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It's Halloween and Fall, So Time for Soup!

“Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.” If this Shakespearean ode to witches doesn’t conjure up a craving for a big pot of soup on Halloween night, maybe the cooler temperatures will do the trick. Either way, it’s fall. Time to bring out the cauldron, err, stockpot and stir up comfort food at its finest.

Some of my favorite homemade soups are chicken noodle, taco, vegetable with a hearty dose of ham, and one that may not sound very appetizing, but is absolutely delicious - bok choy and chicken meatball soup. The recipe was given to me by the talented chefs at Scranton’s restaurant in Pascagoula. I tasted it while judging a soup and gumbo competition on the Gulf Coast and fell in love with the delicate flavors. It’s just as delicious minus the chicken if you're vegetarian. That’s right – bok choy can be appetizing, especially in a savory broth.

Whenever I prepare soup, I always use an extra large stockpot. Soup freezes well and defrosts quickly to create the perfect winter meal in minutes. If a bowl of steaming soup prepared by someone else is your idea of nirvana, you’re in luck. Several restaurants around the state are known for their delicious versions. Here are just a few of my picks for Mississippi’s top restaurant soups:

  • Scranton’s she crab – The Pascagoula restaurant is famous for this rich, creamy soup filled with, you guessed it, crab. Sample a cup for $4.99, a bowl for $5.99.

  • Basil’s at Fondren Corner in Jackson – Just like the name suggests, tomato basil soup is a specialty soup that doesn’t disappoint. Try a cup for $2.95; bowl for $5.25.

  • Jason’s Deli serves a broccoli cheese soup that’s worth a try - $3.49 for a cup; $4.99 for a bowl.

  • Seafood bisque draws loyal fans to Hal & Mal’s in Jackson every Friday, the only day it’s served. At $5.75 for a cup and $7 for a bowl, it’s a perfect way to get your Friday fish fix.

  • Stop by Panera Bread and choose the bread bowl filled with steaming French onion soup. At $6.39, it’s the perfect combo meal.

  • It’s a little chilly, so time to try the chili at Dave’s Triple B in Jackson. It’s thick, hearty, and a complete meal at $8.

  • Cream of crab sounds like an interesting soup. It is, especially if you sample Strawberry Café in Madison’s version. At $4.99 for a bowl or $7.99 for a bowl, it’s worth a try.

  • Corner Bakery doesn’t disappoint with a loaded potato soup that’s as delicious as the real potato version. A cup is $4.29, but you’ll want a bowl; only $1 extra.

  • In the mood for old-school vegetable soup? Look no further than Primos Café in the Jackson area. At $3.50 for a cup and $5.25 for a bowl, it won’t break your modern-day budget.

  • Last, I hate to play favorites among gumbo-serving Gulf Coast restaurants. Almost every variation I’ve sampled is delicious, but Mary Mahoney’s reigns supreme. It’s regularly shipped to fans around the U.S. At $6.25 for a cup or $8.50 for a bowl, it may be pricier than other eateries’ version. However, you’ll forget the cost after the first bite.

Here’s the recipe for my favorite bok choy soup. So, enjoy Halloween, fall, and a big pot of soup. Scranton’s Bok Chop Soup 4 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons mirin (I could not find mirin; I used equal parts cherry to sugar) 2 teaspoons sesame oil 1 glove garlic 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon chili paste (any Asian store should have it) 4 tablespoons rice vinegar 8 cups chicken stock 4 cups napa cabbage or bok choy 1/2 cup fresh cilantro Mix all ingredients together and bring to a boil. (The bok choy does not take long to cook; add it toward the end of the process. The flavors need some time to marry so simmer for at least an hour if possible.) Chicken Meatballs for soup: 2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts 2 cans water chestnuts, drained 4 cups green onions, chopped 4 teaspoons fresh jalapenos 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro Creole seasoning or whatever else you would rather use Chop the chicken and add everything else and form into little meatballs, brown them in a skillet, and finish cooking them in the oven until done. Add to the soup. Adapted from Scranton’s recipe

Here are several other soup recipes to enjoy this fall!

She Crab Soup

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 small white onion, grated

1 stalk celery, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 quarts half-and-half cream

1 pint heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 pound lump crab meat

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1/2 cup sherry wine

Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in flour to make a smooth paste and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the onion, celery, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir for about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the half and half cream so that no lumps form. Stir in chicken broth and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, and pour in half of the sherry. Season with dill, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until soup has reduced by one-third. Add crab meat, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls and top off with a splash of the remaining sherry and a sprinkle of fresh chives.

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

1/3 cup butter

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups low sodium chicken stock

3 cups half-and-half (or evaporated or regular milk)

3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, or more to taste

1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder (or chicken bouillon powder)

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pound (550 grams) broccoli florets, cut into small pieces

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

2 cups low fat sharp cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the onion until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes or until golden brown.

Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly pour in the chicken stock and half-and-half, stirring well to combine and dissolve the flour into the liquid. Season with salt and pepper, stock powder, mustard powder, and garlic powder. Give it a good mix and allow to cook and thicken for about 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally.

Add in the broccoli and carrots and gently simmer for another 20 minutes until broccoli is completely tender. Mix in cheese and stir until just combined. Taste test and add in extra salt and/or pepper, if desired.

Tomato Basil Soup

6 tablespoons butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

15 baby carrots, thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1-1/4 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat; cook and stir onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in both amounts of tomato sauce, chicken broth, basil, and oregano. Increase heat to medium and simmer until soup is reduced, 10 to 20 minutes.

Pour soup into a blender no more than half full. Cover and hold lid down; pulse a few times before leaving on to blend. Add cream. Continue to puree in batches until smooth, transferring creamy soup to another pot.

Heat soup over medium-high heat until hot, about 5 minutes more.

Seafood Bisque

1 can whole kernel corn

1 can cream of potato soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 stick real butter

1 bunch chopped green onions

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pint half-and-half

1 (12-ounce) package frozen shrimp

1 (12-ounce) package frozen crawfish tails

1 (8-ounce) cream cheese

1 can original Rotel tomatoes

Tony Chachere's Cajun season or crab boil

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onions in butter; add crawfish, shrimp, and cream cheese. Heat until cheese is melted. Add other ingredients and simmer. Season to taste with Cajun seasoning or a few drops of crab boil. Serve over favorite pasta, rice, or eat by itself. Serve with French bread and salad.

French Onion Soup

2 onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 (10.5-ounce) cans beef broth

2-1/2 cups water

6 slices French bread, toasted

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Separate sliced onion into single rings.

In a medium sauce pan saute onions in butter until soft, approximately 20 minutes. Stir in flour and gradually add broth and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast French bread slices.

Place toasted bread into soup bowls. Pour soup mixture over bread and sprinkle with Parmesan and Swiss cheese. Bake for 10 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 quarts homemade chicken stock or boxed variety

1 cup celery, medium-diced (2 stalks)

2 cup carrots, medium-diced (3 carrots)

2 cups wide egg noodles

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred or dice the chicken meat.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley and heat through. Season to taste and serve.

CJ's Chicken Taco Soup

3-4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 bell pepper, finely diced

2 ribs of celery, finely diced

1 stalk green onions, finely diced

2 teaspoons garlic, finely diced

3 chicken bouillon cubes

2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

4-5 cups frozen whole kernel corn

2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained

2 (1.25-ounce) package taco seasoning

1 (1.25-ounce) package chili seasoning

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons paprika

2-3 teaspoons dried or fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon Tony Chachere's

Boil chicken in large pot of water until chicken is tender. Remove chicken and set aside to cool; shred.

Add bouillon cubes to broth, return to heat and reduce down about one-third. Add all ingredients except for shredded chicken and cook 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add extra broth or water as needed. Add chicken and cook for a few minutes until heated through.

Ham and Vegetable Soup

2 pounds smoked ham hocks

4 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 medium onion, chopped

8 cups water

1 large can diced tomatoes

2-1/2 cups diced unpeeled red potatoes

1 cup each frozen corn, peas and cut green beans

1 (11-1/2 ounces) can condensed bean and bacon soup, undiluted

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place ham hocks, carrots, celery, onion, and water in a Dutch oven or soup kettle; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2-1/2 hours or until meat starts to all off the bones.

Add potatoes, tomatoes and vegetables; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for one hour. Remove hocks; allow to cool. Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-size pieces; discard bones. Return meat to kettle; heat through and serve with slices of hot cornbread.

Mary Mahoney's Seafood Gumbo

6 tablespoons flour

5 tablespoons bacon drippings

2 onions, finely chopped

1-1/2 finely chopped celery

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

5-6 cups water

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds shrimp (frozen or fresh) peeled and deveined

2 pounds crab meat, fresh or frozen

1 (16-ounce) package frozen okra

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

In a large stockpot, brown flour in bacon drippings. Add onions, celery and garlic. Brown for 5 more minutes Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, salt and pepper and boil for 1 hour, over medium heat. Add shrimp, crab meat, and okra and simmer for 20 more minutes Add Worcestershire sauce and remove from heat. Stir well and serve over white rice.

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