How To Make A Cream Soup

3 11 2009

When I was in culinary school, we had to memorize three different methods for making cream soups.  I couldn’t tell you now how, specifically, any of them went, but I do know how to whip up a cream soup when I want one, so something must have sunk in.  I got a couple of heads of broccoli in my CSA panier last week, and on a recent cold, rainy (i.e. par for the course) evening, cream of broccoli soup sounded like just the ticket.  Cream soup is a great way to get kids to eat vegetables they don’t ordinarily like (just ask my mom – this was the only way I would eat broccoli or asparagus as a child) and may even cause a change of heart towards those very vegetables.  I can actually pinpoint the day I started liking asparagus, and a cream soup was responsible.  But enough about me.

Cream of Broccoli Soup - no cream necessary!

A cream soup is essentially made in four steps:

1. The Velouté

Velouté is a classic French sauce made from stock and blonde roux.  Blonde roux is made by cooking equal parts butter and flour until they begin to smell slightly toasty.  The ratio, according to Ruhlman, is 10 parts liquid to one part roux.  (In school we learned 8:1, but I trust Ruhlman and I figured the puréed broccoli would eventually help to thicken the soup if necessary.)  So I had about 800 ml/29 oz. of stock.  It was so close to a nice, round quart that I decided to go ahead and top it up with 100 ml/3 oz. of milk, thus creating a sort of velouté/béchamel hybrid.  Going from the ratio, I would need 3 oz. of roux.  I melted 1.5 oz. of butter and when it stopped foaming, I added 1.5 oz. of flour.  I stirred it with a wooden spoon until it started to smell like parbaked pie dough.  Then, bit by bit, I whisked in the stock/milk mixture.  Once it was all incorporated, I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

2. The Garnish

What? Garnish?  Now?  Yes.  While the velouté is simmering is the perfect time to prep the vegetables for the soup.  In this case, I washed and trimmed the broccoli and cut it, stems and all, into small pieces.  I set aside a small bowlful of the prettiest florets for garnish, then put them in a strainer, which I then placed over the simmering soup base.  I slapped a lid on top for a few minutes, and voilà!  Pretty steamed broccoli florets for later garnishing purposes!

Yay for mulititasking!

3. The Flavor

When the velouté is ready – taste it, it should feel silky smooth on your palate – throw in the chopped vegetables that will become the main flavor of the soup.  Simmer until very tender.  The actual amount of time will depend on how small you cut your vegetable; this time, the broccoli took about 15 minutes.

4. Purée and Finish

Almost there!  Purée the soup – I used my trusty immersion blender, but you can also do it in batches in a traditional one, just be careful not to overfill the jar.  Strain it, if you’re so inclined (I wasn’t) and finish with a swirl of cream if you’re feeling decadent (not necessary but adds a touch of luxury).  Reheat the garnish in the soup and serve.

The fresh green color and great broccoli flavor spell healthy to me!

Piece of cake.  Or should I say bowl of soup?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




8 responses

3 11 2009

Love it when you share your cooking-school savvy. This method can be translated to make a variety of soups — and just in time for soup season! And you’re spot on about kids and cream soup. It’s how I got my daughters loving squash and red peppers.

4 11 2009
hungry dog

Nice post. I love creamy vegetable soups, they are so simple and satisfying. Your method is much fancier than mine. It’s also very beautiful!

4 11 2009

Thank you, thank you for posting about a technique or method as opposed to a recipe. Now people can make cream-of-whatever-they-want!

4 11 2009

hey, how cool to read how things sunk in or made an impression.

Mom 🙂

4 11 2009

Oh, I’d kill for some of that right now. Nothing like a good cream soup when you’re ill. Please come visit. 🙂

4 11 2009

Trisha – Cream soup os a miracle worker that way. And please, translate to your heart’s content. Happy soup season!

hungry dog – Thanks! Simple and satisfying is exactly what I’m looking for on chilly autumn nights.

pastrychef – Exactly! You’re welcome. 🙂

Mom – Thanks to you and your cream soups, I am now a broccoli lover! I think I may have also picked up my francophilia from you. 😉

Hails – I’d love to, but it sounds like certain death by Swine flu if I do! Maybe you know someone who can follow these directions for you? Hope you feel better soon!

4 11 2009

Thanks, Camille… Something to get me out of the soup boxes I have been so fond of lately. Making a creamed soup has actually always slightly scared me, but you make it sound so easy. Will have to give it a try…

6 11 2009

Lissa – It is delightfully easy! Give it a try, and the population of boxed soups in your kitchen will dramatically decrease. Note I didn’t say “disappear.” 😉

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