Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Therapeutic Cooking #2: Warming Winter Soup on a Budget
I don't want to keep on harping on the dismal state of the U.S. economy, but I know we've all been feeling the impact of the recession in our lives. However, just because we are feeling the pinch in our pocketbooks, doesn't mean that we have to feel the pinch in our waistlines! I want to share some brief instructions on how to make an amazingly simple and cost-effective meal with very affordable ingredients.
First, let's address the base of the soup. Using water for your soup is fine, but if you've roasted a chicken or turkey recently and still have the leftover carcass sitting in your refrigerator (specifically, I am referring to the ribcage, neck, wingtips, and butt, with all large pieces of meat removed), use it! Boil the carcass in a large stockpot until the meat on the bones is stringy and spent of all of its flavor. Save the "stock" and add it to this winter soup. The stock from the leftover carcass will be rich in body and in flavor because it has collected all of the concentrated, roasted poultry flavor from bones and oven-roasted skin. You don't have to add anything else to make this stock--you don't even have to add onions! Also, feel free add whatever leftover wine you have left in your refrigerator to your soup. I wouldn't open a new bottle of wine for this soup, but if you have a half-consumed bottle in your fridge, pour it in!
Next, let's talk about the meat. Instead of purchasing a large, premium cut of beef or even cubed chuck, go to your butcher and ask for beef soup bones. These are usually as cheap as 0.99 cents a pound! Usually, beef soup bones have a lot of gristle, gelatin, and fat that breaks down only after prolonged cooking. The bones will also have remaining bits of meat, which will be little protein surprises in your soup. I promise, these bones will make your winter soup divine. The marrow from the soup bones lends milkiness and unrivaled depth to the soup. Simmer the bones in the water (or stock) for at least 2 hours.
Then, you can add 2 cans of whole tomatoes, and peeled and roughly cut carrots and potatoes. Boil these root vegetables and tomatoes until they are tender, and add chopped celery. Boil the celery until just soft, and then cover the soup with the lid and take it off the burner. Feel free to extend the soup with cans of tomato sauce, for a deeper, thicker feel. Then, you are done. Taste the soup and the root vegetables, and cook it longer, if necessary.
See how easy and affordable that was? The texture of the soup will be substantial, and the flavor will satiate even the most hungry of beasts. And really, all you have to purchase is the beef bones, carrots, potatoes, celery, and two cans of whole tomatoes. That is what I call a hearty and therapeutic meal!