November 15, 2013

Soup offers comfort during cold Maine winters

Experts say a hearty bowl not only warms, but can be good for your health.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Gritty’s Blackened Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Photo by Lara Ferroni from “The American Craft Beer Cookbook.” Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

Baked Potato and Leek Soup

Photo by Scott Phillips from “Fine Cooking Soups & Stews”

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Rosen’s chain of comfort food restaurants in New York sell a number of soups, including classic French onion soup with Swiss cheese and a chicken soup with matzoh balls, which is the customer favorite. That leads to the next tip:

• It’s OK to take some short cuts, like buying pre-cut butternut squash for a roasted butternut squash soup, but know when to stop. Rosen’s French onion soup, for example, includes the classic bit of toast on top, and yes, it’s worth the trouble to toast it. Some people might just toss the bread on top of the soup, but then all you will have is soggy bread.

And don’t skimp on the cheese. It has major “comfort appeal.”

“You want that cheese over the top and running down the outside of your bowl,” Rosen said. “It’s fun to scrape up the side of the bowl while you’re eating it and pick at the cheese, if you know what I mean.”

• Don’t walk away from the pot for too long.

“It’s so easy to turn around and do something else and scorch everything that’s in the pan,” Kinney said. “With so much liquid being in the pot, it’s really easy to forget about it and to think that it’s all OK. But even though there’s a ton of water in there, things will still burn onto the bottom. Beans, as they cook they’ll sink, and they’ll scorch onto the bottom.”

• It’s hard to grow fresh herbs in the winter, especially in Maine, so don’t worry too much about using dried herbs in your soups.

“You just don’t need as much,” Kinney said. “You’ll need about three times as much fresh herb as you will dry herb. Yes, the flavor’s going to be a little different, it’s not going to be as robust. But in the grand scheme of things I think it’s OK if you use dry herbs.”

If you want to splurge on fresh herbs at the grocery store, do it where it will count the most. Kinney recommends always using fresh cilantro, parsley and basil because they taste best fresh.

Finally, just experiment. That involves more tasting. Taste the vegetables when they’re raw, and then again when they’ve been in the pot for a while.

“Every time that you change something, taste it and see what’s different,” Kinney said. “Just make a mental note, write it down, whatever it takes. And then you’ll be able to get a better picture of the whole process.

“The best advice I can give is just kind of play around with it,” he said. “Part of the learning process in cooking is you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make bad meals. But you’re also going to make good things. It’s experimenting and finding that balance that really leads you to be a good cook.”

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or


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Additional Photos

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Junior’s French Onion Soup

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Kale Soup with Chorizo from Robert’s Maine Grill

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