One way to cure those top-of-the-year, cold weather blues? A traditional New England curative. Something hot. Something soothing. Something in the vein of a steaming bowl of soup. ’Tis the season for settling into the chill of winter with the bone-warming delights of local soups. And local chefs are leaning into the flavors and traditions with iterations that are as warming as they are inspirational.
Soup from scratch is coming to a bowl near you.
Plant-based power at Hummingbird Nutritious Eats
In Haverhill, at Hummingbird Nutritious Eats, a nutritionally focused restaurant that opened last fall, chefs and owner-operators Matthew Morello and Chris White have made soups part of their fast-casual concept’s rotation. “We do two different styles of soup service,” White says.
The restaurant offers hot soup service for dining in—leek and potato, for instance, was one recent soup on the menu, as was roasted carrot with a carrot chutney. The restaurant also has a refrigerated section with prepared foods to-go, where soups, changed weekly, are available for customers to purchase and take home with them. “We’ll do like three or four different soups just for people to buy cold and bring home and reheat,” White says. “They’re constantly changing.”
The key to a good soup, he notes, is allowing the produce and the process to shine. “It’s all about technique, and ingredient driven. I don’t like to complicate things too much,” he says. “There’s an art in making a really great soup with just a couple of ingredients.” Coaxing flavor from vegetables and relying on purées for thickness as opposed to dairy, White says, adds complexity and flavor to these soups, which are vegetarian and vegan.
White and Morello source produce from local farms, when available. “A lot of these guys start to cellar their potatoes and their turnips and their celery root, so there is a lot that will be available in the next couple of months,” Morello says.
87 Washington St., Haverhill, hummingbirdnutritiouseats.com
Umami-packed options at Brine
Justin Horyn, the executive chef at Newburyport’s Brine, also leans into vegetables during the coldest time of year. “I order a lot of root vegetables,” he says. “It’s fun, because you can compound tons of flavor. I like to do a lot of puréed vegetable soups, because I feel like you can just keep adding flavors and adding flavors.” To thicken his soups, Horyn says, he blends in rice, which he says adds “silky body” to them.
“For our current squash soup, I take honeynut squash, and I halve them and I rub them down in olive oil, salt, and miso paste, roast them in the oven until they caramelize,” Horyn says. Separately, he sweats onions in butter and adds rice to toast it, similar to how one might begin a risotto. The pot then gets garlic, wine, and more miso, vegetable stock, and an herb sachet. Additional spices like cloves and cinnamon sticks go into the simmering pot, which cooks for about an hour before being strained and blended. The result is an umami-forward soup that harnesses the flavors of fall and winter.
Brine, Horyn notes, always has its signature clam chowder on the menu, too. “That’s always a staple,” he says. “It’s been here since before I got here.” The clam and pork chowder, he says, is a recipe he inherited, and is made gluten-free for those with sensitivities (it is thickened with potatoes, rather than with a flour-based roux).
17 State St., Newburyport, 978-358-8479, brineoyster.com
Luxurious touches at Elm Square Oyster Co.
At Andover’s Elm Square Oyster Co., soup, even in appetizer form, can be an upscale affair. “People around here really like a French onion soup,” says executive chef Michael Sherman. “So, we’ll do aerated gruyere cheese cloud on top of bone marrow-roasted croutons. There is some short rib at the bottom.” The soup also has a caramelized onion purée, and guests can swoon as beef consommé—essentially a very clear, very pristine beef broth—is poured into their bowls tableside.
Texturally, Sherman says, the soup is different from a traditional French onion soup, though it retains the soup’s traditional and concentrated flavors. Like his regional counterparts, Sherman also gravitates toward root vegetables in the colder months. Soups of late have included parsnip purée, for instance, but he will also be including a chestnut soup on his winter menu. Peeled chestnuts are cooked in vegetable stock, cream, and brown butter. “We’ll purée that and then we’ll do chestnut chips,” he says.
“You toast them in brown butter and you just keep on toasting them and toasting them and toasting them, and they’re really nice, thin chestnut chips.” He serves the soup with a duck confit at the bottom, an added touch of luxury. With so many options for from-scratch soups this winter, the hardest part may just be choosing where to go for the next hot bowl. Then again, who says you have to choose?
2 Elm Square, Andover, 978-470-2228, elmsquareoysterco.com