Great Bowls of Fire–Spicy Soups

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by Dave DeWitt and W.C. Longacre

Great Bowls of Fire!

A Spicy Pair of Soupiers at Play:

Excerpt from Great Bowls of Fire!


Lemon Grass-Gingered Chicken Wonton Soup

Won Ton Soup Broth

Double Chile Vegetable Stew

Creamy Green Chile and Bay Shrimp Chowder

W.C.’s Green Chile Sauce

Newspaper Soup

UB Alarmed Five-Chile Chili

Wild Mushroom Bisque with Grilled Chicken

Soups are the elegant side of a chef’s kitchen. In professional cooking, tradition holds that the head chef always makes the soup. In fact, if you catch the chef eating something in his kitchen, chances are it will be a soup. Why do chefs love soups? Because it gives them a chance to recycle some of the byproducts of the main dishes, as well as take advantage of seasonal ingredients. Chefs believe that soups are the everyday practice of the art of balancing flavors, and the same concepts used to make great sauces will work to make great soups. Soupmaking is an elegant art and an understated way to show off one’s culinary expertise.

Chefs also love soups because they are make-ahead meals that can be held for a long time before serving. A soup to open a meal signals that what follows will be an elegant feast. Yet soups are also basic comfort foods, and can become a full meal when served with the right accompaniments. Also, soups are a great way to use up supermarket loss leaders or special sales. For example, salmon does not freeze particularly well, but salmon stock does.

We consider ourselves to be soupiers, an invented term for chefs who specialize in soupmaking much like a saucier specializes in preparing sauces. But W.C. is the real chef of the pair and created most of the recipes in this book. He started focusing on soups in 1976 at his first restaurant, the Morning Glory Cafe in Albuquerque, where he featured a freshly made soup of the day. He experimented with hundreds of soups–most were bowls of fire–as he tested them with his customers over the years. In subsequent cooking stints in Hong Kong and Key West, he experimented with Asian and Caribbean soups. During his years as chef and owner of the Portside Restaurant in Key West, he learned the techniques of seafood soups and chowders with quite a kick from the habanero and Scotch bonnet chiles that were available in Key West markets.

When W.C. owned the Mountain Road Cafe in Albuquerque, he prepared three hot and spicy soup specials every day, and soup lovers could feast on a sampler of smaller bowls of fire that, with his special red chile bread, made a filling meal. W.C. was the first winner of the Albuquerque Souper Bowl, a competition held the Saturday before the Super Bowl in January. It began in 1995 as a benefit for the Roadrunner Food Bank to benefit the homeless and was held at Wild Oats Market. About fifteen top chefs from New Mexico enter their best soups and they are judged by the general public, who pay to taste them all. W.C. now has won the Souper Bowl twice and has finished second once.

Dave’s connection to these bowls of fire comes from his annual chile garden. Since he is an avid chile grower, he constantly experiments with growing seed from exotic varieties. Inevitably, he has a bumper crop and is continually passing them on to W.C. so that he can invent soups with new flavors. There are some exotic chiles in the recipes in this book, but we provide substitutions of readily available chiles. Dave also collected soup recipes on his travels around the world researching chile pepper lore; many of those recipes are included in this book.

We should mention the fact that some of the recipes here serve small numbers of people, while others are designed to serve ten to twelve. In most cases, the smaller servings are for fragile soups that do not freeze particularly well. Thus the larger yielding recipes are designed for freezing and later serving. It is just as much trouble to make 2 gallons as 2 quarts of soup, assuming that the cook has the freezer space to store it. Soups in the freezer are a great backup if unexpected company shows up or if the household cook doesn’t feel very creative at the moment. A frozen supply of these great bowls of fire are perfect to take to neighbors, to give as gifts, or to help those suffering from illnesses.

Tools of the Spicy Soup Trade

We suggest that anyone interested in becoming a soupier invest in a good stockpot with a capacity of at least ten quarts. It is by far the best pot for making large quantities of soups of stews. Other pots can be used, including dutch ovens. A “china cap” is better than a standard sieve or collander for straining. It is a conical, perforated stainless steel sieve with a handle and a bracket so it can hang on the stock pot. It can also be used to remove the skins and seeds from tomatoes. By lining the china cap with cheesecloth during straining, the cook can make a clear broth.

There are several essential tools for grinding, chopping, and pureeing. An electric spice mill is perfect for grinding chiles and spices into powder, but a spice-dedicated coffee grinder will also work. A small blender or mini-chopper works well for small amounts of garlic or onion that need to be minced. A food processor is a necessity for heavy-duty chopping and grating, but a large commercial blender is better for pureeing.

The apprentice soupier will need two whisks, one long and one short, one made of rigid wire, one of piano wire. Buy these at a restaurant supply store. Measuring spoons on a ring are handy because the cook won’t have to interrupt preparing the soup to search the drawer for the one-fourth tablespoon. Pyrex measuring cups are essential–buy two or three of every size; some soups have both wet and dry ingredients and this quantity will save the cook from washing and drying cups when he or she should be concentrating on making the recipe.

A variable grind pepper mill insures that the proper grind of pepper will make it to the soup, and another handy tool is a stainless steel box grater; we recomment buying a large one since the smaller ones bend too easily. A slotted spoon is a necessity for adding ingredients to the soup without splashing or for removing things from the soup. An Asian spider can be used for the same task; it is wire mesh on a wooden handle. A double boiler is used to hold cream soups at a constant temperature before serving, or for warming any soup that can’t be boiled. For sauteeing, several sizes of heavy skillets will be needed, including a cast-iron skillet. Woks are multi-purpose devises used to steam, boil, sear, and stir-fry. An unusual skillet is a ribbed cast iron skillet with ribs about one inch apart. It is a substitute for grilling if an open flame is not available. It will keep the meat out of its own fats and juices.

Also important in the soup kitchen is good cutlery for chopping and mincing. Cleavers are very handy and inexpensive ones can be found at Asian markets. The heavier ones work better. Cleavers are acually safer to use than knives. An essential tool is a large, heavy wooden cutting board.

Finally, we believe that gas stoves are better for making soups than electric ones because the temperature can be more precisely controlled.


Lemon Grass-Gingered Chicken Wonton Soup


Lemon Grass-Gingered Chicken Wonton Soup

You can buy ground chicken from your butcher, but be sure to specify that the skin should be removed before grinding. Or you can use a food processor with a sharp blade chop your own chicken, but use the pulse mode to get the proper consistency. Serve this with a cold Tsingtao beer.

  • 1 pound ground chicken (dark meat)

  • ½ cup finely chopped spinach leaves

  • 1 ½ tablespoons sherry

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh ginger

  • 2 stalks lemon grass, minced

  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh Asian chiles, or substitute serranos

  • 40 to 50 prepared wonton skins

  • 3 quarts Wonton Soup Broth (see recipe)

  • Peanut oil

  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Combine the chicken, spinach, sherry, soy sauce, ground ginger, fresh ginger, lemon grass and chiles in a bowl, mix well, and let sit for 30 minutes. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the filling onto a won ton skin, fold the skin over and press firmly to seal. Continue until the filling is gone.

Heat the Wonton Soup Broth in a pot.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok and fry the won tons in batches until golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes. Remove to a paper towel and drain.

Place 4 or 5 won tons in each soup bowl, ladle the broth over, and garnish with the parsley.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Won Ton Soup Broth

Chileheads requiring pungency other than from the wontons can add five or six whole chile pods such as santaka or piquin to this broth. Remove them before serving.

  • 3 ½ quarts homemade chicken stock

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine

  • 1 cup chopped scallions (1/8 inch long, cut on a bias)

Heat the stock in a large pot and add the ginger, five-spice powder, sugar, and hoi sin sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, add the rice wine, and cook for 5 minutes.

Yield: 3 ½ quarts

Double Chile Vegetable Stew


Double Chile Vegetable Stew

Poblano chiles are used here for their flavor and serranos for their serious bite in this hearty stew that’s perfect for a crisp fall day. This is an understated fusion dish with vegetables from all over the globe. Serve this with cornbread.

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

  • 3 poblano chiles, roasted and peeled, seeds and stems removed, chopped

  • 1 medium bunch bok choy, chopped medium

  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped medium

  • 1 leek, white part only, cut into 1/4 inch rings

  • 1 large head cabbage, chopped medium

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • 4 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomato

  • 12 ounce can tomato puree

  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine

  • 6 serrano chiles, seeds and stems removed, chopped fine

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine

  • 3 cups homemade beef stock

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 3/4 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Creamy Green Chile and Bay Shrimp Chowder


Creamy Green Chile and Bay Shrimp Chowder

This soup started as a seafood sauce for enchiladas, but the staff at the Mountain Road Cafe couldn’t keep their spoons out of it, so W.C. turned it into a soup. It’s very rich and hearty and can be garnished with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

  • 1 ½ cups W.C.’s Green Chile Sauce (see recipe)

  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock

  • 3 cups white sauce (see Joy of Cooking)

  • 1 cup peas, shelled or frozen

  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaf

  • 3/4 teaspoon basil leaf

  • 1 pound bay shrimp left whole

  • 1 cup milk

In a pot, combine the Green Chile Sauce and chicken Stock and heat to a simmer. Blend in the white sauce by whipping vigorously. Add the remaining ingredients except the milk and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the milk slowly, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Serve hot, garnished with croutons.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

W.C.’s Green Chile Sauce

This recipe dates to 1976, when W.C. created it for his first restaurant, the Morning Glory Cafe. It is meatless and dairyless, but “designed for a meat-eater’s taste,” according to W.C. It is easily frozen or canned.

  • 6 cups chopped hot New Mexican green chile

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 tablespoon red chile powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 10 cups water

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 1/2 cups water

In a large pan, combine the green chile, garlic, onion, coriander, red chile powder, white pepper, cumin, salt, and water. Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water and mix thoroughly. Add to the chile mixture and cook until the mixture clears, about 20 minutes.

Yield: About 12 cups

Heat Scale: Medium

Newspaper Soup


Newspaper Soup

This highly unusual soup is not really a bisque or cream soup–it just resembles one. W.C. says that the soup is so-named because it is black and white and red all over. It requires three processes to complete, but is well worth it. Note that the recipe requires advance preparation.

This soup is more work than most soups in this book, but it is well worth it. It stores well and you can amaze your friends and relatives time and again.

Part 1:

  • 3 quarts homemade chicken stock

  • 2 cups Great Northern beans that have been soaked in water overnight

  • 1 medium onion, minced

  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic

  • 1 medium leek, white part only, chopped fine

  • ½ teaspoon ground bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon finely ground white pepper

  • 2 tablespoons salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground celery seed

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Part 2:

  • 3 quarts ham bone stock

  • 2 cups black beans, soaked overnight in water

  • 1 medium onion, minced

  • 5 tablespoons garlic, minced

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground bayleaf

  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground celery seed

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoons oregano leaf

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Key lime preferred)

Part 3:

  • 2 heads garlic

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 tablespoons hot red chile powder (Chimayó preferred)

To make the black and white soups, use separate large pots. For part 1, combine all ingredients except the sugar and lemon juice. For part 2, combine all ingredients except the brown sugar and lime juice. Bring both pots to a boil and continue boiling, uncovered, until the beans are soft, about an hour. Add water if necessary.

While the soups are cooking, make part 3. Slightly spread the cloves apart in the heads of garlic and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each head. Roast the heads on a cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove, cool, and remove the paper from the cloves. Combine in a food processor with the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and puree until smooth. Remove and place in a squeeze bottle.

Remove the soups from the heat and cool. Puree both soups separately in a food processor, adding the sugar and lemon juice to part 1 and the brown sugar and lime juice to part 2. Return the soups to their pots and heat, taking care not to boil.

To serve, use shallow soup bowls (or “plates”) and simultaneously ladle the black and white soups into the bowls so that ½ of the bowl is black and the other is white in a harlequin effect. Then paint 1/4 inch thick red ribbons of the garlic and chile puree over the top. Be creative–this is the fun part!

Yield: 8 tp 10 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

UB Alarmed Five-Chile Chili


UB Alarmed Five-Chile Chili

An unusual chili that could also be termed a stew. This is not for beginning chileheads but for the serious aficionado. The name was inspired by the pantywaist heat scales of most other chilis.

W.C. has taken some grief over the turnips and potatoes here, but does he care? In case it’s too hot, serve this with milk or beer.

  • 7 cups homemade beef stock

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 4 small carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

  • 1 ½ tablespoons minced parsley leaf

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ tablespoon Mexican oregano leaf

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 pound turnips, peeled and shredded coarsely

  • 2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes

  • ½ cup apple cider

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • ½ cup browned butter roux (1/2 cup flour browned in 1/4 cup butter)

  • 3 large chipotle chiles

  • ½ cup Jack Daniels Bourbon (Black Label)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 6 chiles de arbol, seeds and stems removed, crushed (or substitute any small, hot dried red chiles)

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground habanero

  • 1 large pod mirasol chile, seeds and stems removed and crushed (or substitute New Mexican)

  • 8 chiltepins, crushed (or substitute piquins)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 6 tablespoons raw or dark honey

  • Sour cream for garnish

  • Chopped green onions for garnish

In a pot, combine the stock, garlic, carrots, parsley, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, turnips, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Boil uncovered for 20 minutes, adding water as needed.

In a large skillet, heat the shortening, add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beef and cooked until browned. Add the tomatoes, apple cider, tomato paste, and roux and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Rehydrate the chipotles in the bourbon for 45 minutes, using a bowl to keep them submerged. Combine the chipotles in a food processor or blender with the remaining ingredients and puree. Add this puree to the meat mixture and stir well. Add the meat mixture to the boiling soup and mix well. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with the sour cream and green onions.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Heat Scale: Extremely Hot

Wild Mushroom Bisque with Grilled Chicken


Wild Mushroom Bisque with Grilled Chicken

Every year on the Saturday preceding the Super Bowl, Wild Oats Market in Albuquerque sponsors the Chef’s Invitational Souper Bowl Soup Contest. In 1995, W.C. defeated a dozen of other Albuquerque chefs with this grand prize winner. Use whatever wild mushrooms you have to make 9 ounces–we have suggested a mixture, below. W.C. gathered most of the musrooms from the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque and urges aficionados to learn about wild mushrooms.

  • 1 3/4 pound chicken breasts, marinated in ½ cup teriyaki sauce and 1 ½ tablespoons grated ginger for 20 minutes

  • 9 ounces mixed wild mushrooms (suggested: 2 ½ ounces, boletes, 2 ½ ounces cepes,
    2 ounces morels, 1 ounce golden trumpets, 1 ounce black trumpets)

  • 2 large shallots, minced

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 quarts homemade chicken stock

  • ½ medium onion, chopped fine

  • 3/4 cup butter, divided in thirds

  • 1 pound domestic mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour

  • 2 ounces hard romano cheese, finely grated

  • 1 quart cream

  • ½ cup dry sherry

  • 2 cups V-8 juice

  • Salt to taste

Grill the chicken until done, chop fine, and set aside.

Soak the wild mushrooms in 3 cups warm water for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and repeat in 2 cups water. Reserve the water. Remove the mushrooms from the water and chop fine. Place the mushrooms, reserved water, shallots, garlic, black pepper, and chicken stock in a stock pot and boil for 30 minutes, adding water to keep to the original volume.

Saute the onion in the 1/4 cup butter and set aside.

Saute the domestic mushrooms in 1/4 cup butter with the garlic. Add the sauteed onions, mushrooms, and garlic to the stock pot.

Melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter in a pan, add the flour, and make a roux until lightly browned. Add the roux to the pot, stirring well. Add the chopped chicken breast and romano cheese and stir well. Add the cream, sherry, V-8 juice, and salt and heat for 10 minutes.

Yield: 12 servings

Heat Scale: Mild


Photography by Lois Ellen Frank. Cover photo by Chel Beeeson.

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