At this time of year, soup is such a comfort — on a cold day, it makes you feel not only warmer but somehow more alive. Like many go-to foods, it’s great just eaten (or drunk) straight, but can also be enjoyed in lots of other ways. Pour yourself some soup and read on — it’s probably going to be a long winter.
Meat or poultry broth or stock (read up on the difference here) is easy to make into gravy; just thicken it with blending flour and add some meat drippings, if you have any. If not, it’s still just as good as gravy you get from a can or make from a mix.
Try making clear soup more filling and nourishing by adding a beaten egg while the soup is heating. Keep stirring and the tiny strands of egg will cook quickly. For a richer version, you can add Parmesan cheese to the egg first.
Substitute clear soup for water when you cook rice or orzo (rice-shaped pasta). The cooked-in flavor makes the dish taste rich without any added fat.
Learn to make dumplings. You can steam them over soup, adding vegetables and meat (or fish, or beans) to make a one-dish meal.
Though this is more of a summer dish, you can make it any time you want if you have plain gelatin: Aspic, a savory jelly that was once much more popular and still tastes great.
Blend leftover mashed potatoes (hey, it’s just after Thanksgiving) with clear soup to make, well, non-clear or thick soup. You can do this with any pureed vegetable, in fact.
That brings us to the whole subject of thick soups. Though they’re not so good substituted for cooking water, they can still make good sauces for cooked food, especially if you thicken them a little extra. Like many sauces, thick soups can be made easily by heating milk, thickening it with blending flour, and adding seasonings. Cornstarch or a roux — a mixture of hot fat and flour — can be used if you have no blending flour.
If you want soup for cooking and there’s none in the house, homemade, canned, instant or otherwise, there are a few liquids you can substitute in a pinch — tomato juice (even the kind that canned tomatoes are packed in), tomato sauce thinned with water (or something stronger), and even water flavored with soy sauce. But keeping soup around isn’t hard, and you’ll be glad you have it.