East Texas chefs give homemade soup tips
Feb. 6, 2018 at 10:30 p.m.
Soup is for sharing, downtown chef Deborah Bolton says, and there's no reason to be stingy with those recipes.
"If anybody wants my recipes, call me," the owner of Deb's Downtown Cafe said. "I'm the Soup Guru. ... I always give my recipes out."
Certainly no Soup Nazi, Bolton estimates she fashions about three gallons each of two soups daily for the downtown lunch crowd. She's given soup a daily role on her menu since opening on Tyler Street in 2003.
But she doesn't begrudge anyone who wants to do it themselves, at home.
It's easy. There are three main steps.
"You always start with celery, onions and garlic as your base," Bolton said. "And you can put in any kind of fresh vegetable or canned vegetables, beans, peas. I use a lot of basil and thyme. You can always use a little bit of cumin."
"You can put in lima beans, purple-hull peas — about one hour on medium heat."
Next, add chopped chicken to the party.
"And then you add the chicken base or chicken stock. And to make it a little creamy, you can put a block of white Velveeta cheese — not a lot. If you have the basics, the chicken stock, you can put anything in there."
Across Tyler Street, Anne Kelt is similarly casual about her soup secrets in her Hick & Frog Bistro.
"I really don't have recipes for soup," Kelt said. "I just throw a whole bunch of stuff in there. That's what is so great about soup — you can blend it. You can have chicken. In a lot of cases, you don't need a lot of measurement. If you have two carrots, that's what you put in there. If I have a quarter cabbage, I have nothing I can do with it, and I throw it in. Anything goes in soup."
Sometimes, Kelt uses water instead of chicken stock, the former for a lighter, vegetable soup and the latter for the chunkier varieties.
The timing also is in the nose of the be-smeller.
"It depends on what you're cooking," Kelt said, advising soup chefs to lower the heat as the vegetables soften up. "I cook a lot with my nose and my eyes."
She also is a firm believer in the soup sachet, the little bundle of garlic cloves, bay leaves or other pungents wrapped in a cheese cloth and plopped into the pot.
"I crush the garlic, so it op ens up and all the juices in the garlic get in the soup," Kelt said, recommending whole peppers and "maybe two or three sprigs of parsley, or sprigs of thyme or rosemary" for the sachet.
So there appears to be little science to soup — but there is magic.
"It warms your soul," Bolton said. "It makes you feel good. Even, they say, when we are sick: Chicken soup, it does something. It makes you feel good."