All About the Base – Soup Base 101

Stock-ingredientsWhether you are playing host(ess) to a score of hungry relatives, or you’ve been asked to bring one special dish to contribute to the feast, you’ll want your Thanksgiving cooking to be some of your very best.

Since the foundation of many Thanksgiving dishes is a good broth or stock (think: stuffing! rice and other grains! sauce!), we thought we’d share a quick tutorial on making a fantastic base for your soup (stock-broth-etc), which in turn makes a great base for so many other recipes.


2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 onions, chopped
1 tsp Kosher salt
4 stalks celery, minced
1 Cup water (OR 1 Cup red or white wine)

5 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced (OR 2-4 tsp Garlic Powder)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ dice
Coarsely ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Thyme leaf

Optional, part two:
Tomatoes (3 fresh, cored and roughly chopped, OR 1-28 oz can diced)
2 Green peppers, cored and roughly chopped



farmers-market-bountyPour olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan (preferably a Dutch oven or big heavy stock pot), and heat over medium-high heat. Once oil is sizzling, add the chopped onion and “sweat” them, stirring frequently and allowing the vegetables to release their sugars, caramelizing on the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle with the salt.

When onion is well-browned (8 – 10 min or more), add the chopped celery and repeat the sweating process with this addition. Keep using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to scrape the yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The moisture from the celery will help loosen these tasty morsels as it cooks.  Cook the onion-celery mixture about 5 – 6 min.

Optional 1: if this is about as “complex” as you want your soup base to be, it’s time to deglaze* the pan. Add 1 cup of water (or 1 Cup of red or white wine, depending on what kind of flavor you want – experiment with this — it’s all good!) to the hot pan, and quickly scrape any remaining caramelized vegetables from the bottom and sides of the pot.

OR – If you want to go for a more complex flavor in your soup base, DON’T DEGLAZE YET. Instead, sprinkle the minced garlic with another 1/2 tsp of salt, and add to the garlic-celery mixture, continuing to sweat/brown/saute for 3 -5 minutes. If the bottom of the pan begins to seem dry and you fear that the garlic and other ingredients may burn rather than brown, add more olive oil, about 1 tsp at a time. Whatever you do, continue to stir frequently.

Now, add the chopped carrot and a few twists of freshly-ground black pepper, continuing to check for adequate oil for your sweating enjoyment (who knew sweating could be so much fun?).  Sprinkle with thyme, and cook the vegetables for approx 10 minutes.

Optional 2: If, at this point, you feel like the soup base is “done,” follow the deglazing instructions above (under “Optional 1.”).

Tomatoes_2013OR – if you want an even more tasty soup base, add some tomatoes and/or some chopped green pepper. Saute these newest additions until they have given up their unique flavors, stirring and browning for about 5 minutes before adding 1 Cup of liquid and deglazing the pan.

Whichever option you follow, once you have sweated, sauteed, and otherwise caramelized the vegetables for your soup base, and you have dutifully deglazed the cooking pan, you are ready for turning the vegetables into soup. At this point, you can cool, cover, and refrigerate the beginnings of your soup base for up to 3-4 days.

When you are ready to expand the volume of your soup base:  Add an additional 1 – 2 quarts of water (or a mixture of wine and water) to the caramelized vegetables, and bring to a boil over high heat. The less liquid you add, the stronger the concentration of the flavors in your soup base. Once the liquid begins to bubble, turn down to a bare simmer. Cover pan and allow to simmer, at least 60 min, so that flavors can permeate the broth.

When you are ready to use the soup base in a recipe, you can leave in the delicious bits of vegetable, or when a chunky base is undesirable (think smooth sauces), pour the soup base through a fine mesh strainer, (sadly) discarding the solids.

Soup base will keep, refrigerated, up to one week, or can be cooled and frozen up to several months.