Shorter, slower days and starkly cooler temperatures make it the perfect time to try these comfort-food recipes from Triangle chefs and foodies.
by Addie Ladner
Winter is the season to huddle together at the table and reconnect over comfort food, so we tapped the archives for ten nourishing soup recipes shared by Raleigh area chefs and food writers alike. Each one showcases herbs, spices, lesser-known vegetables and professional techniques to create something satisfying simple. Might we suggest making big batches of them to freeze and pull out on snow days?
Parsnip Soup with Apple, Horseradish, and Chives
This blended soup boosts a less-popular but nonetheless tasteful and healthy root vegetable, the parsnip. “Growing up, we lived with my grandfather and he always used to cook parsnips… we hated them! The smell of them – everything – we hated them. All those years we actually used to make fun of them. And then, as I became a chef, I realized these are really good and we don’t make them enough. When I can promote parsnips, I can promote what (my grandfather) shared with me,” says Rex Hospital chef Ryan Conklin, who shared this recipe with us in October 2015.
How to Make Parsnip Soup with Apple, Horseradish, and Chives
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 cups chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon minced chives, for garnish
- For the garnish
Mix and reserve
- ½ cup sliced apple, julienned
- 1 teaspoon horseradish, grated
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add parsnips and onions and cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add spices, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook this for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until parsnips are tender. Transfer the soup into a blender and process in small batches until velvety smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Return soup to saucepan and whisk in cream; bring to a simmer. Adjust seasoning as needed. To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Place about 1 tablespoon of the apple-horseradish mixture on top, and finish with chives in the center of each bowl. Serves 6-8.
A creative way to turn people into collard lovers: Southern Smoke BBQ pitmaster Matt Register cuts the sometimes overly-bitter flavor of collards with creamy potatoes, milk and savory-sweet ham, in a well-rounded Eastern N.C., inspired chowder he shared with us for our Taste of the Wild event in November 2020.
How to Make Collard Chowder
● 2½ pound collard greens, coarsely chopped
● 1 tablespoon. kosher salt
● 8 ounces country ham, coarsely chopped (about 1½ cups)
● 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
● 2 tablespoons salted butter
● 1 teaspoons ground turmeric
● 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2½ cups)
● 1 cup heavy cream
● 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine the collard greens, salt, and 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender but not mushy, 50-60 minutes. Drain, reserving the potlikker, and set the greens and potlikker aside. Rinse out the pot and return to medium heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat begins to render and the edges begin to brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the onion and butter, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 4-6 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, then add 3 cups of the reserved potlikker and the potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 4-6 minutes more. Stir in 3 cups of the reserved greens,heavy cream, and black pepper, then bring to a simmer and cook until the greens are very tender and heated through, 6-8 minutes. Serve hot.
This version of hot-and-sour soup contains no soy sauce and has some unexpected ingredients, like bamboo shoots and flower stems. The “hot” comes from ground white pepper and the “sour” from white vinegar. Hal Hopfenberg had to barter algebra lessons with David Mao to get this recipe, which he shared in the February 2016 issue, but Mao has softened up over the years: no trades required. The recipe contains two somewhat unusual ingredients: dried wood ear mushrooms and dried lily flower stems, both available at local Asian stores. The dried lily flowers are the unopened flowers of the daylily plant, and they give the soup a bit more of an earthy flavor.
How to Make Hot-and-Sour Soup
- 2 quarts chicken broth, preferably homemade
- ½ teaspoon white pepper, ground
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup cornstarch, stirred into ½ cup cold water
- ½ cup dried wood ear mushrooms
- ½ cup dried lily flower stem
- ½ cup bamboo shoot strips
- 5 ounces soft tofu, cut into ¼-in. strips
- Handful of scallions, chopped
- Sesame oil
Cover the lily flower stem with boiling water. Let soak for at least one hour. Soak the mushrooms in warm water for about 20 minutes. Chop each into long threads. Bring chicken broth to a boil, add vinegar, pepper, salt, and sugar and mix well. Add cornstarch slurry slowly, while stirring the soup, until it reaches desired thickness. It should be a little thick, but not sauce-like. You probably will not use all the slurry. While stirring, slowly add beaten eggs. Add mushrooms, lily flower, bamboo strips, and tofu. Garnish with chopped scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil.
This interesting soup from Scott Crawford, which he shared in November 2018 as part of his Jolie-inspired Thanksgiving menu, caught our eye with its unique combo of vanilla powder and star anise and chestnuts. Chestnuts are easiest to find and stock up on in winter for a sophisticated side dish or lunch.
How to Make Chestnut Soup
- 1 pound roasted peeled chestnuts
- 1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled and sliced
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1/2 quart heavy cream
- 1/4 pound whole butter and 1 tablespoon
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 allspice
- 1 teaspoon dry ginger
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon vanilla powder
- Kosher salt to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon butter then add onions and parsnip. Sauté until tender. Add chestnuts, vegetable stock, and cream. Simmer for 20 minutes. While soup is simmering, place remaining butter, cinnamon, anise, allspice, and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until butter separates and browns. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside. Puree soup in a blender on high speed, then strain through a fine sieve. Ladle soup into individual bowls, drizzle brown butter liberally, finish with a sprinkle of vanilla powder. Serves eight.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
We love the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds in this wholesome pumpkin soup from Fiction Kitchen, shared in October 2014 from Capital Style Veggies. It’s elevated with garam masala, ginger and more, and is a great way to utilize a humble can of the winter squash.
How to Make Curried Pumpkin Soup
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons vegan Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or butter or olive oil)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon your favorite curry powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 dash cayenne (only if your curry powder does not contain cayenne)
- 1½ tablespoons agave nectar
- 1 cup pumpkin (if using fresh, make sure it is roasted and pureed, or canned)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons vegan sour cream (or sour cream)
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
- Toasted pumpkin seed for garnish
Put chopped onion, carrots, bay leaf and buttery spread in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat and sweat until tender. You don’t want to add color to the vegetable here, just soften. This could take about six minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, then cook for two more minutes. Add the pumpkin, spices (except salt) and agave. Stir and let the pumpkin warm through. Once the pumpkin is hot, remove the bay leaf. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Put one cup of the stock in the blender with the pumpkin mixture. Cover the blender and hold the lid on with a towel. Blend until you have a thick puree. Now add one more cup of stock. Blend again, making sure there are no chunks. Move the mixture back to the saucepan and add the remaining cup of stock. Stir well and bring back to a low simmer. Once simmering, fold in the sour cream and turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm with cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish. You could even add a little swirl of sour cream if you wish. Makes four 8-ounce servings.
How to Make Potato Soup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/3 pound unsalted butter, cubed
- 11/2 cups flour
- 11/2 cups sliced leeks
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 gallon very hot water
- 1/3 pound chicken bouillon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 2 quarts pre-cooked peeled and diced potatoes
In a large pot, add 1 cup water and celery, onions, leeks, white pepper, black pepper and bay leaves; bring to a boil to break down veggies (about 15 minutes); set aside and clean out the pot. In the same pot, melt butter on low heat (do not burn!) for 5-7 minutes. Add flour and stir to create a roux; cook on low for 10 minutes. In a separate container, dissolve the bouillon in the hot water to make a broth. Add chicken broth to the roux and cook on medium heat, stirring, until the roux dissolves. When its starts boiling remove from heat. Add the vegetables and pre-cooked potatoes and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes. Garnish with cheddar cheese, bacon and green onion.
Whatever-You-Got Bean Soup
If you’re not keeping dried beans stocked in your pantry, now is the time. Just throw them in a pot with whatever meat you have on hand, stock, canned tomatoes or any other fitting pantry staples you have on hand and voila, says food writer and producer Andrea Wiegl. She shared this hack with us in March of 2020 for our What I’m Doing series. “My mom always turned a leftover holiday ham into a large pot of ham and bean soup. While I love the prepackaged 15-bean soup that I can get at the store, it’s not necessary. These days I use the random assortment of dried beans in my pantry to recreate this favorite.” says Wiegl.
How to Make Whatever-You-Got Bean Soup
Cover 3 cups of dried beans (really whatever you’ve got: lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, pintos, etc.) with water in a pot and let soak overnight. The next day, drain off the water and add 8 cups fresh water, 1 diced onion and any meat you have on hand (a leftover ham bone, a ham hock or sliced smoked sausage). Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours until beans are all soft. Add 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and simmer for another 30 minutes. Pull ham bone or ham hock, if using; once cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bone, shred, and add meat back to the pot. Season to taste with salt, pepper and up to 1 teaspoon chili powder. Note: this makes more than most families will eat in one or two settings and freezes well.
Turkey Ramen Noodle Soup
In November 2019, The Player’s Retreat’s chef Beth Littlejohn shared that she her Thanksgiving leftovers to make ramen noodle soup — and it works just as well with turkey you’ve had in the freezer for a few weeks. If you’re using leftovers, use store-bought stock instead.
How to Make Turkey Ramen Noodle Soup
Turkey Stock Ingredients
- 1 turkey carcass
- 4 onions
- 4 carrots
- 4 stalks of celery
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
To make the stock
Add all ingredients into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 hours. Strain and set aside. (great to freeze some if you don’t need it all for soup)
- Skin from turkey for garnish
- 2 cups diced cooked turkey meat
- 1 cup diced cooked sweet potatoes
- 1 cup diced green beans
- ½ cup diced onion
- 2 packs of ramen noodles (you DO NOT need the seasoning packet, just the noodles)
Sauté onions, add stock and bring to a boil. season with a little salt and cook noodles until just al dente. Add Green beans, turkey, sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Season with soy, sriracha and top with crispy turkey skin. (you can really add anything you like in ramen to this, a poached egg, pork belly, green onions, cilantro, etc.) To crisp the turkey skins, place in a sauté pan with vegetable oil. Turn on to medium/high heat, once skin starts to sizzle turn temperature down to low and turn often. You may need to press with spatula to keep flat. Once fat is rendered and skin is crisp, set aside, crumble on top of ramen.
Serge Falcoz-Vigne of Saint Jacques shared this very French recipe with us in spring of 2019, but it’s a winner all year round with just five basic ingredients and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, all blended together.
How to Make Crème Dubarry
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups chopped leeks
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cup cream
- Sea salt and white pepper
Wash the cauliflower under running water, then cut into pieces and reserve. Keep only the white of the leeks, wash thoroughly then chop it. In a non-reactive pan over the stove, add the butter, let it melt, then add the leeks. Let the leeks cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the cauliflower, cook for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock. Let cook for an additional 30 minutes. When the cauliflower is very tender, mix it with a hand mixer or a food processor with the cream (start with 1 cup) until smooth. You can strain it if you want to make it very French. Taste, then add salt and pepper if desired. Use white pepper; it’s a nice way to hide it in the soup. Garnish with some chives, if desired. It’s delicate and pretty. Serves 4.
Vegan Eggplant Stew
Trinidad & Tobago native Brigid Washington says this unique way to eat eggplant, stewed and softened, was a staple of hers. We highlighted the dish in November of 2020 when we asked a handful of local chefs and foodies with international roots what’s their favorite comfort food. “This savory dish has a mild tingle of garlic, and I enjoy sharing because it’s approachable but not predictable, and the no-frills ingredient list makes it easy to replicate. A dash of madras curry powder and a handful of fresh garlic allows this low-effort, high-reward eggplant dish to sing with unique unexpected flavors,” says Washington.
How to Make Vegan Eggplant Stew
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons Chief or madras curry powder
- 1 medium globe eggplant (12-16 ounces)
- 7 cloves garlic (¾ ounce)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon tabasco sauce or other spicy hot sauce
Cut the top off the eggplant as close as possible to its upper stem. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the thick purple skin from the eggplant. Discard the peel. Using the chef’s knife, slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Cut each half, into thirds, so that there are three thick long steaks. Cut each steak into four or five pieces, or into a large dice. Ready a saute pan with a well-fitting lid, fork and large metal spoon. In the saute pan, over medium heat, add the oil and allow it to heat for about 30 seconds. Then add the curry powder and stir to combine the curry into the oil for a minute. Reduce heat to medium low. Add the eggplant and stir to ensure the chunks of eggplant are coated with the oily curry. Stream in a ¼ cup of water, stir eggplant and allow the eggplant to cook, covered, for about seven to nine minutes, until the eggplant is tender. In the meantime, while the eggplant is cooking, peel and mince garlic using a chef’s knife. Remove the lid, stream in another ¼ cup of water, stir, cover and cook for another seven minutes. Remove the lid, using a fork, mash the eggplant, which should be tender and juicy. Add garlic, salt, and Tabasco and stir to combine, cook uncovered for another three minutes, until flavors have melded and garlic has mellowed. Remove from heat and season with salt and hot sauce to taste. Save some time: Eggplant can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.
Chicken and Dumpling Soup
What’s not to love about a classic Southern chicken and dumplings recipe? In February 2013, we enjoyed rustic dinner with the McLaurin family, who offered this straightforward recipe with just six ingredients. It also uses shortcuts like remade dumplings and bouillon cubes that Megan Poole learned from her grandmother.
How to Make Chicken and Dumpling Soup
- 1 whole chicken
- 3 bone-in chicken breasts
- 3 chicken bouillon cubes
- 3 (24-ounce) boxes of Anne’s Flat Dumplings
- 1 (32-ounce) container of chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place the whole chicken and chicken breasts in a large stock pot with a fitted lid. Cover with water. Add bouillon cubes and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat. Let chicken simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken to a large bowl or plastic container and let sit until cool enough to handle. Once cool, separate the meat from the bones. Collect meat and set aside. Discard the bones and skin. Add enough water to the pot to fill halfway and bring to a boil again. Add dumplings one at a time. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally to keep dumplings from sticking to each other. Add chicken meat and broth and stir. Reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Serves 12 to 16.
Chicken Massaman Curry
A bright but hearty one-pot dish with spices, pineapple and coconut, this is perfect if you want something exotic this time of year but don’t want to put forth too much effort. In September 2013, when chef Steven Greene, was leading An in Cary (he’s now at The Umstead), he generously shared this unique but simply curry recipe with us. “Thai curries can be very simple affairs when using canned curry paste. Some of the green and red pastes can be blisteringly hot and are best as very simple curries. Massaman is a fairly mild curry that can be used with nearly every type of meat and seafood, but it’s particularly good with vegetables and fruit.” says Greene.
How to Make Chicken Massaman Curry
- 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 can (4 ounces) of Massaman curry paste
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup butternut squash, cut into 1-inch dice
- 2 medium yellow or white potatoes, diced
- 1 cup cauliflower florets
- 1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ¼ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup raisins
- 12 basil leaves, chopped finely
- Jasmine rice, prepared
Lightly brown the chicken with vegetable oil in a thick-bottomed dutch oven over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken, add curry paste, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook another 2 minutes. Slowly add coconut milk, stirring, until the curry paste is totally incorporated into the coconut milk. Add red bell pepper, cinnamon stick, butternut squash, and potatoes. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, pineapple, peanuts and raisins, cooking 5 to 7 minutes more, until all vegetables are tender. Add chopped basil and chicken. Serve over prepared jasmine rice.