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When the winter weather outside is frightful, soups and stews can be very delightful. There is a wide variety of delicious soups and stews that can be made at home—from classic chicken noodle soup to regional favorites like gumbo and pozole.
“There is something so wholesome and soothing about chicken soup,” Debbie Kornberg, cooking coach and owner of Spice + Leaf and JNF-USA San Diego President, said. “It has a calming effect, as it nourishes the body and soul.”
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One of the most comforting winter soups is classic chicken noodle, and Kornberg offers tips for making it at home. “Our secret ingredient is flanken, which is Yiddish for cut beef short ribs. We also add carrots, celery and leeks. You can elevate the humble chicken soup by adding spices like turmeric or dill. Just remember to skim the fat off the soup,” Kornberg said.
We’re also huge fans of regional winter soups. Gumbo, which is derived from the West African word for okra, is a Southern favorite with many variations and influences, including French and Native American. Commander’s Palace, one of New Orleans’ most iconic restaurants, has served gumbo for many years.
“My favorite thing about gumbo is the different interpretations you can have all over the Southern region,” Meg Bickford, executive chef at Commander’s Palace, said. “You can go to anyone’s home and find a different style of gumbo simmering on the stove. It’s amazing how each gumbo can be so different, but it’s what brings our communities together.”
Another regional dish that can have many variations for winter soups is pozole, which originated in Mexico. Most pozoles contain pork, garlic and hominy, as well as several spices. There are three types of pozole that represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Green pozole can contain tomatillos or cilantro, red pozole has more chiles like ancho or guajillo and white pozole does not have red or green sauce.
Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill, with locations in Arizona and Texas, introduced pozole to its winter menu.
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“The inspiration to make this dish was from my team. Most of our kitchen staff are from Mexico or Central America,” Z’Tejas Executive Chef Diego Bolanos said. “Pozole is not something you get the opportunity to cook very often, so I decided to do it with my regional chef in Arizona and give it the Z’Tejas touch by adding roasted poblanos and our house made guajillo sauce, while at the same time keeping all traditional ingredients and cooking methods. All the ingredients are easy to find in any grocery store, and it’s a fun and affordable dish to make.”
Many chefs like to create their own winter soups with seasonal ingredients. Chef Michael Rusconi of Rusconi’s American Kitchen in Phoenix offers a popular sweet potato and roasted apple soup that can be made at home.
“Using caramelized apples in a soup is not something typically done, and sweet potatoes are a complementary match with the apple flavor,” Rusconi said. “Garnishing with julienned apples and crema adds dimension and texture.”
On the heartier side of these winter soups is the French stew beef bourguignon. Chef Vincent Guerithault of Vincent on Camelback in Phoenix has been making this classic dish for decades. He serves several types of soup at his restaurant, including lobster bisque and butternut squash soup, and offers advice for making soups at home.
“Soups are a great way to use leftovers. Many soups are stock based, others are cream based and some are vegetables,” Guerithault said. “If you think about a soup as having one of these bases, it’s easy to pick a direction and get creative with ingredients you have at home. Add a little paprika and a pinch of cayenne, and you can elevate a winter soup that’s served hot with a different kind of heat.”
Keep reading for recipes to help you make some of our favorite winter soups, courtesy of these awesome chefs.
If you think about a soup as having one of these bases, it's easy to pick a direction and get creative with ingredients you have at home.
TRADITIONAL CHICKEN SOUP | Debbie Kornberg
● 1 whole chicken with skin
● 1 lb flanken (beef short rib)
● ½ lb carrots, cut into coins or use baby carrots and keep whole
● 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
● 2 onions, medium, chopped
● 2 leek stalks, cleaned and chopped
● Salt as needed
● 1 tbsp dill leaves (optional)
● 1 tsp ground turmeric (optional)
● Vermicelli egg noodles (optional)
Place whole chicken and flanken into a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Slowly bring to a simmer and continue cooking for about two hours. After two hours, check chicken with a wooden spoon. If the chicken breaks easily, it is fully cooked. Otherwise, continue cooking chicken until it reaches this point. Next, using a slotted spoon, skim the fat off the top of the soup. You can discard it or save it in a jar and use as a cooking butter/oil alternative. Keep in the refrigerator. Add carrots, celery, onions and leeks to soup.
Note: It is important to carefully clean each leek by slicing it down the middle and rinsing with water to ensure all of the soil has been removed. Optional: For additional yellow color and flavor, add turmeric to soup. For additional herbal notes, add dill.
Continue to simmer for an additional 30 to 60 minutes. It is ready to serve but is best the next day when all of the flavors have settled in together. Remove the chicken, flanken and vegetables from the soup before serving, For extra comfort, add cooked vermicelli egg noodles to soup when ready to serve. Salt as needed.
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CHICKEN AND ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE GUMBO | Commander’s Palace
● ¼ cup vegetable oil
● 3 lb chicken cut into medium sized pieces
● 1 lb Andouille sausage cut into 1/4″ discs
● 2 tbsp Creole seasoning
● 1 cup vegetable oil
● 1 ¼ cup flour
● 1 lb onion, medium diced
● ½ lb celery, medium diced
● ½ lb green bell pepper, medium diced
● ½ cup garlic, minced
● 1 tsp cayenne pepper
● 1 tbsp salt
● 4 bay leaves
● 3 quarts chicken stock
● 3 green onions, cut thin on the bias
● 1 tbsp Filé powder
● Additional seasoning as needed
Place a large, heavy soup pot on the stove over medium high heat for four minutes. Pour in ¼ cup of vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan. Season the chicken on all sides with the Creole seasoning and brown in the pot in small batches to ensure it’s evenly browned on all sides. When the batches of browned chicken come out of the pot, let them rest on a plate or serving platter to catch any juices. When chicken is done browning, brown all the sausage and render for three to four minutes to release all the smoky fats into the pan. Remove the sausage and let it rest with the chicken.
To the pot, add the additional one cup of oil and shake in the flour to start making the roux. Using a heavy, square nose wooden spoon, continually scrape all the brown pan drippings into the roux to begin the gumbo. Constantly stir over medium high heat until the roux becomes the shade of peanut butter. At this point, carefully stir in the onions, celery and green bell pepper and continually mix as the vegetables start to release steam and caramelize into the roux.
When vegetables are wilted and slightly brown, stir in the minced garlic, cayenne, salt and bay leaves, and continue to cook for one minute until flavor is released and pungent. Slowly add the stock while stirring constantly so the gumbo starts to thicken without forming roux balls. When the stock is added and the sauce is smooth and shiny, add the chicken back to the pot and bring to simmer. Skim the pot free of all fats and foam and reduce the heat to low.
Continue cooking the gumbo by stirring occasionally and skimming as needed for 50 minutes. Add the sausage, green onions and any additional seasonings as necessary such as Louisiana hot sauce and Worcestershire. Remove the pot from the heat and shake in the file’ powder to finish. Optional to serve with rice.
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BEEF BOURGUIGNON | Vincent Guerithault
● 1 lb beef top round cut into 1-inch cubes
● 1 cup red cooking wine
● 1 quart unsalted beef or veal stock
● 1 cup pearl onions
● 1 cup sliced portobello or cremini mushrooms
● 1 tbsp olive oil
● 1 tbsp unsalted butter
● 1 tsp tomato paste
● 1 tsp all-purpose flour
● Pinch of dried thyme, dried rosemary, salt and pepper
Season beef with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and sauté on high heat with olive oil until browned. Add wine and reduce for two to three minutes. Add beef or veal stock and cover with lid, simmering for at least two hours. Add pearl onions and mushrooms and return to low heat for 30 minutes. In a separate pan, melt butter and add flour on medium heat. Whisk while bubbling for 30 seconds.
With a ladle, add one cup of stock liquid from simmering beef, whisking in to blend the flour. Add tomato paste and whisk. Pour thickened tomato stock mixture back into simmering beef pot and bring to a boil while stirring. Serve with mashed potatoes or gratin dauphinois.
CARAMELIZED APPLE AND SWEET POTATO SOUP | Michael Rusconi
● 2 lbs sweet potatoes
● 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and rough chopped
● ¼ yellow onion, chopped
● 2 large carrots, chopped
● 1 tbsp fresh sage
● 1 tsp thyme
● ¼ cup honey
● ½ gallon chicken stock
● ¼ cup bacon fat
Rusconi's American Kitchen
Bake sweet potatoes in the oven until cooked fully. In a 4-quart pot, caramelize the apples in the bacon fat, then add onions and carrots, thyme and sage and cook until translucent. Add honey and caramelize it. Scoop out potatoes and add them and the chicken stock to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes and blend in the blender. Season with salt and white pepper.
Z-Tejas Southwestern Grill
PORK POZOLE | Z-Tejas Southwestern Grill
● 1 pound 8 ounces pork butt cut in 1-inch cubes
● 4 garlic cloves
● ½ tbs cumin powder
● 1 onion, chopped
● 2 tbsp oil
● 1/2 habanero
● ½ quart enchilada sauce
● ½ tsp black pepper
● ½ tsp cayenne
● 1 tsp chili powder
● 1 tsp salt
● ½ tsp oregano
● 5 cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
● 4 cups pork broth from cooking pork butt
● 8 ounces roasted poblanos, small dices
● 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable base
Chop the onion, peel the garlic cloves and chop two of them, chop the roasted poblanos, mince the habanero. Place the meat in a large saucepan and just cover with lightly salted water. Add one chopped onion, two cloves peeled garlic, pepper, cumin and oregano. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skim off any foam that rises, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove meat and broth, reserving both.
Saute the remaining chopped onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add the pork to the pan and saute. Add the pork broth and hominy and stir (if there is not enough pork broth, add up to two cups vegetable stock). Add the vegetable base. Add the remaining spices, stir for a minute and add enchilada sauce and poblanos. Cook at a simmer, covered, for 90 minutes until the meat and hominy are tender. Degrease the stew, taste for salt, pour in the full pan to cool down. When cooled, transfer to a two-gallon container. Pozole will have a shelf life of five days.
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