The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

November 28, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Hard to beat a warm bowl of soup

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Finleys and the Saferites kicked off the holiday season Saturday night in Parsons, Kan., at Roy Clark's Christmas show featuring Duke Mason and Jana Jae. What a great evening with a variety of songs from these really talented entertainers.

This milder weather has made it difficult for me to realize it's the holiday season as well as the start of soup season. Ranging from the 20s to the 60s, I'm enjoying the nicer days but am ready for a nice bowl of homemade soup on a chilly day. Here's some soup information gathered from online sources:

Soup is generally a thin broth with meat and/or vegetables and can be served cold although it's almost always served hot. It's hard to beat a good bowl of vegetable soup, which was almost always my birthday dinner choice when I was growing up. Since my birthday is in May, I was ready for a bowl of soup, even if the temperature outside said summer. I will still choose vegetable soup over just about anything, especially if it's made from leftover pot roast and has been allowed to sit in the refrigerator overnight. If you have been saving those bits of leftover veggies in small freezer bags, this is the perfect time to empty them into the pot and enjoy a garden full of flavor.

Stew has a thicker sauce, and the meat is usually stewed or cooked for a long period of time, hence its name. This is great for less tender cuts of meat that will become more tender and juicy with the slow, moist cooking. Less liquid means a heartier dish than soup that can be served on a plate instead of in a bowl as it can almost be casserole-like.

Chowder is thicker, milk- or cream-based, usually containing seafood or vegetables but can be tomato-based as we see in Manhattan clam chowder. An important condiment for chowder? Saltine crackers. These can be used to thicken the chowder or simply  eaten with the bowl of tastiness.

Bisque is a highly seasoned, creamy soup with origins based on a broth strained from cooked crustaceans. It is typically thickened with rice, which is either strained later or pureed to a smooth consistency. Sometimes, soups made from roasted vegetables that have been pureed are called bisques but they are really soups unless you have poured some broth over a lobster while making the bisque. Chowder and bisque are basically the same dish except the chowder is chunky while the bisque is smooth.

Looking to make some soup or stew but don't have any leftover roast or chicken with gravy? You will need some stock or broth to maximize the flavor. While some say stock is good for gravy and main dishes and broth is best for soup, I prefer using stock for just about everything except boiling my potatoes. I always add a little chicken broth to the water, especially for mashed potatoes and potato soup. Give those spuds a nice flavor that I think really adds to the dish. Broth tends to be made using the meaty parts while making stock means simmering the bones and thus releasing the gelatins found in them. Stocks are also never salted, and broths can end up being too salty for some uses. Make a clean, reduced stock clarified with egg whites and you have consomme.

No stock or broth? Bouillon is easy to keep on your pantry shelf and comes in handy in a pinch. It is also very salty, so remember this when seasoning foods to which bouillon has been added. Whether you prefer soup or stew, chowder or bisque, get geared up for the winter months with the idea of enjoying your favorite.   

Also kicking off the holiday season is the beginning of the local Christmas parades. I hope there's a big crowd Monday night at 7 p.m. in Carthage for the annual Christmas parade. Be sure to check out the fifth entry. You will see me being honored as the grand marshal. I still can't believe it. What an exciting time!  

A big thank you to my dear neighbors Ed and Ruth Sneed for the wild cherry jelly they left on my doorstep. After reading about my restricted diet, they supplied me with something that wasn't raw vegetables or raw fruits. Ruth said she has been unable to make this jelly for a few years because the trees just didn't produce any fruit. But, thankfully, this year Ed spotted the little gems and she was able to make a batch. Lucky for me! This is the first time I have tried wild cherry jelly and it's my new favorite.

All of today's recipes are from "The Dinner Doctor." It's a great cookbook for taking everyday ingredients and turning them into a quick and satisfying meal. The broccoli salad can be served at once or kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. The chowder is ready in less than 30 minutes, and you don't even have to peel a single potato. For dessert, the pudding cake is ready after some time in the slow cooker, and begs to be served warm with vanilla ice cream. I call it a triple threat with chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and chocolate chips. Maybe it's a triple treat instead. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!

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