Hearty soups to warm your soul

January is National Soup Month, and what better time is there to make warm, hearty soups to keep us from sliding into the doldrums of winter?
We’ve had some recent brutally cold weather. It’s not what we’re accustomed to. We’re not equipped to deal with this on a daily basis, and, frankly, it’s not something I want to get used to.
That said, when we’re cold to the marrow of our bones we should warm up from the inside out.
These hearty soups will stick to the ribs, and comfort as well as nourish. These are my top four favorites and can satisfy the biggest appetite at your table. Serve a bowl with some fruit or salad and rest on your laurels.

French Onion Soup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.

Crab Bisque
1 cup onion, minced
1 cup carrot, minced
2 (10 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth
4 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh chives, minced
1/2 lb raw lobsters, chopped or 1/2 lb lump crabmeat

Saute onion and carrot in 2 tablespoons butter until soft. Set aside.
In 4 quart saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter and add flour, whisking constantly over medium heat until roux becomes light brown (about 5 minutes). Do not burn!
Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly to ensure mixture stays smooth.
Add onions and carrots, cover, and simmer for 1/2 hour.
Add cream, sherry, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, salt, and lobster or crab and simmer an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Garnish with fresh minced chives if desired.

Chicken and Dumplings
4 chicken breasts (skin on)
4 ribs of celery (+ several leaves from the stalk)
2 onions (peeled, but whole)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. peppercorns

Cover with water and boil all the above in a large stockpot or Dutch oven (at least a five-quart pot, but I use an eight-quart stockpot).
Boil until chicken is tender. Cool, pull off the bone and chop into small pieces.
Strain broth very well. Return it to stockpot.

For The Dumplings:
4 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
1 stick butter (softened)
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
Enough broth to mix to make dough a consistency of pie dough

Add parsley and salt to flour. Cut butter into it.
Add broth a little at a time until you have dough the same consistency as pie crust dough.
Flour counter and place dough in center. Flour rolling pin and roll dough out to about 1/4” thick. Cut it in strips, then in desired size pieces.
Bring broth back to a rolling boil.
Add salt to taste and 2 tbsp parsley flakes.
Add chicken. Once broth is boiling hard, drop dumplings in just a few at a time, until all are used.
Turn down on low. Simmer 30 minutes or until dumplings are done.

Potato Soup
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 (12-ounce) bottle light-bodied beer
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 8 ounces)
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire
Sour cream, for topping
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp, for topping
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for topping

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute in butter until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and continue to stir for 2 minutes to toast the flour. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the stock, then the milk and the beer. Stir in the potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the potato is tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to low heat. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Season the soup, to taste, with hot sauce, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper.
Divide the soup among bowls and top with sour cream, crisp bacon and chopped chives.