Fall Recipes

Hot Soups

Victoria Amory

From the stove to the tureen, hot soups are the antidote to the Autumn Blues.


Photo: Marco Mayer / 123RF Stock Photo.

Creamy Garlic Soup

Do not let the pedestrian ingredients deter you from making this soup; the resulting flavors are actually quite complex. This cream-based garlic soup makes a wonderful lunch when you float a piece of fried bread on top, covered with a poached egg. For elegant dinner parties, the garnishes can be decadent: diced foie gras; or caviar on blini; or pieces of grilled lobster. Serve it before a rich meat course for a wonderful winter dinner.

Ingredients [Serves 6 to 8]
1 head of garlic, peeled
2 quarts of homemade chicken broth
1 loaf white country bread, crusts removed and diced
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground pepper

In a small pan filled with boiling water, blanch the garlic for a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat. In a stockpot, combine the chicken broth and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the bread and bring to a boil. Add the cream and stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Working in batches, purée the soup in the blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to a clean stockpot to keep warm. Serve hot.

Spanish Onion Soup

This soup is sensational for entertaining a crowd. It can be prepared days ahead of time and assembled hours before serving. I have served it as a first course followed by roast chicken and a green salad. On other occasions, I serve it as a hearty one-pot meal. It can be made with a single type of onion or a combination of Vidalia, Spanish and white onions; just give them time to caramelize and sweeten to a deep mahogany color. The tomato sauce is best when homemade and the bread must be a day old if it is going to retain its shape. If not using homemade beef broth, use a very good quality purchased broth. It makes a difference, as does using artisanal cheeses. Serve it hot, with the cheese bubbling.

Ingredients [Serves 6 to 8]
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, thinly sliced on a mandolin
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup white wine
1 baguette, thinly sliced
4 cups tomato sauce
1 pound fresh Manchego cheese, grated (semi-soft cheese)
1 cup aged Manchego cheese, grated (hard cheese)
4 cups beef broth
Salt and fresh ground pepper

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil until smoking. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are caramelized and turn a dark golden color, about 20 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer until it nearly evaporates, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove all the drippings; season with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon half of the tomato sauce into an ovenproof dish. Arrange enough bread slices on it to cover the bottom of the dish. Scatter half of the onions over the bread. Top with the half of the fresh cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, onions and fresh cheese. Finish with remaining tomato sauce. Scatter the aged Manchego on top. Pour the broth into the dish until it reaches the top and let it rest until the bread soaks up the broth, about 20 minutes. Bake until the top is golden and the sauce bubbles, about 30 minutes.

Everyday Vegetable Puree

On Sunday afternoons, when the fridge is full of vegetables from the farmer’s market and I am anticipating a very busy week, I often make enough soup to last through the following Friday. It is the perfect quick lunch and the ideal dinner should I arrive home late. What’s more, homemade soups keep me from eating the things I should not. The ingredients in my soups vary depending on the season; some weeks they’re a purée of carrots and broccoli, or lettuce and potatoes; other times I combine cauliflower and apples. I prefer to limit my vegetable purées to two main ingredients; any more than that and the flavors are clouded. Whatever the pairing, it can sometimes include a roasted vegetable or two, which generally makes a sweeter and more robust soup, whereas sautéed or boiled vegetables results in a purée that is a bit more delicate. Puréeing the soup in a food processor yields a thicker consistency; the blender makes the soups fine and velvety smooth. For fibrous ingredients that need straining, the blender will yield better results. Always purée in batches and fill the blender or food processor only halfway; the steam rises to the top and can burn you, or explode and make a huge mess in the kitchen. Use an oven mitt or a towel to hold the top in place for extra security. Less a recipe than a method, the following is designed for improvisation. For example, when my soup is heavy on carrots, I add a little ginger to the onions. To cauliflower, I add pears and to broccoli lots of parsley. These vegetable soups keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for months.

Ingredients [Serves 6 to 8]
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
½ cup white wine
3 stalks celery, peeled and diced
3 lbs. total of 1 or 2 vegetables: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or zucchini
1 small potato, peeled and diced
6 cups homemade chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent; season lightly with sea salt. Add the white wine and simmer until it evaporates. Add the celery and sauté until soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the vegetables, cooking about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bay leaf; season with pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor until very fine. Pass it through a strainer if needed and return it to a clean pot to keep warm until ready to serve.

Mushroom Soup with Tarragon and Truffle Oil

What this soup lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste. No matter. I add lots of fresh tarragon, which is essential, and drizzle truffle oil into it to make it elegant and absolutely delicious. Serve it in your prettiest bowls and garnish with something crispy such as fried Serrano ham or homemade croutons. I have made this soup using just one kind of mushroom and also using a mixture of Portobello, shiitake, button and oyster.

Ingredients [Serves 6]
2 lbs. whole mushrooms, mixed or single variety, brushed clean and trimmed, stems reserved
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups fresh tarragon leaves, plus more sprigs for garnish
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 celery stalks, diced
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup Parmesan
1 tablespoon black truffle oil (or more to taste)
Dry white wine for garnish
Homemade Croutons
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

In a large stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the reserved mushrooms stems and sauté until light brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 clove of garlic and 1 cup tarragon leaves to the pot; sauté until fragrant. Add 8 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to 6 cups, about 20 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Set aside. In a clean stockpot, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic, onions and celery and sauté until soft. Add the mushrooms, seasoning generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and sauté until slightly golden. Add the reserved mushroom stock and the remaining tarragon leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth and return to a clean pot. Add the heavy cream and Parmesan. Taste and adjust seasonings. Drizzle the truffle oil into the soup gradually, tasting after each addition. Garnish with tarragon sprigs.

Sopa de Picadillo

This classic Andalusian soup is my family’s version of chicken soup. We used to have it as children when we were not feeling well and also during Lent as a light supper. Be sure to use an excellent quality broth if you are not making your own. At elegant dinner parties I serve this soup in delicate consommé cups.

6 cups homemade beef stock, or low-sodium canned
4 ozs. Serrano or Virginia ham, finely chopped
1 breast of chicken, poached and finely diced
3 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped
½ cup dry Fino sherry
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Pour the broth into a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the ham, chicken, hardboiled eggs, sherry and mint leaves and simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Ladle into consommé cups and serve.

Shrimp and Crab Curry Soup

One of my favorite entertaining dishes, this Shrimp and Crab Curry Soup is a total crowd pleaser. I make it with shrimp for elegant buffets, but when entertaining a small group, I add crab at the end of the cooking—a luxurious addition. If you opt to use a light version of the coconut milk, the resulting soup will be a bit thinner than if you use the regular variety. Serve this soup with fluffy jasmine rice along with garnishes such as a variety of mango chutneys, sliced scallions, toasted pine nuts and almond slivers.

Ingredients [Serves 6 to 8]
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon coriander
1 yellow pepper, membrane removed and diced
1 lb. white corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup homemade chicken stock, or low-sodium canned
1 cup coconut milk
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound crabmeat, picked over
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Serves 6 to 8

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until transparent. Add the chili powder, curry and turmeric and stir to coat well with the oil until fragrant. Add the pepper and sauté until bright, about 3 minutes. Add the corn and chicken stock, stirring between each addition. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk and shrimp. Raise the heat and return to a boil. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, until the shrimp turn pink. Add the crabmeat, heat through and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.


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