Thursday, July 28, 2011

101: Refrigerator Soup

Timid home cooks take note: You can’t screw up refrigerator soup.*

Even in the heat, Kat and I have been turning to refrigerator soup because it can be light on calories and still pack crazy flavor thanks to flavorful meats and fresh summertime veggies. It can be super simple or you can spice it up with seasonings and aromatics like onions, garlic, cilantro, chiles or lemongrass to take it wherever in the flavor-spectrum that you want to go.

It’s called refrigerator soup because it’s great for cleaning out wide swathes of the edible contents of your fridge.

The work time is 15 minutes. Cook time is an hour and the recipe is simple: oil, low-sodium broth or water, seasonings and aromatics you like to taste; and things you like to eat.

It’s easy to get more specific, but the idea is to make what you like. It really is that straightforward.

Tonight, we used:
Olive oil
Dry Seasonings: salt, pepper, old bay seasoning, dried Italian seasonings, bay leaves, thyme
Wet seasonings: Pickapeppa sauce, Worcestershire sauce, canned diced tomatoes
Things we like to eat: Onion, Carrot, Celery, Cabbage, Green beans, Zucchini, Andouille chicken sausage

Prep: Get out a pot and put it on the stove. Chop up the things you like into edible sizes.


1. Put about 3 tbsp of oil in a big pot (6-8qts) and heat on high
2. If you’re using raw meat, season and brown that on all sides and remove it for later
3. Add dry seasonings you like to taste and let them saute in the remaining oil
4. Stir occasionally for 2 minutes until the smell fills the kitchen
5. Add aromatics and cook
6. Add the rest of the things you like to eat
7. Wait 4-5 minutes then stir so the hot what you like to eat is on top
8. Wait 4-5 minutes, add salt and stir thoroughly, scraping the bottom of the pot
9. Add the wet seasonings, stir and cook for 3 minutes
10. Return browned meat to the pot or add pre-cooked meat now
11. Cover with broth or water (2-3 quarts) and bring to a boil
12. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes
13. Stir, taste and adjust seasonings if needed
14. Continue simmering until things you like to eat are tender
15. Portion, serve, eat.

That’s it.

It’s so easy that you have to try. What will yours have in it?

* It's almost impossible to mess this up. All that can really go wrong is that you make too much. This happens when you’ve added too much salty, sweet, spicy or acidic flavor and you end up having to balance the taste and then add extra broth or water until it’s edible. Avoid this by using restraint at first and then adding more seasoning once the soup has been simmering for at least 30 minutes. Then fix it up right if you have to.

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