The pantry recipe series is designed to help you use up your pantry preps with as much versatility and as little waste as possible. Ample substitution recommendations and other helpful tips are provided. New recipes are added weekly.
Comfort food at its best: creamy soup. I’m using what I have on hand today, which is a head of celery and some canned chicken. The result is a surprisingly sophisticated soup that comes from very simple ingredients. As we go along I’ll give a lesson in roux-making and the versatility of the classic Bechamel base.
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 1 tbsp. dried, minced onion
- 1 tbsp. chicken bouillon powder
- 1 head of celery, chopped
- 1 can of chicken, drained
- 1 can of evaporated milk
- 3 cups water
- Melt butter in your soup pot
- Add dried onion and chopped celery
- Spoon flour over the butter and celery and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the flour turns golden and smells slightly nutty (about 4 minutes).
- Add the evaporated milk and stir until smooth
- Add the water one cup at a time, stirring until smooth each time
- Add powdered bouillon.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes until celery reaches desired level of tenderness
- Add canned chicken a minute or two before serving to keep the chicken tender.
- Total time: 30 minutes
- Preparation: 10 minutes
- Cook time: 20 minutes
- Servings: 4
- Estimated calories per serving: 267
Tips and tricks
It doesn’t much matter if your butter is salted or not. You can titrate the saltiness of the soup by changing how much bouillon you use. If you’re watching your salt intake, start with two teaspoons of bouillon and add ¼ tsp at a time to taste.
Having the veggies in the pot before you cook the flour in the butter is my secret to a smooth roux. A roux is a thickening agent and it helps to make this soup thick, tasty, and creamy. It is necessary to cook the flour in the butter; otherwise it will taste raw, floury, and pasty. The vegetables prevent the flour from clumping—as long as you’re stirring quite a lot when you add the liquid.
This method means you can make a smooth roux using a wooden spoon—no whisk required. Roux will go from golden brown to completely burnt quite quickly. Add the milk at the 4-minute mark to prevent the roux from burning. Bechamel is a sauce of milk thickened with roux and it serves as the base of this soup.
This is the Bechamel base — nice and smooth:
Adding the canned chicken right at the end keeps it moist and tender. It’s already cooked—it really only needs to be heated by the soup.
Use your oil of choice in the same amount if you don’t have butter.
Fresh onion or shallot can be used in place of dried. It’s important to have some form of onion as it’s aromatic. Celery is aromatic too but any number of minced fresh veggies will also work in a pinch. Frozen veggies like broccoli pair well with cheese, and cheese melts beautifully into the Bechamel base.
Powdered or fresh garlic is also a nice addition. Add powdered garlic after you have made your roux or it will burn.
Haven’t got celery? No problem. The Bechamel base will support any number of ingredients: canned clams and browned potatoes, broccoli and cheese, zucchini and vacuum-sealed gnocchi, roasted garlic and green beans, bacon with cheese and pasta… You name it.
In fact, you should name it. Let us know in the comments what has worked best for you.