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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Deconstructing a recipe for Sorrel Soup

I made a sorrel-potato soup last week that called for several ingredients that I didn't have on hand. I made reference to one ingredient, the white wine, in yesterday's post.

Here's the breakdown of the actual recipe's ingredients, and what I wound up using.

The recipe:

1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
2 bay leaves
1 cup shallot, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
5 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme, minced
4 cups heavy cream
3 cups fresh sorrel, chopped
1 pinch ground nutmeg
white pepper

Here's what I used:

1 tablespoon butter, salted
parts of several bay leaves scrounged from a jar of pickling spice
1 cup of shallots, minced (I have shallots from the garden last summer. If I didn't have shallots I would have used minced onion, green onion, onion powder or dried onions)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup rosemary-thyme vinegar, cut with 1/4 cup water
2 cups of turkey stock
5 cups of russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tablespoon fresh garden thyme (no lemon thyme, and only had 1/2 tablespoon this early in spring)
2  1/2 cups 1% milk, with 1/4 cup of extra butter, and 1  1/2 cups of water (being lactose intolerant, I didn't want to overdo it on the milk part, so used some water in this substitution. Otherwise, I would have used all milk, with extra butter, in place of heavy cream.)
3 cups fresh sorrel (It's spring in the garden with plenty of sorrel. But if I didn't have any sorrel, but had spinach, then I would have made this as a spinach-potato soup.)
1 pinch ground nutmeg (I did have to run a whole nutmeg over a rasper, but in the end had ground nutmeg)
black pepper

(also added a pinch of onion powder and extra garlic powder at the end of cooking, to season)

*in bold type, these are the substitutions that I made to the original recipe ingredients.

Basically, the only ingredients that I had, as stated in the recipe, were the shallots, the sorrel leaves, the nutmeg and the salt. For everything else I found the next best thing to substitute with.

Some notes on substitutions:

when needing cream, milk and extra butter can substitute. If the butter "floats" to the surface at the end of cooking, a binder of flour and water can be heated in the finished soup. But this is not always necessary, for a family meal. No one in my family objected to a little melted butter around the edge of the bowl.

when needing wine in soup, vinegar and water make a good substitution, especially if the amount of wine is less than 10-15% of the liquids called for.

different poultry stocks can be used interchangeably, when the amount of stock is small compared to other liquids and ingredients.

potatoes are potatoes, especially if the soup or sauce is to be blended at the end of cooking.

there are many members of the onion family. Shallots, chives, yellow onions can be used interchangeably, with exception to recipes like French onion soup. Somehow, French onion soup made with chives does not sound visually appealing to me. And onion powder or dried onions can stand in, in a pinch.

at the end of cooking a soup, sauce or gravy, if it tastes "flat" try adding a pinch of onion and/or garlic powder for a boost in flavor. Alternatively, try a tablespoon of soy sauce. (I add soy sauce to many gravies, for that boost of flavor.)



  1. I have never cooked with sorrel. What kind of taste does it have? I guessing like spinach?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Sorrel is an early spring green that tastes like lemony spinach. It's a flavor that I love, as the lemony hit is just like a bite of spring!

  2. I have never cooked or even seen sorrel, at least to my knowledge. Now I have to investigate a little. This was a very nice post. So many people don't realize a recipe is merely a suggestion rather than a road map.

    1. Hi Anne,
      I love that -- a recipe is merely a suggestion!

      With the internet, it is so easy to find the right substitute for just about any recipe ingredient. But I do know a lot of people who still haven't figured that out, yet.

  3. Looks wonderful!! The soup reminds me of corn chowder. Thanks for showing us how a recipe can be deconstructed.


  4. Hi YHF,
    It was delicious! I'm hoping to get one more pot of soup out of this spring's sorrel. Corn chowder -- I haven't had that in years! A bowl of corn chowder would be great on one of our cool spring evenings, here.


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