, peel and chop them into big chunks. Add the shrimp to the soup and stir well. Serve the soup sprinkled with bacon bits and grated cheese. Garnish with dill sprigs, if desired.
Note: When making this chowder, I put a handful of shrimp shells in the stock and simmer it for about 5 minutes before straining out the shells and adding the stock to the chowder. It’s not absolutely necessary, but I like the extra shrimp flavor it adds. Serves 8 to 10.
— From “The New Chesapeake Kitchen” by John Shields
Spicy Lemongrass Soup (Tom Yum Gai)
I’m the kind of person who orders takeout just to satisfy a craving for soup. As much as I love the drunken noodles and curry of our favorite local Thai spot, what really scratches the itch when I want something sour and spicy is a hot bowl of tom yum gai. The aromatic lemongrass soup is also what I crave to fight off the cold, whether in weather or virus form. The ingredient list is pretty short but includes a few specialty ingredients that prompted me to take a trip to the market attached to said favorite Thai restaurant. That’s not too much of a stretch for me, but because not everyone has such easy access to Asian grocery stores (or interest in adding more ingredients to the pantry), I wanted to see if I could come up with a respectable version using more readily accessible supermarket ingredients. Instead of makrut lime leaves, I swapped in a couple of wide slices of lime peel. Galangal became ginger, and Thai chile paste (nam prik pao) morphed into sambal oelek, which, though Indonesian, is easier to find. Instead of chicken (freeze it for 15 minutes first to make it easier to slice thin), you can use shrimp, calamari, mussels or other mixed seafood. For a vegetarian version, go with tofu.
— Becky Krystal
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon Thai red chile paste (nam prik pao; may substitute other chile paste such as sambal oelek)
1 stalk lemon grass, cut into 2-inch sections and crushed
6 thin slices (about 3/4 ounce) galangal (may substitute fresh ginger root)
2 makrut lime leaves, torn into small pieces (may substitute a few wide strips of lime peel)
3 cups water or chicken broth
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
1 scallion, white and light-green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Leaves from 1 stem cilantro
Whisk together the fish sauce, lime or lemon juice and chile paste in a small bowl.
Combine the lemon grass, galangal, makrut lime leaves and water or broth in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to discard all the solids.
Add the chicken to the pan, making sure the pieces don’t stick together (they will begin to cook as soon as they hit the liquid). Once the liquid returns to a boil, add the mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken has cooked through and the tomatoes have softened, reducing the heat as needed to keep the soup from boiling over.
Remove from the heat; stir in the fish sauce mixture, scallion and cilantro. Serve hot. Serves 2 to 4.
— Adapted from Nongkran Daks, chef-owner of Thai Basil in Chantilly, Virginia