Peter Cowin prepares Butternut Squash Soup at Coltivare

Ever since cavemen and their mates tamed fire and learned to craft cooking vessels, humans have been nourished and consoled by warming bowls of soup. Nothing’s easier, whether you toss ingredients for a quick turn in a pressure cooker, return home to a slow cooker’s fragrant bounty, or enjoy cohabiting with the sweet smell wafting through the house as your soup’s ingredients meld on a back burner over a low light for hours. Your soup may vary in thickness from trendy bone broths to vegetable-rich pottages, unctuous cream soups, spicy gumbos, or dense chowders, packed with vegetables and your choice of seafood, meats, or more vegetables.

You’ll be comforted no matter if you follow a beloved family or adventurous new recipe, or use the weekend to empty your crisper and Tupperware containers of past-the-use-by-date vegetables, sausages, and what have you, and toss in a quart or two of stock and some leftover wine. Make more than you need – most soups freeze well, and you can pull dinner out of a hat on nights you’d rather not cook.

Put aside your electronic devices for a while, sit down at a table with a friend and a couple of steaming bowls, or curl up in a favorite chair with a mug of it. Take a moment to inhale the comforting fragrance of nourishing, warming soup, and dig in.

Three of our fine local chefs, Greg Norkus of Cent Dix, Doug Tingley of Ithaca Bakery and Collegetown Bagels, and Richard Brosseau of Coltivare, have graciously provided recipes for us to make at home. Each recipe makes eight eight-ounce servings. And if you’re too tired or lazy to bother, you know where to find these winter-wonderful soups. Enjoy!

Onion Soup Gratinée

By Greg Norkus, Co-owner at Aurora Street’s popular Cent-Dix.

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil

4 lbs yellow onions sliced 1/8” thick

¼ cup water

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 garlic clove sliced thin

Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs

¼ cup dry white wine

2 qts beef broth or brown chicken stock or combination of the two

6 fl oz Tawny port wine

Toasted baguette or batard slices, as needed

1 lb Gruyere cheese (sliced or grated)

Procedure

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom pot such as a Dutch oven or rondeau.

Add onions, water and salt. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the onions are caramelized. This will take longer than you think, plan on an hour or longer depending upon the heat level.

When the onions are caramelized add the garlic and thyme leaves, cook 5 minutes longer.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, cook until the wine has been reduced by half.

Add the broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Taste to check for seasoning; add salt and fresh ground black pepper to your preference.

Add the Tawny port and the soup is done.

To serve

Ideally you have onion soup bowls to serve the soup in.

Pre-heat your broiler.

Slice a baguette or batard ~3/8” thick on a bias if necessary so that the bread will just fit in your soup bowl (floating on top of the soup).

Toast the bread so that it floats better.

Fill your bowls with the onion soup, lay the bread slices on top and place the cheese on top of the bread (~2 ozs per bowl).

Place the soup under the broiler and cook until the cheese melts.

Eat!

Jerk Chicken Sweet Potato Chowder

By Doug Tingley, new head chef at the Ithaca Bakery and Collegetown Bagels.

This recipe was the people’s choice winner in this year’s sixth Annual Downtown Ithaca Alliance’s Chowder Cook-off competition for best meat-containing chowder.

Ingredients

1 lb chicken thighs and/or breasts

2 tbsp Jamaican jerk sauce or seasoning

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp. garlic, minced

1 stalk lemongrass, minced

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

1 onion, diced

½ bunch of celery, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 poblano pepper, diced

½ cup dark rum

2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock

2 lbs. sweet potato, diced

1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

1 bunch of scallions, chopped

1 tbsp cornstarch

salt and pepper to taste

½ tbsp cilantro, chopped

Procedure

Mix chicken with 2 tbsp jerk sauce or seasoning, let marinate 4 hours; overnight is best. Roast in a 350 degree oven until done, 25-30 minutes; let cool and then dice and set aside.

In a large stockpot heat olive oil, add garlic, lemongrass, and ginger until aromatic.

Add onion, celery, and peppers and sweat until onions are translucent, then add remaining Tbsp of jerk seasoning

Add dark rum and deglaze pan, then add stock.

Add sweet potatoes and cook for 20 minutes on a low simmer

Add chicken, thyme, parsley, scallions, and bring back to a low boil

Mix equal parts cornstarch and water; add to stockpot and let thicken

Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkling of cilantro.

with Crème Fraîche

By Richard Brosseau, chef at Coltivare; this quick, simple, and delicious.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, diced

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 cup white wine

2 medium butternut squash peeled,

de-seeded, and diced

Cayenne pepper to taste

2 quarts chicken stock

1 container crème fraîche

3 bay leaves

5 sprigs of thyme

Procedure

Sautée onion with garlic and oil. 

Add white wine; reduce. 

Add butternut squash and chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and bring to simmer; cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Puree in Vitamix or blender with crème fraiche

Strain and serve. §

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