By Robert St. John
The Meridian Star
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.
Vegetable Beef Soup
3 Tbl Olive oil
1 1 /2 lbs Filet mignon or ribeye steak trimmings (cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
1 1 /2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 cup Onion, small dice
1 cup Carrot, small dice
1 cup Celery, small dice
1 Tbl Garlic, minced
1 /2 tsp Dried Thyme
2 tsp Steak Seasoning
1 Bay leaf
15 oz can Tomato, diced
1 1 /2 quart Beef stock
1 cup Corn, fresh, scraped from the cob
1 cup Potato, peeled and diced to 3/4 cubes
1 cup Zing-Zang Bloody Mary Mix
1 Tbl Kitchen Bouquet
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat in a large skillet. Season the meat with half of the salt and pepper. Brown the meat in olive oil. Do not overload the skillet. Over loading the skillet will cause the beef to steam instead of brown. Brown meat in batches, add more oil when necessary then place cooked meat in a large stockpot.
Add one tablespoon of oil to skillet and sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic for five minutes over medium heat. Add thyme, steak seasoning and bay leaf. Deglaze the pan by adding the canned tomatoes (with the juice) using a wooden spoon to remove any stuck-on proteins. Cook five minutes on high, and add to the meat in the stockpot. Place beef broth in the stockpot and cook over low heat. The soup should just barely simmer. After 1 hour, add Zing Zang, corn and potatoes. Continue cooking another 45 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining salt, pepper, Worcestershire and Kitchen Bouquet. Yield: approximately one gallon