Craftsy Class Review: Simple Soups from Scratch with Kathy Gunst

Despite the fact that I came home from 90 degrees in Myanmar/Burma looking forward to a white Christmas, and got off the plane instead to mid-spring weather here in Western NY (50 degrees and rainy), I still declare it to be Soup Season. Every year for the last several years I've stated that "This will be the Year of the Soup!" And most years I miss that mark, only making soup once or twice, at best. My husband only likes one or two soups so, since it's hard to make soup in any less quantity than "Vat," I don't end up making it much. However, this year Dear Husband has a fair amount of travel coming up in the next couple of months so I'll be on my own, and happy enough to cook up said Vat of Soup over the weekend and live off it during the week. All the more time to spend in my sewing room, donchaknow.

So I've taken two soup classes on Craftsy now. You might recall reading my review of Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley awhile back. This time, I spent my jet-lag recovery time last week watching Simple Soups from Scratch with Kathy Gunst. I'm far more likely to make recipes from this second class than from the first, mostly because they are, as the title states, simple. (True confessions, though: I skipped the lesson on seafood soups. Not my bag.) 

Pureed Leek and Potato Soup--not a great picture as I took it on the fly as I was prepping for a party and it steamed up my cell phone camera lens.

Pureed Leek and Potato Soup--not a great picture as I took it on the fly as I was prepping for a party and it steamed up my cell phone camera lens.

Kathy Gunst is easy to watch and does a nice job explaining what she's doing, giving extra information while she's waiting for whatever is on the stove, and offering suggestions for substitutions or variations on the recipe she's demonstrating. I really enjoyed her rather high-energy engagement with the studio broiler in Lesson 6--she handled a tricky situation with good humor and was still able to teach while having to keep an eagle eye on what was under the flame. Finally--a Craftsy class with an edge. "Will she burn it? Will she save it? I'm on the edge of my seat!"

The class, like most of this type, is structured around certain types of soups, and each lesson has one recipe she demonstrates while showing how it can be adapted for other ingredients. I knew immediately I wanted to try several of her soups, so I made the Pureed Leek and Potato soup of lesson 3 for my side of the family's Christmas gathering on December 28 (aka Second Christmas). It's very basic, and very tasty. Leeks, potatoes, vegetable broth, seasonings, and some shredded white cheddar at the end. No cream, so other than the cheese it's pretty dang healthy, and very filling. I had some leftover soup the next day for lunch and didn't need anything else.

My one-year-old great niece was a particular fan of the soup. That was her dinner!

My one-year-old great niece was a particular fan of the soup. That was her dinner!

I included her suggested garnish of Cheddar Chive Walnut Swirl, which was also a big hit. It adds just the right Something to the soup.

On tonight's menu is her Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup, although my version will be Lemon Rice Turkey Soup. I roasted a turkey to make sandwiches for Second Christmas. The store only had one HUGE turkey or lots of very small ones, so I got the behemoth. Lots of leftovers to make the soup, and a great big carcass for making broth, also one of her lessons in the class. (I made the turkey broth yesterday using her recipe--it seems successful. I'll know when I pull it out to use it for tonight's dinner soup.) 

The other one I really want to play with is her roasted vegetable soup, only I'm going to do it with parsnips and apples. I had a parsnip apple soup at a restaurant the other night and found myself thinking, "I'm sure I could do this better!" The restaurant soup just didn't have enough flavor for me, so I'm looking forward to using Gunst's techniques and playing around with ingredients.

As you can tell, this class was a big success for me. The class materials are extensive: 10 pages of recipes from the class, including the many garnishes. The only thing I really wish--as I've mentioned in my other reviews of cooking classes--is that she include a helpful list of types of soups and ingredient combinations to help you learn (or become more creative about) how to mix-and-match your own. That was probably the most helpful, and my favorite part, of Molly Stevens' Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise class. I would love to have a chart of different types of soups and sort of a "pick one from this category, three from this category," type of thing. I know--that's asking a lot. I'm just sayin'. It would be helpful. That's all.

The Basics

  • 6 lessons, ranging in length from about 18 to 28 minutes.
  • The introduction uses the Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup recipe to demonstrate "modern chicken soup," including adding egg and using lemon to brighten flavors.
  • Lesson 2 is roasted vegetable soup, in which she also discusses choosing which vegetables will work best, how to prepare them for roasting, and deglazing the pan.
  • Lesson 3 is Pureed Leek & Potato Soup, in which she also discusses helpful tips when adding dairy, although the recipe she demonstrates doesn't use it.
  • Lesson 4 is a seafood chowder. Can't speak to this one as I skipped it. Not a seafood soup fan--but given the other lessons, I'm sure she does it well!
  • Lesson 5 talks about meat and vegetable stocks, as well as very useful information about how to store your stock. She also discusses how to enhance store-bought stock if you're short on time.
  • Lesson 6 is all about the garnishes--a couple of pestos, croutons, and other ways to add flavor and texture to your soups. 

As you can tell from my sudden uptick in soup-making at my house, Simple Soups from Scratch with Kathy Gunst. was a big hit. Two thumbs up. Even without the useful chart of my dreams.

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