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The quintessential winter food

There are few meals more appropriate for winter than soup. A steaming bowl of broth to thaw your wind-chilled face followed by a greedy dip of the spoon gives you tasty respite from Maine’s harshest season, while the burst and spread of spice- and herb-filled aromas (rosemary, thyme, saffron, curry powder, clove…) take over your kitchen, steaming nearby windows to create a cozy, cloistered meal-time destination.

In this edition of The Seasonal Dish, we’re pleased to feature several recipes from Derek Bissonnette’s new cookbook, Soup. Bissonnette serves many roles at Edible Maine, including photographer, executive chef, and sales rep. His newest collection highlights unique Maine ingredients perfectly suited for a variety of soup concoctions.

In the book’s opening pages, each ingredient used in the book is broken down by its history, flavor, texture, rarity, or a combination of these. Tools and techniques are explained and illustrated, base broths are orchestrated, and approximately 300 soup recipes are born. As Bissonnette explains, “the world contains countless cuisines, techniques, and ingredients. These differences might be due to availability, religious beliefs, etc., [however] there’s no debate that food varies drastically from culture to culture. But there is one thing that bonds them all—every single culture has some form of soup. … In fact, soups are such a vital part of what we eat that the word stems from the same Latin word that supper does: suppare.”

Bissonnette discusses another vital, centuries-old component to eating and cooking, one of Samin Nosrat’s four elements: heat.

“It is commonly held that cooking food was an accident, stumbled upon sometime after our ancient ancestors discovered fire 1.8 million years ago. This happy accident launched a revolution that is still underway,” says Bissonnette. He touts the multifaceted method of boiling to be “the most efficient use of fire’s precious heat,” a process that “kills any potential parasites in the flesh, preserves nutrients, increases the amount of antioxidants, and makes things easier to chew. Most important, the cooking liquid retains the meat’s tasty juices, which would be lost if cooked over an open flame.”

While Soup’s rich history of the food carries us through its many cultural uses over the years (for healing in China, to feed the poor and imprisoned in London, and as a means for comfort and connection after 9/11) it brings us back to the modern kitchen. Each recipe was cooked and created in Bissonnette’s own home to ensure readers will find temperatures and instructions to be cohesive with their own settings. Don’t forget to chill or freeze what you don’t eat right away because, perhaps the best part about soup? It’s even better the next day.

Beef, Barley, and Portobello Mushroom Soup

Serves 4–6

This simple and easy soup is even better the next day, so be sure to make enough. I like to enjoy it with a serving of warmed cheesy polenta.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1¾ pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

½ cup red wine

1 garlic clove, minced

Leaves of 2 sprigs of thyme, chopped

8 cups beef or veal stock

¾ cup pearl barley

1 pound portobello mushrooms, sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large sauce pan, warm oil on medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for 5 minutes, or until evenly browned.

Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the red wine, garlic, and thyme and reduce by half.

Add the seared beef, stock, and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook on low heat for 1½ hours.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes or until the beef is very tender.

Season with salt and pepper and serve in warmed bowls.

Apple and Pork Stew

Serves 4–6

This stew is a hearty blend of vegetables, pork, apples, and wine. The apples provide a slight sweetness that you and your guests will treasure.

1½ pounds pork shoulder, cubed

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup red wine

6 cups veal stock

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a mixing bowl, add the pork and flour and toss until the meat is coated.

In a large saucepan, add the oil and cook over medium-high heat until warm. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes, or until evenly browned.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the herbs and potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the red wine and cook for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Add the veal stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that the soup simmers, return the pork to the pan, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Add the apples and cook for 15 minutes.

Once the pork, apples, and potatoes are tender, season with salt and pepper and serve in warm bowls.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 4

A soup cookbook would be incomplete without this classic. It’s so simple, so quick, and you probably already have all the ingredients in your house.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

Leaves of 1 sprig of thyme, chopped

4 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

1½ cups medium egg noodles

1 chicken breast, seared and cooked through

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan until warm.

Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the remaining vegetables and cook until tender.

Add the thyme and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that the soup simmers; cook for 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Bring stock to re-boil, add the egg noodles, and cook for 7 minutes, or until the noodles reach the desired tenderness.

Chop the seared chicken breast into ½-inch pieces and add to the soup.

Serve in warm bowls.

Beef and Braised Cabbage Soup with Horseradish Cream

Serves 6

Consider bringing this to your next pot luck dinner, as it’s great with or without the steak. It also pairs well with game meats.

For soup

2 pounds red cabbage, core removed, shredded

2 onions, peeled and finely sliced

1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped

3 tablespoons soft brown sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4 cups veal stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound sirloin steak, fat removed

Watercress, for garnish

For horseradish cream

2 tablespoons fresh horseradish, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup heavy cream, divided

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 300°. In a mixing bowl, combine the cabbage, onions, apple, brown sugar, garlic, nutmeg, caraway seeds, and vinegar with a ½ cup of the stock. Mix well.

Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large, buttered casserole dish. Cover and place it in the oven. Cook for 1½ hours, stirring the contents of the casserole dish frequently.

Turn off the oven and open the door slightly. When the dish has cooled, remove it from the oven and set aside. Preheat oven to 450°.

In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and warm over medium heat. Season the sirloin with salt and pepper and then add to pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove sirloin from the pan and set aside.

Spoon the cabbage into a large saucepan. Add the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that the soup simmers.

Place the sirloin in the oven and cook until it is the desired level of doneness.

Remove the sirloin from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Thinly slice the steak and place it on top of the soup. Serve with Horseradish Cream and watercress.

Horseradish cream

Combine the horseradish, vinegar, mustard, and 4 tablespoons of the cream in a mixing bowl.

Lightly whip the remaining cream and fold into the horseradish mixture. Season to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thai Coconut Broth with Lobster Wontons

Serves 4

A wonderful fusion of Thailand and the great state of Maine.

Red Thai curry paste

2 shallots, finely chopped

2-inch piece of lemongrass, finely chopped

1-inch galangal root, grated

3 garlic cloves, minced

Lobster wontons

1½ cups lobster meat, cooked, finely chopped

1 scallion, finely sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 egg, beaten

24 wonton wrappers


1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon red Thai curry paste

2 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

Thai chilies, sliced, for garnish

Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Red Thai curry paste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Lobster wontons

Place the lobster meat, scallion, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl, and stir to combine.

Place 1 tablespoon of lobster filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Dip a finger into the egg and then rub it around the edge of the wrapper. Bring each corner of the wrapper together, and seal. Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers. When all of the wontons have been made, refrigerate until ready to use.


In a medium saucepan, warm sesame oil over low heat. Add the red Thai curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the wontons and cook for 3 minutes.

Remove the wontons from the water with a slotted spoon and place in warm bowls.

Add the sugar, fish sauce, and coconut milk to the medium saucepan. Cook on low heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with the lime juice, salt, and pepper, while taking care not to bring to a boil.

Pour the soup over the wontons. Garnish with the cilantro and Thai chilies, and serve.


Born in Hartford, Connecticut and raised in Maine, Derek showed a passion for food from an early age. Beginning with a small bakery in Maine, formal training at The Culinary Institute of America, then Pastry Chef at The White Barn Inn in 1999 under the tutelage of Jonathan Cartwright, Executive Sous Chef and then appointed Executive Chef... Derek has been a long-time part of the culinary world in Maine and beyond. He joined the Edible Maine team to pursue a career outside of the kitchen while still maintaining a connection to food.


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