Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bacon: A Trio of Soups

As weather goes in April in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you can have a 70 degree one day and mid 30s with rain-snow mix the next day. Today was one of those mid 30s days. Soup came to mind.

It is a cold weather, warm meal. Rarely will I cook up a big bowl of hearty soup in the middle of summer. Soup also really challenges and test the cook. Blending together seasonings, making stocks, creating flavors, are all tough tasks to master. Even a basic tomato soup can easily result in a bland and uninspiring meal.

Bacon is one of those ingredients that can provide a big bang of flavor into a soup. Though it doesn't fit all types of soups, when it does, it raises the bar on that dish.

Here is a trio of soups that feature bacon.

Butternut Squash soup with Apple and Bacon

The smokiness of bacon, herby sage, and the sweetness of a Granny Smith apple, heighten the flavors of a squash soup. The butternut squash is diced up and cooked in the bacon fat. Diced apple and chopped sage are added to the squash until lightly browned. Chicken broth is added to scrape up the bits of flavor on the bottom of the pan and cooked in a slow simmer until the squash and apples have softened. At this point, intense cooking smells fill the kitchen.

After a cool down, half of the bacon is added to the soup and in batches, the soup is pureed. The remaining bacon is used to garnish the soup.

This is a perfect combinations of flavors. The squash soup is probably best suited for late fall and winter but it worked well on a cold April day.

Broccoli soup with Bacon

Bacon definitely adds to this vegatable-laden dish. I'm sorry Vegatarians, but bacon gives this broccoli soup its finish. Broccoli florets and stems, leeks, onion, and garlic are slowly simmered in a combination of chicken broth, dry white wine, and water. After being pureed in batches, heavy cream and lemon juice are added to the soup. Grab a mound of diced bacon and garnish it on top of the pureed broccoli.

Broccoli soup isn't my favorite bowl out there but bacon raises its value. Hey, if you or your kids aren't a fan of vegatables, bacon will probably get you or them to eat it. Its an easy soup to make but a little extra effort by frying up some bacon will make this even better.

Baked Potato soup with Leeks, Cheddar, and Bacon

A true Sconnie soup ( nickname for Wisconsin resident); a mixture of potato, cheese, and bacon!
A Russett potato is baked in an oven for an hour and pureed with leeks, garlic, and chicken broth.
Smoothed to a creamy texture, chopped scallion, cheddar cheese, and fried bacon are added to the base of this heavy, chunky potato soup.

Bacon and potato are pretty much meant to be together. They compliment each other so well in many different cooking methods. The bacon provides the crunch while the half-pureed potato/half thick-cut potato mixed with sour cream and milk provide the creaminess. The leeks and scallions round out the veggie, earthy flavor to the soup.

This soup is a total pleaser. It is hearty enough for a dinner and warm enough for a cold, spring day. Might not go well for a tailgate at a baseball game but certainly does well for a haphazard snow/rain mix.

Soups may taste better in colder months but it always provides a flavor challenge despite the calender year. Creating soups can only improve your skills at learning the fine intricacies and the basics of cooking.

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