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I can think of no meal more satisfying on a cold winter day than soup. Whether it's a thick chili or a golden chicken noodle, there's something about a bowl of soup that makes life seem simple and good.
Would you like to make that bowl of soup into something really special?
The answer lies in the bowl you serve it in. Sure, you could ladle your favorite soup into a crock, bowl or cup. But, if you serve it in a bread bowl, your soup becomes more than the ultimate in comfort food. It becomes a meal -- and not just any meal. Having a piping hot bowl of soup in a bread bowl makes your dining experience an event -- at least, that's how it happens in my home.
I start out with a trip to my favorite bakery to get as many rounds of bread as I need. That's right -- I don't make them from scratch. Feel free to try that route if you'd like. I'd just as soon spend that time making my soup from scratch. I pick out sourdough, whole grain or French rounds to suit the soup that I'm planning. I told the baker about my plans for the rounds once and shortly thereafter, hollowed-out rounds began appearing on the bakery shelves that were labeled "bread bowls". It was a great idea and nice if you're in a hurry, but I'd rather purchase the whole rounds and keep the insides for bread crumbs or homemade croutons!
Once I get your bread rounds home, I ignore them for a bit while I get the soup started. I usually don't worry about them until about 20 minutes before I'm ready to serve my meal. When that time arrives, I get a sharp paring knife and cut a 3-4" diameter circle out of the top of each bread round. Then, using my fingers, I pull the top off and set it aside. Then it's time to work away the inside of each bread round -- leaving about 1" of bread on the walls and bottom. I usually put all the removed insides into a resealable bag and send them to the freezer to be used as bread crumbs or croutons in another life!
Now that I have some bread rounds that actually resemble bowls, I lightly spray the insides of the bowl with olive oil and rub some crushed garlic onto the walls of the bowls if it will enhance the flavor of the soup -- which, in my case, is almost always true. Then, the bowls and their reserved covers get popped into a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until the bread turns a golden brown.
Finally, it's time to enjoy a tasty homemade soup in a slightly cripsy bread bowl. I begin by scraping small bits of bread into the soup and bringing them to my mouth with spoonfuls of hot soup. Then, as the bowl begins to empty, small pieces of the bowl are torn from the top and generously dipped into the soup. By the time the bowl is empty, the bottom crust has softened slightly and taken on the full flavor of the soup that was served in it. After enjoying it bite by bite, dinner is done!
I would be remiss in my duties if I left you without sharing some of my favorite soups to serve in bread bowls. In general, I prefer hearty soups with a thick or creamy base. Chowders and chilis are traditional favorites in my home, but any soup with a strong flavor will work. After all, most soups are wonderful when they are served with bread, why not try serving them in bread? Here are two of my all time favorite bread bowl soups:
This creamy soup is one of my favorite cold weather treats.
4 (6 1/2 oz.) cans chopped clams
1 T. olive oil
2 c. chopped onion
5 c. finely chopped potato
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 c. milk
2 c. light cream
3-4 T. cornstarch
Drain the clams, reserving the juice.
In a large stockpot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until golden brown. Add the reserved clam juice, potatoes, bouillon cubes, Worchestershire sauce, thyme and pepper. Bring the mixture to boiling and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Using a spatula, mash the potatoes against the side of the pan until they are slightly mashed.
Combine the milk, cream and cornstarch in a separate container until well blended. Add to the potato mixture and stir until bubbly and thickened. Add the clams and cook until heated through. Serve in sourdough bread bowls. If desired, garnish with crumbled crispy bacon.
Chipotle peppers are smoked jalepeno peppers. You can omit the ground chipotle pepper from this recipe if you'd like, but the smoky flavor they impart to the final product will be missing.
1 T. olive oil
1.5 lbs. ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 T. chili powder
1 qt. tomato juice
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomato
1 (16 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. salt
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground chuck, onion, peppers and garlic. Mix frequently and continue cooking until the beef is browned and the vegetables are soft. Add the
pepper, cumin, chipotle pepper, crushed red pepper and chili powder. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato juice, beans, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for as little as 30 minutes and as long as 4 hours, depending on how much time you have and how much you want the flavors to blend. Serve in whole grain bread bowls. If desired, garnish with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
Yields: 6-8 servings
Preparation Time: 1-5 hours, depending on simmering time