5 Easy Steps to Making Perfect Cream Soup

Did you know research says that January and February are the months of the year when the most homemade soups are made? No surprise, really. These are the coldest months of the year, so homemade soup makes good sense—it fills the dinner bill well.

It’s true for our family, for sure. Tonight we had a homemade vegetable stew (corn, diced red bell pepper, shredded zucchini, cubed Russian Gold potatoes, chopped onion, sliced carrots, diced canned tomatoes, diced celery, minced garlic, all swimming in tomato juice with lots of Mrs. Dash for flavor punch). And Saturday I’m making homemade clam chowder.

Clam chowder is part of a group of soups that are basically built around a cream soup base with a few extras added in (clams, diced potatoes, etc.). Think cheesy broccoli soup, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, cream of potato soup, cream of tomato, cream of asparagus, etc.

Every time I make my clam chowder I’m taken back to when I was a young college student. I had a roommate from St. Anthony, Idaho, who taught me all I needed to know to make perfect cream soups (meaning no lumps or separating).

This accomplished cook knew her way around the kitchen, and everything she made was delicious, so when Colleen spoke, I listened. She said there are just five easy steps to making the perfect cream soup:

1. Cook the starch . Most cream soups have a flour base, often known as a white sauce. Wheat flour is typically used as the starch in cream soups. For those who are gluten intolerant, corn starch or a cooked starchy potato is a good substitute. When the potato is pureed, it thickens the soup nicely.

It’s typical to start with a finely chopped onion, which is included for the extra flavor it contributes. The onion is sauted in butter, and then the flour and more butter are mixed in. All this cooks as you continually stir until the butte, flour, and onion are combined into a thick paste. The cooking should only last a minute or two and the flour should not be browned.

  1. Cook the soup base . When the flour mixture reaches a paste consistency, you pour in a little beef, chicken, or vegetable stock and stir well to thoroughly combine. Add the remaining stock your recipe calls for and simmer for ten minutes. Your soup base should thicken as it cooks to the consistency of a light sauce.
  2. Mix in all pre-prepped vegetables. The vegetables are cooked until they are tender. You’ll want to salt and pepper to taste. (The amount of salt will vary depending on the sodium content of your broth.)
  3. Puree the soup . Pour the soup into a blender in batches and puree until smooth. Pass the pureed soup through a strainer to catch any lumps. Press the lumps through the strainer with the back of a spoon. Discard any solids.
  4. Finish the soup with any other “add-ins” (clams, cooked and diced bacon, diced cooked ham, shredded chicken, etc. etc.). Then add the cream (thin with more water if necessary), and adjust the seasoning.

I’ve been using this same process for over thirty years now, and my cream soups come out perfect every time. It seems this is a universal procedure, too—I just got an email the other day from Prepared Pantry (preparedpantry.com) that shared these basic steps with just a smidge of alteration. So if you’re in the mood for a nice filling soup this month, give these steps a try. They’re the formula for the perfect cream soup!

  •   www.boston.com
  •   www.thesaltkitchen.com
  •   www.tasteofhome.com
  •   www.paradisegroveavocados.com

    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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