Meridian Star

Columns

November 6, 2013

Zing Zang Vegetable Beef Soup

MERIDIAN — I’m not a soup guy. I didn’t grow up in a soup family. We were devoted disciples of all types of gumbo, but that’s where it ended. My only exposure to soup as a kid was mostly the chicken-noodle variety when I was sick. Even then is was some type of add-water instant soup or the occasional serving of canned soup. Nothing memorable.

    I learned how to make soup in 1987 from the original chef at the Purple Parrot Café. The corn and crab bisque that is on the menu today is his recipe.

    The first soup I created was the shrimp bisque we have served for 25 years. I followed up that creation with crawfish bisque, potato soup, oyster and artichoke soup, and black bean soup— each of which are still in regular rotation in our soup-of-the-day program.

    Customers love all of our homemade soups, but I rarely order them. That is, unless we are serving vegetable beef soup. I order the vegetable beef soup every day during its run.

    I am typically not a fan of vegetable beef soup, never have been, never will be. Yet I love our recipe. It is, I believe, the best vegetable beef soup on the planet and it’s easy to make.

    I developed the recipe on one of those rare Hattiesburg snow days about 10 years ago. My daughter was home from school, she and I were building a snowman, and the only lunch that made sense that day was vegetable beef soup.

    Due to the weather and slippery roads, I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. I had no stew meat, but I did have a ribeye steak in the refrigerator left over from a recent cookout. I chopped it into small pieces and it made a huge difference in the outcome of the final product. I also substituted V-8 juice for tomato juice. In future versions I stepped it up another level and substituted Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix for the V-8.

    We only serve this soup every eight weeks or so. We have to save up enough prime rib and filet mignon trimmings to make a large batch.

    You can use typical stew meat and the flavor will be fine. But if you use real steak, it bumps the flavor profile (and especially the texture of the beef) up immensely. You can also use tomato juice or V-8, but if you opt for Zing Zang it’ll be like vegetable beef soup on steroids.

    Another key is to make a homemade beef stock. The key to all great cooking is in the basic components such as stock. The better the stock, the better the soup. Use a weak stock or a canned broth and you’ll get a weak soup.

    You are now three components away from making the best vegetable beef soup of your life— Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix, a hearty beef stock, and filet mignon or ribeye steak trimmings. Go bold if you want to eat boldly.

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