It seems like every time I make a menu and then post it, I later have to modify it. Several times I’ve planned a tuna casserole, forgetting I had no tuna (and forgetting to buy it). This time I forgot to buy canned salmon for the patties. Must be the mommy brain. As I was thinking this morning about having Hubby go to the store for salmon, I had a brain flash: “How ’bout using those leftover herb-baked potatoes from last night to make a wonderful soup?” Tonight’s menu features homemade pizza, which I’ve not been able to get excited about yet, probably because I was too tired yesterday to get the crust made, and tomorrow’s has the salmon patties. So, what to do… I’ll make the pizza crust today, the soup for tonight, and do the pizza tomorrow night. That will give me pizza leftovers for Thursday lunch, which will be great, because I will have worked an overnight shift Wednesday night and won’t have to cook lunch on Thursday. (I probably will be in some sort of comatose at noon on Thursday.) Confused? It’s called “going with the flow.”
Now, for those readers who read the Broth Based Soup post, you get to expand your soup-making repertoire and learn how to make a cream (or milk) based soup. From scratch.
As I’m beginning this post, I have not started the soup, but I have an idea of what it will be like because I have some key ingredients waiting for me in the fridge. First let’s talk about cream soups. We’ll start with a deconstruction, like we did before.
Milk Based Soup Deconstruction
- Base – Think of Cream of Whatever soups. Basically, a broth or meat flavored white sauce, thinned down to soup consistency. We’ll do this from scratch, of course, with my Grandma’s gravy ratio for fat, flour and liquid. You need to consider fat to be part of the base. You could go with just butter, which is of course yummy! I often use a combo of fats to make the sauce with, because that’s what I have and that’s what I love! (Imagine the flavor of a sauce made with butter, bacon grease and beef tallow!)
- Basic flavor veggies – As always, I begin with my flavor veggies, my “mirepoix”–onion, celery & carrot. These will heavily flavor your soup base, yet remain in the background to allow the stars of the show to shine through! You’ll want approximately equal amounts of these veggies, cut up as small as possible (in fact, I often just grate the carrot, and you could do the same with the onion and celery too).
- Meat/protein – This differs from the broth based soup. You don’t necessarily need meat for a cream soup, which is why I often make them for my non-meat meals. The milk in the base (plus possibly cheese added later) will give you lots of protein. If you have some leftover meat and want to put it in, go ahead! You could make a cream of chicken soup with leftover chicken from the night before. I usually make more of a cream of veggie soup, heavily flavored with some sort of meat fat. If I have a few slices of bacon hanging out in the fridge or freezer (which is rare), I’ll crumble that up and throw in the pot.
- Starch– This depends on what you’re going for here. Obviously, a potato soup will have potatoes for the starch. You don’t really need any noodles or other starchy things. Look in your fridge for inspiration here–what do have sitting in there, begging to be used? Maybe some leftover rice? I just looked in the fridge, and I saw a tiny bit of leftover pasta, so I’ll put that in the pot too, along with my baked potatoes.
- Extra/signature vegetables – What kind of soup do you want? Cream of broccoli? Cream of mushroom? Or a mixture of veggies? You’ll usually want to cook the veggies first, instead of putting them in raw. (They would eventually cook, of course, but I like to make things as quick and easy as possible. I can usually get a soup done from start to finish in about a half hour.) Today, I think I’ll use a mix of veggies in addition to the potatoes–probably some zucchini and red bell pepper.
- And then there’s the cheese. I am all about the cheese! I should belong to Cheeselovers Anonymous, because there’s not a day goes by without me throwing it in something! It just makes life better. I’m going to use some cream cheese and some cheddar cheese.
So let’s get cooking! As before, I’m not going to give exact amounts. I will be making the soup in my 2 quart pot, to give you an idea of the finished amount.
Milk Based Soup
- If your extra/signature veggies need cooking first, do it now (Broccoli or cauliflower, etc.). I wanted to put in some crumbled bacon, so I fried the bacon while I was chopping veggies. Since I had another good fat to use, I decided to save the bacon grease for other uses, but still take advantage of the flavor of the bacon itself. However, often I will use bacon grease to saute my veggies in. Not very NT, but a yummy compromise!
- Finely chop equal portions of onion, celery and carrot. Let’s say a large
handful of each, give or take. Heat up your pan and put some fat in it. I have a mix of beef tallow, coconut oil and olive oil leftover from frying some potato chips the other night, so I’ll use some of that. At least a couple tablespoonsful. When that is melted and hot, put your flavor veggies in it and let them cook over medium-high heat til tender, stirring occasionally.
- While those are cooking, chop any other veggies to go in later. I’m
using zucchini and a little red bell pepper. Those will go in the pot towards the end of cooking the onion mixture, since they won’t take that long to get done. I also chopped my potatoes. I had some leftover baked potatoes from last night that I had dipped in herb butter before baking, so I used those.
- You’re going to have to look at your veggies and consider how quick-cooking they are. I really can’t tell you when to add them to the pot, but you definitely don’t want to add something like tiny chopped zucchini or thin sliced mushrooms at the beginning. Just take a guess and add them later, so they get done approximately all together. Don’t worry too much about this–just do it! Since my potatoes are already cooked, I’m not going to add them til after the sauce part is done.
- Now, this can be done different ways, but often I think it’s just easier to
throw all these veggies (once they’re all done) onto a plate, so I can use the same pot to make the sauce in. You add the veggies back into the pot later. Professional chefs probably don’t do it this way, but oh well. Works for me!
- Make your white sauce. My grandmother used the rule “2+2+1” for sauces/gravies. It means 2 Tbls. fat + 2 Tbls. flour + 1 cup of liquid. You can adjust this accordingly if you want a thinner or thicker sauce. I’m thinking my sauce here should be slightly thinner because of all the potatoes, so I’ll do maybe 1+1+1. I don’t measure it, but that’s basically the ratio of how I do this. For fat, I’m going to use butter. For liquid, I’m going to use milk and frozen chicken bone broth. So, for my 2 quart soup pot with a ton o’ veggies in it, I’m thinking I’ll need about 3-4 cups of sauce. I put 1/2 stick of butter in the pan and when it’s
melted, add about the same of flour, stirring with a whisk til it’s all incorporated and then a bit more. Stirring constantly with the whisk, add maybe a cup of milk at a time until it thickens, then add more. I want to use some bone broth, so once I have several cups of milk in and it’s looking like a
thick sauce, I add frozen bone broth til the sauce thins out to my liking. Season with sea salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked veggies back in and taste for seasoning. I also threw in my potatoes and a handful of cooked pasta here. I wanted this to be a very CREAMY soup, so I added maybe a 1/4 cup cream cheese and a big handful of cheddar cheese and stir til melted.
- Since the veggies are so flavorful, I often don’t add any seasoning except salt and pepper, but I happened to have some frozen herb butter on hand, so I put that on top for the photo then stirred it in. Simply marvelous! Give yourself a high five.
- If the soup is too thick, add some milk. Usually I have to do this to the leftovers, as it thickens when refrigerated. If it’s too thin, you could try putting a couple ladles of it in the blender for a minute, then add back to the pot.
This post is part of Tuesday Twister Blog Carnival.