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Cooking in College: Soup for the soul

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Homemade clam chowder. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

Homemade clam chowder. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

The cold season is coming, and a warm soup goes a long way to combat the frigid frost and seasonal sickness. Although the featured recipe in this column is for clam chowder, the principles of making soup are fairly uniform across the board.

When cooking soup, it’s important to balance simmer time with stirring time. Most soups need time to sit in heat to be properly made, but letting them sit for too long could cause the part of the soup on the bottom of the pot to burn or solidify, depending on the ingredients.

Generally, soups require a base ingredient, like a stock or a cream of some kind. That base ingredient is practically what makes soup what it is, and it’s modified by whatever else is put in the pot. A soup can be modified in two major ways: by texture and by taste.

The texture of a soup can be easily altered, and it’s affected by chunky ingredients, such as diced meats or chopped vegetables, or by ingredients that thicken the broth, like corn starch or flour.

In the clam chowder, it’s made more chunky through the chopped onions, minced celery, diced potatoes and minced clam, and the flour thickens the soup itself. If you’re someone who likes your chowders on the thicker side, adding more flour isn’t a bad option as long as you don’t go overboard.

Now, as obvious as this sounds, most, if not all, ingredients will affect the flavor of the soup, but some will have a bigger impact than others. In the clam chowder’s case, the clam juice will hit the hardest because the juice assimilates well into the milk and cream base. The second biggest flavor changer in this case would be the salt and pepper, which you’ll also want to be careful with because the spices can become overpowering if used recklessly.

Overall, soup is a low-maintenance dish to make, and it’s easy to cook up large batches of it that can be saved for later. It’s a great, warm dish to keep spirits high in the coming winter.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, minced
2 potatoes, diced
2 6.5-ounce cans minced clams
1/2 cup flour
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
On a cutting board, prep the vegetables.
In a large pot, melt the butter. Then add the chopped onions, minced celery and diced potatoes. Stir the vegetables around to coat them in melted butter.
Add the clams (including the juices in the cans) after the onions have softened. Stir the mixture constantly for five minutes.
Add the flour, and stir the vegetables and clams to mix the flour in properly. Let the pot sit for five more minutes, stirring it occasionally.
Slowly pour in the milk and cream, stirring it in evenly to mix it with the flour and clam juice. Let the pot simmer for 25 minutes.
Add in black pepper and salt to taste.

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