Article and photos by Gary Cox
The New Book of Soups
Soup is a universal food. From the earliest days of mankind with an iron pot dangling over the fire to modern cuisine in the most exclusive restaurants, soup is one of the most versatile and flexible forms of cooking. The extraction, blending and concentration of flavors in liquid form can be a quiet challenging medium for the novice and experienced chef alike. It has been said that the best way to judge the capabilities of a new chef is to have him or her make a soup with the ingredients on hand.
Reviewing a cookbook can be a challenge, particularly one that requires the reader to possess specific skills or a talent for cooking. What I liked about The New Book of Soups (Lebhar-Friedman Book, $35) by the Culinary Institute of America is that it is well organized, making easy to pick up and start cooking. Also, there is quite a bit of information in the front of the book on processing ingredients, making stock and other topics useful for various skill levels.
It was gratifying to find that even having skipped past all the preparatory material, the recipes still produced great tasting results. We tried the Double Chicken Broth recipe and found it excellent and a memorable addition to our ongoing repertoire. Even substituting a mixture of mushrooms for the shitake ones in the recipe, the resulting soup was tasty and disappeared quickly.
Double Chicken Broth Soup made following the recipe in The New Book of Soups
An excellent test of a cookbook is to make a familiar classic recipe and evaluate the flavors and ease of performing the recipe steps. The next soup I made was the Onion Soup Gratinee, a rendition of the classic French onion soup. The instructions were easy to follow and produced a terrific tasting soup using easily obtainable ingredients. This time of year, Vidalia onions are widely available and they resulted in a slightly sweet and flavorful rendition of this longtime favorite.
The ingredients for the Onion Soup Gratinee
Our version of the Onion Soup Gratinee based on the recipe in The New Book of Soups
There are still many recipes I look forward to trying in this second edition of the 249-page The New Book of Soups. The book is divided into Soup Basics, Broths, Hearty Soups, Stews, Cream Soups, Pureed Soups, Bisques and Chowders, Cold Soups, and Accompaniments sections with many full color photos to illustrate the desired end result. I might even rely on the material in the front and take a lash at making my own stock or some of the other basics to improve my overall skills. It is not necessary to study the basics to get great results, but it is nice to know they are there if I have questions or an interest. Excellent for the beginner or perhaps even for experienced chefs, this cookbook makes a great addition to my library.
Click here to buy The New Book of Soups