February 23, 2011

Make soup that's creamy, not curdled

Any fan of the popular sitcom "Seinfeld" is sure to remember the Soup Nazi episode, which showed that some people take their soup very seriously.

Any fan of the popular sitcom "Seinfeld" is sure to remember the Soup Nazi episode, which showed that some people take their soup very seriously.

Soup is soothing to eat and easy to make. Just chop and dice the ingredients, let them simmer a bit, add seasonings and finish with a special garnish. Some soups can be made in 30 minutes; others require long, slow simmering.

Although you can always buy canned and dry-mix soups from the supermarket, it is innately satisfying to have a pot of homemade soup bubbling away on the range. The process is almost as rewarding as serving the first bowl.

Generally considered uncomplicated, making soup still can have a few pitfalls along the way. One reader contacted me about a problem she encounters when making cream of a tomato soup.

I have made tomato soup for years and use the same recipe. The soup always tastes good, but occasionally it will curdle. What causes this?

Tomatoes are very acidic and milk or cream is added to them, curdling can occur. Curdling will be more likely to happen when the ratio of acid to cream increases or when mixing a cold and hot mixture.

To thwart the curdling tendency, changing procedures will render a smooth tomato soup. Heat the tomato mixture and cream separately, then slowly add tomatoes to the cream near the end of the cooking process. Once mixed, heat the mixture gently to 180 degrees. Do not boil.

Also, use very fresh cream. As cream ages, the lactic acid content increases, which makes it more susceptible to curdling.

As spring approaches, try this remarkably easy cream of carrot soup. It's fresh, healthy and has been a popular soup in my cooking classes.

Cream of Carrot Soup

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium potato, peeled and cubed

1/2medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken broth

1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme

1/2teaspoon salt

1/8to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2to 3/4 cup heavy cream (can substitute half-and-half or fat-free evaporated milk for low-fat version)

Garnish: Chopped chives or scallions

Place carrots, potato, onion, garlic, chicken broth, thyme, salt and ground red pepper in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.

Puree in batches in blender or food processor. (If using a blender, remember hot mixtures have a tendency to "explode" so fill blender only about two-thirds full. Remove cover of small opening on top of blender and place a towel over it and then blend. The towel will allow steam to escape while keeping the carrot mixture inside the blender.)

Return pureed mixture to pan. Gradually stir in cream. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve warm garnished with chopped chives or scallions. Makes about six servings.

From "Cooking with Bonnie: Farm to France"

The Wichita Eagle—02/23/11

Related content