Ad Hoc Soup

So since I was a jerk last week and posted a recipe for insanely easy, insanely delicious chocolate pie, right at the beginning of January when everyone’s resolving to eat healthier and lose weight, I thought I’d make up for it, and post this recipe for insanely easy, insanely delicious, insanely healthy soup.

Although it’s not a recipe, exactly. It’s more of a concept. A philosophy even, one might say.

Eat me kenny shopsin
We got this idea from Kenny Shopsin, of the famed Shopsin’s in New York, out of his wonderful and entertaining cookbook, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. The philosophy is this: With traditional soup, you make a big pot of it, and cook everything together, so the flavors of the vegetables/ beans/ meat/ whatnot all get blended into the broth. But with this soup, it’s exactly the opposite. You don’t make a big pot of it at once; instead, you make just a bowl or two of it at a time, ad hoc. You cook your protein, you sautee your veggies… and then, at the very last minute right before you’re ready to eat, you put all the stuff in a bowl, and pour the hot broth/ stock over it. (Or you can set some of the stuff on top, if you feel like making your soup all Japanese and pretty.)

It’s a very different philosophy of soup, and it’s one that I had to be persuaded about. With this method, the vegetables/ beans/ meat/ whatnot all keep their own flavors instead of blending together. But once I tried it, I was completely sold. The biggest upside is that the veggies don’t get mushy: they stay nicely crisp, and their flavors stay vivid and distinct. It’s also very fast: a quick sauteeing of veggies and/or meat, a quick nuking of some stock or broth, and you’re done. Plus you can use whatever veggies are in season, and whatever you happen to have on hand on your fridge. And you make exactly as much soup as you want: no more, no less.

The downside is that the flavors don’t have time to blend into the broth. But if you use a flavorful broth or stock to start with, that’s not a problem.

Here’s how it goes.


Vegetables that are in season and that you like in soup. Carrots, celery, peppers, green beans, spinach, peas… whatever. You can also use frozen veggies if you like; frozen corn is especially good. For the most part, though, I like to stick with fresh.

A good stock or broth: chicken, vegetable, beef, whatever you like. I make my own stock and freeze it in little Tupperwares, it’s easy and yummy. But you can also use store-bought broth, if you have one you like. I use about two cups per serving if I’m eating the soup as a main course.

A little olive oil, enough for sauteeing veggies.

Some sort of protein that you like in soup. (You can skip the protein if you’re serving this soup as a side dish — I had the soup last week with bread and cheese, which was plenty protein-y. But if it’s your main course, you’ll want a protein.)

Salt and pepper.


Cook your protein however you like it cooked. Broil a chicken breast, poach an egg, cut up and sautee a sausage, nuke a can of beans.

Heat up your stock/ broth to just boiling.

Sautee pan
Slice your veggies thin and sautee them lightly, in a little bit of olive oil. Start with veggies that take longer to cook, like carrots; finish with ones that take less time, like peppers. Or don’t sautee them at all, depending. Spinach, for instance, I just put in the soup bowl, since being in the hot stock for a couple/ few minutes will cook it plenty. Green onions I sprinkle on top.

Put your veggies and protein in a soup bowl, and pour the hot broth/ stock over it. If you like, you can reserve some of the veggies or protein, and arrange them prettily on top. I do this with green onions and slices of broiled chicken.

Salt and pepper to taste. Fresh herbs wouldn’t suck, either; but if you have a really flavorful stock with a lot of herbs in it, they’re not necessary.

Empty soup bowl
And that’s it. Eat it up. Serve it with rice if you have some leftover, or some good bread, or some artisanal saltines (seriously, I am not kidding, I saw these at Rainbow Grocery). Or whatever. It can be a side dish or the main course. Eat huddled in front of your heater, or cuddled together under the blanket with a heat-seeking cat trying to wedge in between you. Serves however many you made enough for.

Ad Hoc Soup
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6 thoughts on “Ad Hoc Soup

  1. Kim

    Thank you for sharing this! Now if I can just find the perfect stock that isn’t crazy with sodium but is still plenty savory. I needs mah savory.

  2. 3

    This is more a comment on your stock post (which I somehow missed), but I DO roast my veggies and it does make a difference. Plus, it makes the house smell divine. The only meat stock I make is turkey stock after Thanksgiving and Christmas. No saving up of bones required, because a turkey carcass is enough on its own. Plus it’s freshly roasted.
    Incidentally, it was nice meeting you at Skepticon (I was the transsexual who wanted to tackle you and steal your boots).

  3. 4

    I like your improvisational approach to cooking. I tend to have a similar attitude myself — I don’t think you can be a really good cook if all you do is copy recipes word for word (though obviously they are fantastic inspiration). (My mum had a bit of a panic the other day because we didn’t have any (*gag*) packaged beef gravy in or all of the ingredients for any of the recipes in our cookbooks. I threw some wine and some (alas, store-bought) stock into a pot, added garlic and tarragon and a few other things, and wound up with a gravy the whole family thought was the best they’d had.)

  4. 6

    I like the idea of a homemade soup that doesn’t take long to cook. I’ve done this before but always thought I was cheating/doing it wrong–so for some reason I just didn’t do it that often. But I think I will more now.
    Happy New Year!

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