2018-01-10 / Taste

Winter’s brewing: Icy days demand comfort in a bowl


Winter has definitely come to Virginia. I look forward to bundling up and enjoying the brisk weather. The sparkling snow reminds me of winter in Chicago, though the city can’t hold a candle to the James River frosted in ice. A beautiful sight.

As we move away from the holiday season and settle into the coldest months, my kitchen habits change with the drops in temperature. I find myself baking more and lingering over the stovetop longer. And, of course, making soup. Few things warm the body and soul as effectively as homemade soup.

Most soups and stews fall into one of two categories: cream based or broth based. Most cream-based soups will require a roux: equal parts fat and flour cooked together. The most common fat used in roux recipes is butter; however, you can use lard, bacon drippings and even coconut oil. A roux added to a creamy soup will thicken it. A roux added to broth will yield a consistency akin to gravy. Other times, I’ll add a sprinkling of flour to my broth soups to give them a bit more heartiness.

With a good broth soup and a good cream soup in your culinary arsenal, you’ll be ready for any icy weather old man winter can throw at you.

Hearty beef vegetable soup
Yields 6 servings

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
One 8-ounce package button mushrooms, rinsed and finely minced
¾ cup red wine
3 cups beef broth
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 medium parsnips,peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
3-4 medium red potatoes, rinsed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
8 sprigs thyme, stems removed and leaves minced
1 small sprig rosemary
3 sage leaves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Hearty beef vegetable soup 
JENNY McQUEEN Hearty beef vegetable soup JENNY McQUEEN In a large stockpot, add your oil over medium-high heat. Add your cubed beef and cook until dark brown on the outside, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove beef from pot and toss with flour. Set aside.

Add butter, onions, garlic and mushrooms to pan and sauté until onions are translucent and the mushrooms are dark brown. Add red wine to hot pan and scrape the bottom to get up all the delicious bits. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add the beef back in, stir well, cover and simmer for 40 minutes until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaves and rosemary sprig before serving.

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more stick-to-your-ribs, a creamy winter vegetable bisque might be what’s for dinner.

Winter bisque
Yields 6 servings

1 small butternut squash
1 sweet potato
1 carrot
2 parsnips
½ yellow onion, peeled and separated into layers
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 Tablespoons butter, divided in half
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons flour
2 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

This winter bisque blends butternut squash with root vegetables. 
JENNY McQUEEN This winter bisque blends butternut squash with root vegetables. JENNY McQUEEN Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the squash, potato, carrot and parsnips and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil to a large baking dish. Place in oven while it’s heating to melt the butter. Once butter is melted, add all your winter vegetables, onion, garlic, brown sugar and crushed red pepper to baking dish and mix well. Bake for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are soft. Remove from oven and puree in a food processor or blender. Be extra careful pureeing hot ingredients.

In a large stockpot, add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and flour over medium-high heat. Sauté until thick and light brown. Slowly add broth and combine using a whisk. Turn heat to medium low and add pureed vegetables and all remaining ingredients. Allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve hot to a good friend while watching a favorite movie, and don’t forget the crusty bread.

Enjoy! ¦

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