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     The Carefree Cook's Tips for Soups
       excerpted from Carefree Cook
       © Copyright¬© 2003 by Rick Rodgers


    It is appropriate that this book starts off with soups, because there is no other category where the cook gets such a payoff for the time invested. Chop up some vegetables, toss in some meat, and let the pot simmer into a wonderful conglomeration that can be served immediately with salad and bread for a quick meal, or stored for the future. My freezer is packed with containers of homemade soups. When I think I don't have a thing

    To eat, it's great to discover that chicken soup in the freezer. It's best to make big batches to be sure that there are those leftovers to squirrel away. (The few soups in this chapter that don't freeze well have smaller yields.)

    The soups in this book are purposely "fork-and-knife soups." They are rib-sticking, chunky, hearty affairs that you will most likely eat with a fork and knife as well as a spoon. They are not delicate soups for light first courses at elegant supper parties but soups with backbone to fill you up.


    The Carefree Cook's Tips for Soups

    Use a large heavy-bottomed pot Don't try to crowd soup ingredients into a small pot. The ideal utensil is an 8-quart pot with a heavy bottom to discourage scorching. Pots with stainless-steel or enameled interiors are best, because they don't pick up flavors as easily as unlined pots.

    Don't rush the cooking For my meat soups, I usually include tough, bone-in cuts that add lots of flavor to the broth. But they need time to simmer and become tender. Use a moderately low flame so the soup cooks at a steady simmer. A hard boil is bad not only because it leads to burning, but also because it suspends the fat in the broth, resulting in a stable emulsion,and a greasy-tasting soup. (Even if the soup chills and you remove the hardened fat, it will still taste greasy.) Stir the soup occasionally to be sure nothing is sticking.

    Be careful when blending pureed soups Soups can be pureed in a food processor or a blender, or directly in the pot with an immersion blender. Each machine has its own caveats. With a food processor, the pureed soup has a tendency to leak out of the center shaft area. To avoid this, puree in batches to avoid overflow. Transfer the soup solids to the work bowl with a slotted spoon and process, adding just enough of the liquid to keep the soup level from rising above the top of the center tube.

    With a blender, the velocity of the blade can create a strong jet of steam that forces the scalding-hot soup up, pushing off the lid. Vent the lid by leaving it slightly ajar, and start the machine on low speed, or pulse, to puree the soup. Better yet, replace the lid with a kitchen towel, as the steam will pass easily through the fabric's weave.

    Immersion blenders are great, but they take some getting used to. They are not as fast as food processors or blenders, but most cooks who have one prefer them to the other machines. Just keep the "business end" of the blender immersed in the soup and watch out for splashing.

    Stock up on covered containers Unless you are serving a crowd, you will have leftover soup with most of these recipes. Be sure to have a supply of good containers for storage. Because there are lots of leftovers in my life (testing recipes will do that), I purchase cases of 1-pint and 1-quart plastic containers with lids at a local restaurant supply or wholesale club. Although they are designed to be disposable, they can go through the dishwasher to use again a few times. You can buy smaller quantities of containers from your delicatessen or supermarket at a very reasonable price. The 1-pint size is perfect for single servings, and the 1-quart works well for about three bowls. These containers make efficient use of small freezer spaces.

    read a recipe: Chinese Beef, Bok Choy, and Noodle Soup Under 30 minutes

    Carefree Cook Carefree Cook
    2004 IACP Award Nominee for General Category
    America's palate has reached lofty levels of sophistication, but the amount of time and energy available for cooking has plummeted. With that in mind, Rick Rodgers has created a magnificent solution. In his most comprehensive book to date, Carefree Cook replaces stress and fuss with creativity and ease. While Rodgers has included numerous quick ideas in this collection, many of his selections simmer and roast at a leisurely pace while the cook relaxes. Written in Rodger's appealing irreverent style, each of the 150 recipes here draws dazzling flavor from just a handful of ingredients. A down-to-earth approach to fine cooking, Carefree Cook transforms a hectic kitchen into a source of bliss.

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