Soup and Stew Savvy

These warming one-pot meals are custom-made for winter cooking. Rely on your family's taste and your own imagination to create dishes you'll love.

By FamilyTime


The difference between a soup and stew, it could be argued, is a little liquid. Soups are eaten with a spoon, while for most stews, you need a fork. Both are satisfyingly easy to make and both lend themselves to advance preparation.

Soup Sense
Very good soups can be made with canned broth, bouillon cubes, or even water. Excellent soups start with homemade stock.

Most home cooks use chicken or turkey bones to make stock. Chicken stock is by far the most versatile, although some soups, such as French onion and borscht, beg for beef stock.

When you make stock, begin with cold water. When the stock boils, skim the foam that rises to the surface and then reduce the heat immediately. Let the stock simmer for as long as you can after that, adding more water if needed.

Strain the stock and discard the solids. Chill stock in a sink full of ice water or, if you have a protected porch or deck, outside in the cold winter air.

Skim the fat off the surface when the stock cools. Don't let stock sit at room temperature.

Extend homemade stock with canned broth, diluted bouillon cubes or granules, or water.

Add ingredients to soups in a common-sense order: start with root vegetables and end with delicate ones such as tomatoes and green beans, and pieces of cooked chicken or meat. Add fresh herbs near the end of cooking.

Stew Sense
Stews are made by simmering pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables in liquid. They have less liquid than soups, but more than traditional braises.

When you make stew with meat, begin by browning the cubes of beef, pork, or lamb in a hot, lightly oiled pan. Do not crowd the pan so that the meat develops a nice crust. You probably will have to do this in batches.

Scrape up the browned bits left in the pan after searing the meat and make sure they are incorporated into the sauce for the stew. This adds great flavor.

As with soups, add ingredients to stew in a sensible order. Root vegetables and meat require longer cooking than chunks of potatoes, mushrooms or green peas.

When you cook stew, the liquid should just cover the food. It can be homemade stock, canned broth, wine, beer, water, or any combination of these.

Cover and cook stew in a heavy pot on top of the stove or in the oven. Stews cook a little more evenly in the oven.

Serving Soup and Stew
Even more so than soups, stews taste best the day after they are cooked. Chill the stew and remove any congealed fat from its surface.

Serve soups and stews piping hot. You can transfer them from their cooking pot or serve them directly from it. Both freeze beautifully, and so it's sensible to make sizable quantities.

Soups and stews require only some hot bread (baguettes, cornbread, biscuits, or dinner rolls) and a green salad to make a superb meal.

Let the snow fall and the winds blow: you have good hot soup or stew for your family.