Soup is one of my favorite dishes to make. During the winter months, I think we eat it at least once a week. Soup is a go-to dish because I can usually put together something hearty and satisfying just from what I have in my refrigerator and pantry in less than 30 minutes for a weeknight meal.
Lately, however, I’ve been experimenting with longer cooking soups. Putting together a soup over the course of an hour or three gives you the opportunity to really build up the flavors, and that can make a huge difference. A slow-cooked soup, starting with a homemade broth and then layering in the flavors, is just so much more satisfying and special. It’s well worth spending a Sunday afternoon on.
For our Thanksgiving meal, I made a wild mushroom soup that really showed the time I put into it. The flavors were intense but not overwhelming, rich and earthy with just a hint of acid, not too heavy. A small cup of the soup made a perfect start to the meal. I’m not going to reprint the recipe here, as it’s rather long and I didn’t vary it at all, but if you want to try it, pick up a copy of Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster. You won’t be sorry.
What I wanted to write about, though, is how easy it is to make a quick vegetable broth for a mushroom soup like that one, any other vegetable soup or even risotto. Making the broth takes about 1 hour, but it provides such a great foundation on which to build the soup flavors that it’s worth the extra time. If you make a big batch, it freezes well for weeknight cooking. And it makes use of all the vegetable trimmings and scraps I would have discarded anyway.
For this broth, I used the mushroom trimmings, but mushrooms have a strong flavor, so that may not be appropriate unless there are mushrooms in the finished dish. This broth can be made with any vegetables, though, so substitute freely.
Mushroom or Vegetable Broth
Time to make: ~1 hour
Yields: 2-3 quarts
Combine in a large stockpot or dutch oven:
- stems from 2½ lbs. mushrooms, cleaned
- 1 roughly chopped onion, unpeeled
- 1 roughly chopped celery stalk
- 1 roughly chopped carrot, unpeeled
- trimmings from other vegetables to be used in the soup (carrot peels, celery leaves, potato peels, leek greens, herbs, etc.)
- 3 bay leaves
- handful of whole peppercorns
- 2-3 quarts water (enough to cover the vegetables)
- Bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to a slow simmer.
- Simmer up to 1 hour.
- Strain, pressing down on the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the juice.
- Let cool a bit, then refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 6 months.