Winter warm-ups

Henri’s favorite cold-weather stew and soup recipes

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Among the many thrills of Henri’s globetrotting youth was discovering the universal nature of soups and stews, and of sampling them around the world: coconut soup in Thailand, lentil-and-bacon soup in Germany, gazpacho in Spain, lamb-and-garbanzo harira in Morocco, dashi in Japan, pistou in France, mulligatawny in India, borscht in Russia, and of course chowders in New England and gumbos in Louisiana.

Often associated with healing—emotional, spiritual, physical—soups are perfect for these blustery winter evenings. Now settling into middle age, Henri loves little more than a pot of soup simmering on the stove, a tall glass of decent Bordeaux, and big stack of Cooks Ilustrated magazazines and Williams & Sonoma catalogues on the coffee table by a crackling fire—while rain and wind shake the windows or a dense valley fog falls onto the streets.

Soups are also very easy to make, and although recipes might seem daunting, they’re generally quite flexible. Naturally, you want to include the defining ingredients—lentils, potatoes, beans, peanut butter (see below), lamb, pork, etc.—but exact amounts and other seasonings should be left to your taste and discretion, as well as to what you’ve got in your refrigerator and spice cabinet.

Here are three of Henri’s new favorite soup and stew recipes guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter’s day.

Hot and Spicy Peanut Soup
This thick, creamy soup is perfect with a Caesar or other light salad.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
four garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large potato, cubed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup corn kernels
11/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped

In a large pan, heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until lightly brown. Stir in the cayenne. Add the red pepper, carrots, potato and celery and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the stock, peanut butter and corn; stir well, and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished with chopped peanuts.

Pork, Shrimp and Noodle Soup
From Vietnam, this soup is a meal in itself.

1 lb. pork tenderloin, sliced thin
8-12 oz. large shrimp (shelled and deveined)
6-10 oz. thin egg noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon grated ginger root–
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 quarts chicken stock
2 lemon leaves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
several sprigs of cilantro, chopped
2 scallions or green onions, chopped

Cook noodles in large saucepan; drain and set aside. In a wok or skillet, heat vegetable and sesame oils together. Add onions and stir-fry until lightly brown; remove and set aside. Add the chicken stock, ginger and garlic and simmer for several minutes. Stir in the lemon leaves, fish sauce and lime juice. Add the pork and simmer for 15 minutes or until meat is cooked. Add the shrimp and noodles and cook until shrimp are pink (just a couple of minutes). Serve garnished with cilantro and green onions or scallions.

Anne’s Beef Stew
A lighter version of the classic, heavier stew. Excellent mopped up with sourdough or focaccia bread.

3-4 lbs. stew meat, cubed
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh (or dried) thyme
1 teaspoon fresh (or dried) oregano
1 quart beef stock
6 carrots, sliced
10-12 small white onions, whole
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1/2 lb. green beans (fresh or frozen)
1/2 lb. peas (fresh or frozen)
chopped parsley and chives

Heat oil and butter together in large pan and brown the floured beef cubes. Add garlic, sliced onion, celery, leaks, carrots, herbs, bay leaf and enough beef stock to cover (add water if you need to). Simmer for about an hour. Stir in potatoes, white onions, peas and beans and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until meat is tender and potatoes and onions are done. Serve garnished with parsley and chives.