7 Days Of Soup: Eat Well On The Cheap

This winter can get lost. Sure, a certain degree of misery is expected between November and March, but this season's been extra tough for almost the entire country. Endless snowstorms, a drought of road salt, and sub-zero temps have made shut-ins of us all.
It's not just me, right? Call me nuts, but I don't like to go outside when being there physically hurts. Furthermore, that would waste a perfect opportunity to stay in and get cozy with my kitchen. This last month in particular has gotten me reacquainted with one of most simple, delicious, inspiring courses in the canon: soup. On this, I know I'm not alone. Christene Barberich, our own editor-in-chief, called me over one day after reading a Vogue piece on the wonders of bone broth. Soon enough, half the editorial department had turned around to talk about their latest one-pot wonders. Soup. So hot right now.
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Christene assigned me the challenge of a knock-out, cold-crushing, hall-of-soup-fame story. And, because I am a team player, and I'll do anything to not have to leave the house at this point, I accepted. For the weeks that followed, I spent all my free nights in my boyfriend's kitchen (Harry's a team player, too), testing and tweaking dozens of recipes to find the best of the best. Herein lies a slideshow that will save your February (and probably most of March). Even better — it'll save you cash. Grab a ladle and a good baguette for dipping. We'll see you next Spring.
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
The Best Chicken Noodle Soup (For Dummies)
It started with a case of bronchitis. Harry called me up, rasping with half a voice, and I was more than a little excited at the opportunity: chicken noodle soup! "I'm actually on the upswing," he said, asking if I wanted to go out for tacos. "No, no! You need your rest! I'll be there in an hour, do you have any onions in the house??"

While classic chicken noodle soup requires an entire chicken carcass and six hours of simmering (a task I'd welcome had he not called at 7 p.m.), this recipe is the absolute best shortcut I've found. I upped the flavor with a hit of Better Than Bouillon (a magic shortcut in and of itself), threw in some extra egg noodles, and kept the rest simple.

Ingredients:
1 large yellow onion
3 stalks celery
3 large carrots
3 cloves garlic
2 quarts chicken broth
1 tsp chicken Better Than Bouillon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, cooked
3-4 cups egg noodles (depending on whether you want a little or a lot of noodle in your bowl)


1. Using two forks, shred the chicken breasts and set aside.

2. Add oil to a large pot, dice onion, and begin to sauté over medium-low heat. Once they're clear and fragrant, chop garlic roughly and add to the pot, giving it a good stir.

3. Wash celery and carrot, and chop into one-inch pieces. Add to the pot and stir well to combine.

4. Once vegetables have cooked for five minutes, add broth, Better Than Bullion, and shredded chicken. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat back to medium-low for a very low simmer, and let it cook for 30 minutes.

5. Bring heat up to high and add noodles. Cook until al dente, then immediately remove from heat (you don't want mushy noodles!).
6. Finally, serve to your sicko.
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
Classic Cauliflower Soup
Knowing that cauliflower is the new black this year, we had to try out a cauliflower soup, if only to maintain a modicum of cool despite being the kind of people who stay in every Friday night to make soup. Looking through recipes, it seemed we could go one of two ways: super-rich and cream-based, or light and minimalist. Given that both types were equally adored (and the fact that Harry had a steak aging in the fridge to be our soup-side), we decided to go for the latter. Taking our cues from Paul Bertolli's legendary cauliflower soup served at Chez Panisse, we whipped up this baby in under an hour.

As expected, it was great. Simple, to be sure, but also smooth and flavor-rich despite the the lack of cream and butter I would have sworn was in it had I not made it myself. If you have a small bowl, this soup is an excellent addition to a larger meal, but truly, it stands on its own. If you're tired of rich and heavy winter meals, and just want to stick with rich — try this one.

Ingredients:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1 head cauliflower
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
5 cups water, divided
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, at the end
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

1. Slice onion into thin wedges and place in a large pot with olive oil, over a mediumish-to-low heat. Let the onions cook very slowly, without browning, for at least 10 minutes.

2. Wash cauliflower and break it into florets. Add to the pot with broth, cover, raise heat to medium, and let the cauliflower cook until tender (15-20 minutes). Note: Bertolli calls for an all-water base, so if you want to skip the broth, just use water and a heavy pinch of salt. Add 4 1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Let it cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

3. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in batches), puree the soup until smooth. Next, let the soup sit, off the heat, for 20 minutes. This is Bertolli's magic trick; It lets the flavors really develop and allows the soup to thicken up a bit. Don't skip it.

4. Put the soup back on the heat and add the final 1/2 cup of water, whisking it in. Once the soup is hot enough to serve, top with a twist of fresh cracked pepper, and the crucial drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. There is something so perfect about this tiny hint of olive oil that blends and compliments the cauliflower beautifully.

After serving, we looked down at the plain, white soup in our plain, white bowls and thought bo-ring. Then, we each took a bite and did that thing where you look at the person across the table like, "Well, who knew? Cauliflower soup!" You know that face? Just make this soup and you'll see it.
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
Somewhere around the third snowstorm of the month, we went a little nuts. By "we," I mean the whole of New York City. News outlets reported "Worst Commute In Recorded History," schools closed when temperatures dipped low enough to freeze an eight-year-old in his tracks, and I began fantasy real-estate shopping for houses in Atlanta. Then, Atlanta froze, too.

This time, cauliflower wouldn't cut it. Simple classics are great, but a person needs a twist every now and then. Sweet potatoes are one of the greatest cold-weather foods you can eat. Jammed with beta-carotene, B and D vitamins, and fiber, it's also a great base for a heartening, creamy soup. This recipe, amplified with hints of lime, fresh ginger, and a little cayenne, was just the pick-me-up we needed. It's a seriously filling dinner, but it lacks that super-heavy quality. This soup is so not-boring that I made it again two days later. Sometimes, you need a lot of pick-me-up.

Ingredients:
3 sweet potatoes
1 tbsp vegetable oil (or butter)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 medium onion
1 fresh tomato, chopped into small chunks
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 lime (zest and juice)

1. Put sour cream in a small bowl and grate lime zest into it. Stir well, then pop it in the fridge until you're ready to serve. This will give it time to build fresh, zesty flavor.

2. Put onion and garlic in a pot with oil/butter and sauté over medium heat until just beginning to caramelize.

3. While that's cooking, wash and peel sweet potatoes, and chop into cubes. Add to the pot with broth, ginger, and cayenne. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender (they should slide off the fork when poked).

4. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Squeeze lime juice and whisk into the soup. Adjust for salt as needed, and ladle into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with the chopped tomato and top with a good dollop of the sour cream. Serve!
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
Creamy Tomato Soup with an Egg
Last Saturday, I woke up with the cold I'd been in denial about all week. Determined for weeks to one-up my chicken noodle soup and win the Best Sick-Person Caretaker Award, Harry leapt into action, demanding I pick a soup because he was gonna MAKE THE CRAP OUT OF IT. I chose simple tomato with toast. For me, there's no better comfort food. And, because everything is better with an egg on it, I took another tip from our editor-in-chief and decided to poach an egg in the pot, too. The results made for a cozy sick-brunch, the perfect compliment to midday movie-watching and Advil-popping.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salted butter
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes in their juices
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or, if you've been making soup for weeks & are out of broth, use water & salt to taste)
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup heavy cream

1. Over medium heat, at butter and oil to a large pot. Once butter is melted, add onion and sauté until it's clear and fragrant.

2. Add tomatoes and juices to the pot and stir, using the back of your spoon to crush the tomatoes. Add broth or water and bay leaves, and raise heat until the soup starts to simmer. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes start to fall apart.

3. Turn heat to very low and remove bay leaves. Blend with an immersion blender until well pureed. Stir in cream. Keeping the soup at a very low simmer, crack egg into a cup or bowl, then gently slide it into the soup. Cover the pot and let the egg cook for about three minutes. Ladle gently into a bowl, and serve. Repeat the egg-poaching for every serving.

Note: Toast on the side is mandatory.
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
Red-Wine Braised Beef Stew
For me, there is no winter without a boeuf Bourguignon. It takes effort and time and shopping for good ingredients, and I love every second of it. This year, I spent MLK Day on my annual stew, and, for the first time, I went rogue. In lieu of the traditional Julia Child recipe, I decided to test Marcella Hazan's Italian version. I'm obsessed with Marcella this year, and not one recipe has let me down yet.

But, then...

I noticed first that the stew had less liquid than I was used to — only calling for a little wine. But I sat down at my laptop and let it simmer away, trusting Marcella would make her usual magic. By 6, Harry texted to say he'd have to stay late at the office. I replied, "GREAT!" because it would give my stew the time to get...better. It smelled good, but when I peaked into the pot, I wasn't overwhelmed by that glorious, rich, winey aroma I'd come to expect from this type of dish. Still, I knew Marcella would not disappoint. Right, Marcella?

By the time we sat down for our late-night stew supper, I was ready to admit the truth. Marcella makes a totally decent stew. But, Julia makes the stew. Feel free to check out Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Italian Cooking, for her take, but I'll leave you with the classic boeuf Bourguignon, adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Ingredients:
1 6-oz piece chunk bacon
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 large carrots, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 cups red wine, young and full bodied
3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
20 small white onions
3 1/2 tbsp butter
herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 lb fresh mushrooms, quartered

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 ½ quarts water. Drain and dry.

3. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole (I use a cast iron dutch oven) over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove with a slotted spoon and set in a dish on the side.

4. Dry beef in paper towels — it will not brown if it's damp (yep, just like in that movie!). Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

5. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

6. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, carrot, celery, and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

7. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste, and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

8. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

9. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

10. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes or egg noodles, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Note: this stew is amazing when served immediately, but it's amaaazing on the second or third day.
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
Soupe aux Champignons
Lucky gal that I am, I wound up with a wonderful aunt who cooks wonderful things and, oh yeah, lives in the french countryside. She's by no means a foodie or a culinary snob, but she's the kind of person who just throws together an apple cake when the neighbor swings by for a cup of coffee. I spent last Thanksgiving at her house, enjoying baked salmon, buckwheat galettes, and absolutely no turkey. During the winter, she usually makes a big pot of soup every few days, reheating it for lunch and dinner. One night, at my (constant) request, she whipped up her Soupe aux Champignons — quite simply, the best mushroom soup anyone has ever had. Hot and creamy, this is the kind of soup that's perfect for thawing you out on a frigid night and putting you to sleep happy. Needless to say, I came home bragging pretty hard about it.

This soup, while absolutely easy to make, was one of the most decadent and flavorful that Harry and I had ever made. I'd half believed that I'd never be able to replicate the magic outside of my aunt's kitchen, so when I took my first slurp, I couldn't stop myself from screeching, "It worked!"

"Well, yeah," Harry said to his bowl. "Butter works."

Fair enough, and I'll admit this rich soup is not one you'd want to eat every day — but after one bowl, you'll be so sated that you won't even reach for seconds. Once in a winter, it's worth the butter and cream.

Here's my aunt's recipe and instructions:

Ingredients:
4 tbsp ("a big hunk") of salted butter
2 average-sized yellow onions, finely chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tbsp flour
5 1/3 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Salt & Pepper, to taste

1. In a big soup pot, melt butter and cook onions without searing them (medium-low heat).

2. Add mushrooms and cook until they are limp (a few minutes).

3. Add flour to coat the vegetables, stirring constantly so it won’t burn.

4. Add stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Turn down heat under pan and let it simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

6. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to purée the soup, until it is nice and smooth.

7. Add cream and stir until well combined.

8. Heat and serve. Croutons* taste good with it if they are nice and crisp, but definitely without garlic.

*As my aunt does, we sliced up a baguette and toasted the pieces until quite crisp. Each serving of soup was topped with one of these large croutons. If you're gonna go for it, go for it.
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Illustrated by Giacomo Bagnara.
Miso Soup with Bok Choy
For this last soup, I cheated on Harry with my best friend. Though committed, we are clearly not yet soup-exclusive.

When Chrissy and I get together to make dinner, the meal goes one of two ways: healthy and green, or risotto. Tonight we leaned green, and it turned into one of my favorite meals of the winter. Miso — it's more than just the thing that comes with your sushi.

Miso soup is ridiculously easy, satisfying, and highly nutritive. Touted for its antioxidant, digestive, and cardiovascular benefits (though, it is a high-sodium food so, as always, moderation is the key), I personally love it for it's flexibility. Want a little extra protein? Throw an egg in there. Need to refuel with some carbs? Udon goes great, too. Here is the basic recipe we used, but feel free to play a little jazz with it. This was the dummy-proof meal that made me remember how truly satisfying this staple is.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup wakame
4 cups bok choy
4 scallions
1/2 lb soft tofu
Either: 6 cups dashi + 1/2 cup shiro miso paste OR 6 tbsp miso paste with dashi + 6 cups water*

*Depending on the miso/dashi paste you buy, the ratio of water to paste may be slightly different. Double check the container's instructions and err on the side of putting too little paste in. You can easily add more at the end, since this is a very quick soup.

1. Add dashi, miso, and water (or miso/dashi paste and water) to a pot, and bring to a simmer. Be sure to stir well so the paste fully dissolves. Add wakame.

2. Chop bok choy into large bite-sized pieces and add to the pot.

3. Cube tofu into small pieces and add to the pot.

4. Finally, chop scallions into small slices, add to the pot, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
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