so this is actually a bunch of recipes all together, but they are so similar I’m going to count them as one.

2011 continues to be the year of soup.  maybe I should rename it as “winter 2011/2012” because I have a feeling this is going to continue past the new year, but that is pretty wordy.  last week I had three kinds of soup–all made by someone else.  my mom’s chicken noodle, and then one of my culinary kids brought me two kinds on different days–a tomato basil that had some crazy cheese in it that was literally the best soup I’ve ever had, and a chicken corn chowder that was excellent but not as good as the tomato.  score!  thanks kid!

after a few failed attempts in the past to make soup in my blender (bad news bears) my friend stephanie told me I must get an immersion blender.  YOU GUYS.  I am obsessed.  this thing is the  this is the one I got (only I KNOW I paid less than it is showing, I think like $24 or something?  and look at all those awesome colors they have now!  where were those a few months ago??) and I love it.  it makes beautiful creamy soup.  but I haven’t had much luck using it unless I have a pretty deep batch.  I guess I could use a smaller pot if I wanted less, but it works better when you have deeper stuff to work with.  hey, I have no problem making a lot.  I’m guessing my family has no problem with it either.

so here is my basic process.  this is by no means specific or precise or anything like that.  I think this is why I cook more, and don’t bake much.  I don’t like to measure stuff.  this “recipe”/process is adapted from this recipe (too thin, needs more potatoes or less liquid) and a recipe for potato, leek and fennel soup from this cookbook (which I also think I paid way less for–maybe today is overcharge on everything day on amazon).

First, chop up a lot of vegetables.  I insist that you at least use potatoes and leeks.  I would go with five or six potatoes, depending on how big they are.  I hate peeling potatoes so I’ve been getting bigger ones lately.  and I love the veggies at trader joe’s.  they are so affordable and so good.  if you get smaller potatoes you will need more.  also get at least two leeks.  leeks are the main reason I love veggies at trader joe’s right now.  they are already pretty clean (HUGE BONUS) and they’re trimmed pretty well so they’re easier to deal with.  after potatoes and leeks you can also add fennel (I don’t love fennel but it is AWESOME in soup), probably one bulb or a little more, OR, asparagus.  my soup tonight was supposed to have asparagus, but I bought it a week ago and it didn’t last until today.  it was very sad and I only had potatoes and leeks.  which is still excellent.  use at least a pound of asparagus.  snap the ends off first, duh.  if you like carrots (I HATE them cooked) they would probably work well in a recipe like this too.  or any other root vegetable, really.

put a few tablespoons of evoo in a big pot.  you can use butter too.  heat it up and throw in the sliced leeks.  if you weren’t paying attention and put the potatoes in too (oops) it’s no big deal, the world will go on.  cook the leeks for a few minutes til they are a little softer.  add a spoonful of minced garlic and cook for a tiny bit, then toss in the potatoes (and other veggies) and pour in a carton of chicken broth.  I love salt but I get the low sodium kind and season it on my own.  you actually probably need about six cups of chicken broth–which is about a carton and a half.  but err on the side of less–you can always add more later if it’s too thick (but you can’t fix it if it’s too thin).

then cover it and let it simmer for oh, half an hour?  let it do an easy simmer and you’ll like it better.  I usually have the burner on 6 or 7 til it starts to get pretty bubbly, then turn it down to 4 or so.

once the potatoes are soft (test them with a fork), do a little seasoning.  salt and black pepper, and some herbs.  super green ones like parsley.  no dill.  thyme is okay.  I love fresh herbs but haven’t been to the store in awhile, so I’ve been using my parisien bonnes herbes from penzey’s.  yum!  I actually also like ground coriander an awful lot in these soups.  throw some in.  do whatever you want.  I inherited a ridiculous love of black pepper from my mom so I do a lot of that.  and I probably add more salt than I should.

now, this is optional but I am into it, pour in some heavy cream or half and half.  maybe half a cup to a cup.  depending on how thick you want it.  again, start with less and add more if you need it.

now turn off the heat, grab your immersion blender and go to town.  you’ll be glad you did.  if it’s too thick add some more chicken stock or cream.

now if you’re like me, you are obsessed with mason jars and you can fill up a bunch and stick it in your fridge to take to your family.

eat some now too!  put some cheese on there.  go with either a hard shredded cheese, like parmesan or romano or asiago, OR, if you want to get really crazy, grab a wedge of soft herbed cheese like laughing cow and mix it in when it’s hot.  unreal.
so, to summarize:
1.  chop up a lot of potatoes and leeks and other veggies
2.  saute leeks in evoo or butter for a few minutes
3.  add garlic and cook for a minute or so
4.  add potatoes and chicken stock and other veggies
5.  simmer for awhile
6.  season and add cream
7.  blend it up
8.  serve hot with cheese (hard shredded or creamy herbed)
9.  store in mason jars.

do you have any good soup recipes I should try?  I am so game.  next I need to learn panera’s chicken wild rice.