To kick off SOUPS MONTH here on Crisp, my goal was simple: showcase a clear, flavorful, complex broth in a classic soup, and then use that broth to develop a series of soups in various styles.
Well, at least that seemed like a simple goal.
I've made stocks and broths before, but never with any real understanding of what I was doing or why. My usual approach is to put a chicken carcass in a pot, cover it with some water, add aromatics, turn the heat up, forget about it, and boil it for a few hours.
This leads to a passable stock, but, as I discovered, leaves so much nuance and layers of flavor left unexplored. Plus a broth made this way is cloudy and more opaque than translucent, and I wanted to know how to make a broth I could see through clearly.
So, I did what any self-respecting millennial looking for information on how to do something would do... I went to the local library and checked out every book they had on soup making.
That turned out to only be one book, so I ordered a second and ended up with these two:
The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, by Bernard Clayton
Splendid Soups, by James Peterson
These two books, combined with research from the old standbys (Serious Eats and America's Test Kitchen), helped be build a base of knowledge around stock and broth making to develop my own recipe and test it out.
I learned a lot about what I was doing wrong - and, a bit about how I could do it better. The biggest problem the research made me aware of was that the simple act of boiling the stock is a big no-no if you're after a final result you can see through.
Peterson's Splendid Soups seemed to take this idea a little too seriously. In his section on clear broths and consommé, he said if your pot comes to even the slightest boil, throw it out and start over, "You've ruined it."
Ok buddy, that's a bit too harsh. I didn't freak out when my pot came to a boil once or twice during cooking, I just quickly turned down the flame and let the temperature drop.
It also became apparent through my readings that throwing everything in the pot right at the beginning robs you the opportunity to build layers of flavor. A staggered approach to adding ingredients is the way to go, and as I experimented with making stock a few times I found this to be true.
I was also curious: Was this even worth it? I can easily just buy a quart of stock at the grocery store and skip all this work (sometimes it's even on sale! What a deal!!).
So, I set up a taste test to see if I just wasted two weeks of my time and effort.
The above is my homemade stock (Before it's second straining, I was still refining the recipe at this point), next to the Kitchen Basics, no salt added, Chicken Stock that I've been using for years.
The results: I'm probably biased, but I think homemade is definitely the way to go (even if the store bought is on sale). The flavor is richer, and it lingers in a pleasing way where the store-bought, by comparison, felt thin and hollow. The homemade stock had more subtlety, it had a deeper chicken flavor, and it was more vegetal at the same time. With homemade you can control your own salt/sodium additions.
If you have the time, make your own stock in large quantities and freeze it. That's what I did for all of the soups you'll be seeing as part of SOUPS MONTH here on Crisp.
Below you'll find all of the recipes posted to Crisp during SOUPS MONTH, updated as they become available. We'll start with the recipe for my homemade chicken stock and the fantastic Matzah Ball soup you can make with it.
An asian Hot & Sour Soup will highlight the flexibility of the chicken broth, easily converting it into a gingery base for an easy at-home version of the Chinese takeout classic.
We'll explore how to recreate a Turkish yogurt soup I had one time at a local cafe and couldn't stop thinking about.
And we'll end the month with a pureed sweet potato and poblano pepper soup that will change your mind about sweet potatoes (and I don't even know what you think about sweet potatoes, I'm just pretty sure this soup will change your mind).