Enjoy the above photograph of the gorgeous hand-hammered copper soup pot from Williams-Sonoma, made in Italy "especially for them"...I had the pleasure of watching it used this morning for the first and only time in my life, because the day I can afford the Ruffoni Hammered Copper Stockpot with Acorn Lid is the day my wildest dreams have come true, and that means the world has probably ended and eternity has begun.
I signed up for my local Williams-Sonoma cooking technique class and the subject was Fall Soups. There is nothing better than soup! It's the perfect food. Our culinary expert/chef who led the class demonstrated how to make two soups: Pasta e Fagioli and Creamy Butternut Squash. I learned some good, practical tips from the class that I will most definitely use. Here's a few that stood out in my mind.
1. When you are making a bean-based or cheese-based soup/stew, add the rind of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano and let it work like a bay leaf. It will impart a superior flavor into the soup and you just remove it when done cooking. Genius! They sell it by the pound at Whole Foods so a small piece of rind shouldn't be too spendy.
2. You can infuse flavors into homemade chicken stock. For the butternut squash recipe, he used the WS mulling spices, put them in an infuser-ball, and let them simmer in the stock until he got the flavor that he wanted. The subtle flavoring in the soup was delicious and you couldn't quite put your finger on why.
3. Another stock tip. Instead of finely slicing your onion, cut it in 1/2 and stud it with a clove on each 1/2. Another way to impart more complex flavors!
4. My favorite tip of all. "Recipes are merely a suggestion, unless you're baking, and then it is a formula". Ok, well, I passed college math sheerly by the grace of my teacher. In chemistry, frankly I just wasn't interested in chemical reactions of any kind. Maybe that's why I don't take to baking like I do to cooking. Lit'l bit o'dis, lit'l bit o'dat, and tada, you have a wonderful and palate pleasing meal!
I can't wait to use these tips next time I have the hankering for soup. As I look out the window and see the leaves changing colors and feel a distinct chill in the wind, I know I will be looking forward to a steaming bowl of homemade soup quite often.