Having worked in kitchens for several years, Randal Smathers knows how to make a proper soup and has some really great tips to share:
- Always, always saute veggies well before adding stock or water.
- Taste the stock alone for flavor. If it’s thin, canned tomato products, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, wine, lemon juice, leftover mashed potatoes, herbs, or even herbal tea (lemon zinger works well and is vegan-friendly) can bolster a stock.
- Seasoned yogurt adds flavor and creaminess, especially to plain broths and tomato soups.
- Adding fresh, finely chopped vegetables to a hot stock just before serving restores color and a little texture to a too-uniform soup.
- Soups store and reheat well, but if you’re going to store a noodle soup, cook and store the noodles separately, or they will balloon up and soak up the stock (barley and rice less so). Always reseason soup after reheating. The flavors tend to blend but also mellow.
At a past cooking demo, Randal discussed this white bean soup. While his methods are authentic, they require a slightly greater time commitment than some other recipes. However, much of the cooking is unattended – making this, and soups in general, great weekend cooking.
White Bean Soup
1-1 1/2 pounds dried Kenearly beans from Yoder Farm or another yellow/white bean
2 pounds ham hocks or ham bone
3 medium onions
1 stick celery
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 pound Wallingford Locker bacon ends (optional)
Soak the beans in cold water with baking soda for at least 6 hours (overnight is better).
Drain beans, cover with fresh cold water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until just soft (about an hour), stirring occasionally. Drain cooked beans.
Boil ham hocks in a large pot with one onion (halved), one carrot, the bay leaf, half a dozen peppercorns, and the celery. DO NOT ADD SALT. This can simmer for 2-3 hours, adding water to cover bones as needed. Strain stock and let cool. Pick any meat off of the bones, discarding the fat. If you prepare this in advance, you can cool the stock in the fridge or freezer and skim and discard the congealed fat.
Meanwhile, roughly chop remaining onions and carrots and leek. Smash the garlic.
In your biggest, heaviest pot, saute vegetables thoroughly. If you add bacon, cut it into 1/4 inch dice, and saute it with the vegetables. Add the meat from the bones. Add beans and ham stock. Simmer until beans are mostly broken down, and the soup has thickened. Add fresh water, stock, or the water the beans cooked in to thin soup as needed (be aware: the bean water will darken the light soup).
Taste, then season with pepper and salt if needed. If you added extra bacon, you should not need more salt.