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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Getting your Soup On: Abilene, Brownwood and Valera !

Warm Thoughts
By Celinda Emison /
Abilene Reporter News
November 8, 2006

For centuries writers, philosophers, chefs and kings have lauded all things wonderful about soup.

Soup is considered the first course in a gourmet meal; a friend to someone who is ailing; and a quick way to feed the ones we love.

During the holiday season, many busy people don't have time to eat dinner, much less prepare it. So why not put on a pot of soup? It's ready when you or your guests are, and it is great for evenings when family and friends are trickling in from the cold.

Several Big Country soup meisters have some tips for making the perfect soup.

Chef Laurie Williamson of Rancho Loma Restaurant in Valera said pureeing soup gives it a smooth and elegant look. Adding butter at the end of cooking adds flavor to the soup. So does adding pureed root vegetables, such as potatoes.

Steve Harris of Steves' Market and Deli in Brownwood uses heavy cream in many of his soups or bisques (soups with cream).
''Adding cream to the soup is one of the last steps prior to ladling it,'' Harris said. ''You want to make sure you have time to bring the soup up to the desired temperature. Add as much or as little as you want - slowly, not while the soup is boiling.''

Don't forget about presentation, such as adding garnish to the bowl or a hearty piece of bread on the side.
''Soups, like any other foods, are first met with your eyes, then your nose and followed by your pallet,'' said Brian Greene, owner of Cypress Street Station in Abilene. ''Therefore, presentation plays an equal part as does the taste and smell - flavor for sight, smell and taste make a great soup.''

Here are some soup recipes provided by our experts. See variations and another soup recipe online at

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Rancho Loma, Valera

3 pounds of butternut squash

Unsalted butter

Olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 sprigs of thyme

1 quart homemade or low sodium chicken stock

1/4-cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Lay the squash lengthwise on a kitchen towel. With a big, sharp kitchen knife, cut off the stem end and the bottom 1/2-inch or so. Stand the squash on its flat end, and slice it lengthwise in half. Scoop out seeds. Rub butter on squash flesh. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Roast the squash until very tender, about one hour. Scoop the squash out of the skins into a bowl.

In a stockpot, heat a tablespoon of oil. Saute onion until softened. Add thyme, squash and soup stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Discard thyme. Let soup cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan to reheat. Add cream and about 2 tablespoons of the butter and brown sugar.

Chipotle Corn Chowder

Cypress Street Station, Abilene

5 Idaho potatoes

1 large yellow onion

1 pound bacon

4 chipotle peppers

1 can whole kernel corn

3 quarts chicken stock

1/2-quart heavy cream

1 sluree (cornstarch and water)

Peel potatoes and cut in cubes. Dice onions and bacon. Puree chipolte peppers with one cup chicken stock. In pot, brown bacon, then add potato and onions. Saute for a few minutes. When onions are fully cooked, add chicken stock, corn and pureed chipotle peppers. Let boil for about 15 minutes. Add heavy cream and sluree. Salt & pepper to taste. To finish, garnish with scallions, grated cheddar or bacon chips.

Recipe: Scott Corley

Steve's Spiked Chicken Tortilla Soup

Steves' Market and Deli - Brownwood

4 32-ounce boxes chicken broth

1 chopped purple onion

1 chopped bunch of fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons fresh chopped garlic

1 chopped jalapeno

6 small zucchini (medium diced)

1 small bag frozen corn

2 diced fresh carrots

1 small jar marinara


Garlic salt

Black pepper

Corn tortillas

1 tablespoon oil

1 small bag frozen grilled fajita chicken strips (already cooked)

1 small bag shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese

Place chicken broth in stock pot and bring to medium heat. Add garlic, onion, corn, carrots, chicken. Simmer. Cut corn tortillas into strips and fry in oil until crisp (set strips aside on paper towel.) Add zucchini and marinara to simmering contents in stock pot. Add spices to taste (start with small amounts and work your way to your desired taste). Soup is ready when zucchini becomes tender. After ladling soup into bowls, top soup with shredded cheese, tortilla strips, and chopped cilantro.

Hint: If you want a less ''hot'' version, add a dollop of sour cream or top it with sliced avocados.

Waxahachie's Durham House Peanut Bisque
Steves' Market and Deli - Brownwood

4 32-ounce boxes chicken broth

1 bunch celery, diced

1 purple onion, diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped

1/2-teaspoon chopped garlic

1 small container creamy peanut butter

1/4-stick butter

1 pint heavy whipping cream

Salt and white pepper

Garnish with chopped chives or crushed unsalted roasted peanuts (or both).

Sautee celery, onion, garlic and jalapeno with butter in stock pot on low heat until celery and onion are translucent (clear). Add chicken broth and bring to simmer. With an immersion blender, blend stock pot contents until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer contents of stock pot into blender and blend until smooth. Place back into stock pot. Bring back to simmer and stir in 2 cups of peanut butter. Stir or whisk in heavy whipping cream about 15 minutes before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer on low heat until ready to serve.
Tips for making your own soup stock

The easiest way to make stock is to combine raw, cooked or roasted meat (chicken, turkey, lamb or fish trimmings) and bones with flavorful vegetables such as carrots, onions, garlic and celery.

Put meat, bones and vegetables in to large stock pot.
Add enough cold water to cover.
Cook on a slow simmer. Never boil - stock must be clear.
For brown stock, roast meat or vegetables before cooking.
Cook stock no less than three hours on the stovetop.
You can store the stock in the refrigerator for up to five days. After that, freeze it.
Save meat, bone and vegetable scraps separately in freezer bags until you have enough for one pot of stock.
- Source: Chef Laurie Williamson, Rancho Loma Restaurant, Valera