Cold Weather Alert: Soup Is Good Food

Categories: Eat This
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Ajiaco
Late one evening in a tiny bungalow in Tarpon River, the intoxicating fragrance of chicken broth simmered as a backdrop for friends sipping wine. Open windows, the warmth of candlelight, a farmhouse table, and old concentric wood floors framed a sensory scene to invoke an earlier era.

The interplay of homemade broth with noodles, vegetables, meats, and condiments translates to something soulful. It can be rustic reminder of a favorite place, person, or time of year. A refined version illuminates the skill of a chef, whether it's a consomme, a complex ramen, or a silky vegetable purée.

The process of eating soup differs from other dishes too. You must be more attentive to how hot it is so as not to scald yourself. You're engaged with the twirl of noodles from the bowl to a spoon. You season at the finish by adding herbs or citrus. You decide whether to slurp. Even when it's a lively bowl of flavors, soup requires mindfulness.

Today's temperature dip provides ideal conditions for finding a bowl that resonates, whether that soup is rustic or refined. After the jump, some favorites around town along with a suggestion for making your own.

Conch Chowder at Sea
The soup is just this: mirepoix, San Marzano tomatoes, white wine, sherry, and conch in a broth infused with poblano, cubanelle peppers, tumeric, and cumin. I covet it.

Ramen at Kapow!
Good ramen, like pizza, presents with a litany of toppings: fried egg, chiffonaded seaweed, paillard of duck, or slices of pork belly. The broth is earthy and primal, seasoned with mushrooms, soy, and mirin. It's a bowl that grows as it unravels, noodles absorbing the broth's smoky flavor.

Ajiaco from La Placita
This green-flecked soup with a touch of cream that features chicken breast and stock, two types of Colombian potatoes (one that's very soft), half an ear of corn, capers for acid, and the distinctive guascas herb that I love. Part of the daisy family, it reminds me of a combination of the bitterness of collard greens and soap of cilantro. Try Melissa Clark's version from the New York Times here.

Wedding soup at SpoonFed
A reference to the marriage of meats and greens, wedding soup seeded every menu of my childhood. I was enchanted by tiny meatballs, like savory Lucky Charms, nestled amid rice and cut with bitter greens in a sumptuous broth. Enriched with pancetta, a variety of greens, and grated Parmesan, chef Glen Mantra's rendition does not disappoint.

Pho at Basilic
Pho is especially fun to assemble, as I was reminded this weekend during a D.C. pho delivery during vacation, when each ingredient arrived in its own container: rice noodles, jalapeño,Thai basil, scallions, eye of round, brisket, bean sprouts, and condiments. That it was a surprise  from a lovely friend made it more delightful.

If you're ambitious, you can always make a soup for someone from this recipe for chicken pho. Though it's near travesty to swap beef for bird, you have to be willing to invest time to make your own beef stock. Chicken is easier and the next best thing. I suspect there's a butcher around who sells broth, but I haven't yet found the place. 

Have you had an oxtail soup, mulligatawny, or some other delicious soup we should try? Let us know in the comments.


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Laine Doss
Laine Doss

I am totally making my clam chowdah this evening....

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