Soup for the masses gets a makeover

broccoli soup

Soup is a dining hall staple for its portability and warming comfort. It’s also one of the most versatile dishes in any chef’s recipe book. That adaptability is taken seriously at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where chef Mickael Blancho launched the campus’s Soup Guy program. And at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, events such as soup crawls, in which students visit multiple soup locations on campus and vote for their favorite, and a daily soup menu webpage are just a few examples of the campus’s dedication to the lunch favorite.

“It’s fun to play with new soups and things that we’ve never tried before,” says Blancho, who also runs the popular Soup Guy Instagram feed.

We asked Blancho, Santa Barbara chef Bernard Gayraud and Carnegie Mellon chef Victor Schmidt to offer inspiration with their twists on basic recipes.

1. Beef base

beef bourguignon

From-scratch beef broth acts as the foundation in Blancho and Gayraud’s homemade beef bourguignon, beef barley and beef stew. When Schmidt’s making bone broths for a dish such as Vietnamese pho, beef broth also helps. “If you’re making bone broth in a kettle that only has the capacity to do maybe 30 gallons, you can take that and extend it out using a beef base,” Schmidt says.

2. Bone broth

leek soup

A traditional bone broth can take a variety of forms. Schmidt says he’ll sometimes take a whole unpeeled onion, slice it in half and roast it until it’s browned. Adding it to the soup and removing it before serving enriches the soup’s color and adds smokiness. The onion can also be pureed and added into the broth itself for a slightly different flavor.

3. Chicken base

red wine chicken stew

Schmidt enhances some chicken-centric recipes with a roasted garlic base he adds to a chicken base, giving a dish such as chicken and rice a more complex profile.

4. Chili

chili con carne

A recent international-style chili promotion at Carnegie Mellon featured Mexican carnitas chili with slow-cooked pork, Jamaican jerk chili with pineapple and plantains, Indian veggie chili with chickpeas and ginger, and Moroccan beef chili with eggplant, sweet potatoes and zucchini.

5. Vegetable base

butternut squash soup

Vegetable broth can turn soups vegan. A pho, for example, can use carrot or celery bases instead of pork or veal. Schmidt also uses vegetable broths to bring out flavor in cream-based soups such as cream of mushroom or broccoli.

6. Ramen

soup with egg

Chefs at Carnegie Mellon dish out as many as 200 bowls of ramen a day. Schmidt says they can spice things up by starting with a pork base and going all in with crispy pork, pork belly, a seven-minute egg and veggies, or take it another direction with ingredients such as kombucha.

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