Welcome back to the Circle of Chicken, in which we start with one roast chicken and produce the basis for 16+ meals*. Today we have reached Part 4, where we’ll use some of your glorious, homemade chicken broth to make “Free” French Vegetable Soup! Just joining us? Make sure to check out Part 1: Perfect Roast Chicken, Part 2: Golden Chicken Broth of Happiness, and Part 3: Make Hash (or Casserole) While the Sun Shines!
How this soup be “Free,” you ask? Well, it’s not, not really. But since I use it to clear out my vegetable bin, I rarely have to buy anything to make it. Read on!
Does it sound like I’m saying this soup has a great personality? It kind of does. But it’s a personality of your choosing–or one determined by fate! That makes it kind of exciting, in my book.
I always have such good intentions when I fill my fridge with vegetables. I’m going to eat healthy, I tell myself! And then we end up going out to dinner. Or I decide it’s a grilled cheese and tomato soup night. And suddenly, I have a drawer-full of vegetables that are rapidly approaching their eat-by date. Oh, I’d tell myself, I still have time to eat those–next week. And then I forget, and then a couple of weeks later I’m cramming blackened, wilted veggies down my disposal.
No more! The below recipe is my interpretation of Mireille Guiliano’s Basic Vegetable Soup from French Women Don’t Get Fat. (Don’t laugh! I swear I was investigating cultural ways of eating after binging on Michael Pollan books. Mostly.) I loved the idea of having a flexible, thrifty recipe to rescue any lingering–but still delicious–vegetables, and I love, love soup. After all, I can eat any vegetable if it’s properly seasoned, puréed, and topped with a dollop of sour cream!
So how does it taste? This depends, of course, on what vegetables you use, although you should always include an onion, garlic, a potato or two, and some leeks (that’s what makes it French!). Coupled with your amazing broth and the proper amount of salt and pepper, this is a satisfying, solid soup that is perfect as a light lunch or dinner with a side of bread and butter. Does it sound like I’m saying this soup has a great personality? It kind of does. But it’s a personality of your choosing–or one determined by fate! That makes it kind of exciting, in my book.
My method differs from Guiliano’s in that one, I use broth rather than water, and two, I decrease the amount of broth and increase the amount of vegetables; this makes for a thicker purée (she drains out the water, reserves it, and adds part of it back to her soup).
The last time I made this soup, it was right after the holidays, so I had a bunch of turkey broth on hand, as well as the leftovers from an immense veggie platter my mom had put together–carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, red and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes–and some stray fresh herbs from Christmas dinner. It made a superb, golden-greeny soup.
“Free” French Vegetable Soup
Makes 12 cups, 6 servings
1 or 2 potatoes (what you have on hand)
2 or 3 leeks
1 or 2 onions
4 cloves garlic
A few sprigs of fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand)
2 bay leaves
8 cups of chicken broth (or turkey, etc.)
Your choice of vegetables, such as carrots, celery, broccoli, peppers, etc.–just make sure you have about 14 cups of veggies, all told, including the above must-haves
Salt and pepper
Peel any vegetables that need it. Cut the potatoes into 2-inch cubes; wash the leeks carefully and slice them. Smash the garlic cloves to release them from their skins, and roughly chop the rest of your vegetables. You should have about 14 cups all told.
Place all the vegetables in a stockpot, and add the thyme, bay leaves, and parsley. Add your broth. Cover and bring to boil slowly, then simmer partially covered for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove and discard the bay leaves, then purée everything either in a blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender. Reheat the soup until the first boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then serve (or freeze it in 4-cup batches).
I like to top it with a big dollop of sour cream! You could also stir in a little cream or half and half to make it a little more indulgent.
* About the 16+ meals thing: by this I mean 16 servings (actual meals), not 16 different recipes. I’m good at stretching a chicken, but I’m not a magician! I hope you all understand.
Next up in the Circle of Chicken: we still have more broth to use! I have a couple of ideas, so keep your eyes here this week!
What do you folks think? Do you have a favorite “clean the fridge” recipe you’d like to share below? Do it!