Much the same as the rest of the general population of the Vineyard, I have come down with the bug — the same nasty sickness that seems to always take down the Island around this time of year. My body is craving nourishment, while my sore throat needs to be treated delicately. Temperatures have dropped down into the “don’t go outside unless you must” zone, it’s necessary to warm your car up for longer than you have time for, and despite how much of a New Englander you are, you’ve finally switched from iced to hot coffee. So at this point it is safe to say that all our bodies are craving some warmth. Soup season has officially begun.
While the commencement of this time of year is a bit grim, the outcome is not. There is something extraordinary about soups and stews. You can find this type of cuisine within almost any culture, both contemporarily and historically. When prepared properly, the ingredients are cooked in such a way that their flavor is utilized instead of cooked off, creating a nutrient-rich and flavorful base to work with. Soupmaking tends to be far less complicated than the creation of most other dishes, as the “throw it all together” mentality works effectively. It is easy to tailor your proportions to your preferences and needs, and the longer you just leave it alone and let it simmer, the better. While culinary art both a science and an art, there is more leeway within the science of soup. This is another reason soup season is so timely, because trying to cook at all, never mind trying to stick to a strict set of instructions, is a preposterous idea under the influence of Robitussin.
I have gathered a few recipes that I created and perfected for soup and stew season. I decided to omit proportion sizes and measurements for this article because, as I have mentioned, the creation of a good soup needs influence from the soul. Also my soul (and brain capacity) is mostly influenced by a fever and a box of tissues at the moment. Luckily, 20byNine Chef Colton Gilpin had some time in his off-season to share a soup recipe as well. So as I write this, while covered in three layers of blankets and with a steaming bowl of chicken soup on my bedside table, I encourage you to take these recipes and make them your own. There is no wrong answer in the art of soup, not even if your answer is to crack open a can of Campbell’s after reading this. The one element of this craft that always holds true is the fact that soups and stews are always better the next day. It takes time for each ingredient’s taste to transform into one harmonious, flavorful blend.
dried chilis de árbol
dried guajillo chilis
dried California chilis
canned hominy, drained and rinsed
Fill a large-size pot with water, put it over medium-high heat, and add bay leaves, full garlic cloves, and a halved Spanish onion. Rub the pork with pepper, celery salt, and cumin. Drop into pot and simmer for at least 1.5 hours depending on the size of the pork shoulder, until it starts to fall apart.
Remove stems and seeds from the chilis and drop them into a separate pot of simmering water, and cook for about 30 minutes until they become rehydrated. Slice the tomatillos and sauté in olive oil until soft. Remove the garlic cloves from the pork shoulder pot, and add to a blender with chilis, tomatillos, cumin, pepper, and celery salt. Blend until a smooth puréed texture is achieved.
Once the pork and onion are both falling apart, remove them from the liquid and pull apart with two forks. Strain the liquid and return it to the pot with the pulled pork and onion. Add the chili blend and hominy. Let simmer on medium heat for at least an additional hour. For more spice, add the reserved chili water. Garnish with radish and cilantro.
Tomato Basil Soup and Garlic Bread
sweet yellow onion, minced
thyme sprigs tied together
fresh basil, minced and full leaves
fresh parsley, minced
fresh garlic, minced
Pecorino Romano cheese
Start with the soup. Sauté the butter, onion, garlic, thyme, and minced basil for about 5-7 minutes. Add tomato products, black pepper, and sugar (no more than a pinch or two!). Simmer for 30 minutes, at least, over medium heat. Remove thyme, add the soup to a blender, and purée for about 30 seconds. Return to the pot over medium heat. Add desired amount of cream and cook over medium/low heat for at least an hour.
While the soup is cooking, Preheat the oven to 375°F. Split the ciabatta bread. Combine butter, parsley, garlic, and pepper and spread evenly over each half of the bread. Top with cheese and garlic powder. Place bread directly on middle oven rack, with an empty sheet pan on the rack below to catch grease drippings. Cook for about 20 minutes and serve with the soup. Garnish the soup with basil leaves.
Slow Cooker Turkey and Short Rib Chili
chopped red peppers
chopped yellow peppers
chopped sweet yellow onion
peeled plum tomatoes
Your beer of choice — I used Maya Mae IPA from Wash Ashore because I love the addition of a crisp, hoppy, and fruity flavor, but a dark beer or stout works just as well.
black beans, drained and rinsed
red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
chipotle chili powder
hot Mexican paprika
Brown meats in a sauté pan over high heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer meat to slow cooker on high, and stir in remaining ingredients. Be mindful with the amount of beer you use, as it should just slightly contribute to the flavor, not dominate it. Let the ingredients cook on high for about two hours, and then pull apart the short ribs with two forks. Change the heat setting to low, and cook for at least an additional hour. Add cornstarch as desired to add thickness.
Chicken Tortellini Vegetable Soup
trimmed snow peas
chopped sweet yellow onion
Fill a large pot with water about halfway, and add chicken, pepper, celery salt, parsley, and garlic. Simmer over medium/high heat for about half an hour until the chicken is easily pulled apart with two forks. Add all remaining ingredients but the tortellini, kale, and spinach and cook on medium heat until the vegetables are softened, about 40 minutes. Add the tortellini and greens once you are about ready to serve, as they will only take about 10 minutes to cook. This soup has been tested to successfully cure any illness.
Chicken Tortilla Soup à la Colton
chicken breast tenderloins
red bell pepper
canned, rinsed corn
canned, rinsed black beans
shredded Mexican cheese
Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook in a sauté pan until done. Deglaze with a splash of tequila, and let the alcohol cook off for about five minutes. In soup pot (dutch oven is preferred if you have one), cook butter, onions, celery, and red bell pepper. Sauté until translucent. Chop the cooked chicken and add it to a pot with the garlic. Add chicken stock, heavy cream, corn, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve with shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips (add avocado for extra flavor).