• Stir It Up: Take that, polar vortex!
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     | February 14,2014
     

    Kansas City Steak Soup is a warm and satisfying answer to frigid winter temperatures. The photo and recipe are from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook “365 Comfort Foods: Inspiring Meals for Every Day of the Year.”

    If ever there has been a winter for soup, this is it. Unfortunately, we seem to be too busy — shoveling snow, chipping ice, jump-starting cars, bundling children, chopping wood or calling for a fuel delivery — to make any.

    But making soup does not need to be a labor-intensive, all-day affair. Yes, the very best soups involve the long, slow simmering of organic meats and vegetables, the careful use of fresh herbs and top-quality seasonings. But there are some good soups that can be made in less than an hour, and they will more than do the trick. And while they may contain quite a few canned items, you will find them so much more satisfying than canned soup itself.

    The editors of Better Homes and Gardens magazine knew what they were talking about when they included a good many soup recipes in their new cookbook, “365 Comfort Foods: Inspiring Meals for Every Day of the Year.” Just looking at the pictures of the broths and chowders gives you a warm glow inside.

    This is “half-scratch” cooking, to borrow a term from cookbook authors Linda West Eckhardt and Katherine West DeFoyd. The trick is to use the best ingredients you can find. Seek out organic broths and vegetables, even if they are from cans. Don’t rush: It is especially important, when making soup, to take the time to cut onions, celery, carrots and the like into pieces that will fit easily on a spoon, and doing so will take only a few minutes more than carelessly whacking them into unwieldy chunks. To add a little pizzazz, you can always use fresh herbs as a finishing touch.

    These recipes can be one more weapon in your arsenal in the fight against the polar vortex. Ready, aim, soup!



    Kansas City Steak Soup

    Yield: 6 servings

    1½ pounds lean ground beef

    1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

    2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped

    2 (14.5-ounce) cans lower-sodium beef broth

    1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices

    1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables

    2 tablespoons bottled steak sauce, plus more for serving

    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

    ¼ teaspoon salt

    ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

    ¼ cup all-purpose flour



    In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, onion and celery 7 to 10 minutes, until meat is brown and onion and celery are tender. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks. Drain any fat.

    Stir in one can of the broth, tomatoes, frozen vegetables, 2 tablespoons steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 20 minutes.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining can of broth and flour; stir into the soup. Cook until thickened and bubbly; this will take only a few minutes. Give a good stir and serve with additional steak sauce, if desired.



    Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

    Yield: 4 servings

    3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

    1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

    1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

    1 stalk celery, trimmed and finely chopped

    4 cups chicken broth

    ¾ cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained

    12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ¾-inch pieces

    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    2 cups half-and-half or light cream

    Salt and ground black pepper to taste



    In a Dutch oven set over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the broth and rice and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes more or until rice is tender.

    In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons softened butter with the flour and stir to make a smooth paste. Add a few spoonfuls of the hot chicken broth from the soup into the bowl and stir. Then, using a spatula, scrape the flour-butter-broth mixture into the soup pot. Cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the half-and-half (or cream). Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    (Recipes from Better Homes and Gardens’ “365 Comfort Foods”; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)



    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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