Saturday at the Super Cup
Back in June, I told you all the story of the bakery my father owned in the 80s and 90s, and the delectable cheesecake he manufactured. While it was unfortunate he lost his business to city politics, it did lead to his next chapter.
The Super Cup Restaurant was a small snack shop located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. Outside and inside, it didn’t look all that much different than most of the “typical” Greek-owned American-style restaurants you find all over. However, what separated my father's restaurant from the rest was how he tried to build a balance of affordable casual dining with gourmet experimentation. Imagine going to your local spot and finding specials cooked with wine and other fresh ingredients.
Aside from the eggs, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and many other dishes offered, the Super Cup was also famous in the neighborhood for its homemade soups. My father would literally be in the restaurant at 5AM every morning to prepare the soups and have them simmer all day long. Customers loved them so much they would buy soup by the quart. While a different chicken-soup was offered daily, he also would make a second pot with changing flavors such as minestrone, sweet & sour cabbage, and one surprise hit, cream of carrot.
Now I know many of you might have poor memories of horrid cream soups in crappy dives or out of the can, but I literally became enamored so much with this soup (offered every Saturday) that a bowl of it with a roll would satisfy me way more than the whole menu. In all honesty, my father was reluctant on even making this soup to begin with, but was surprised with how many fans it scored when it was first introduced it to the menu. The soup is a beautiful autumn dish carrying a slightly sweet flavor with a smooth texture.
The secret to a good cream soup is in the roux (“rue”). A roux is a thickening agent created by mixing flour with oil, fat, or butter over heat. The color of said roux is dependent on how long you cook this mixture. So for a gumbo you’ll want it dark, but for a cream soup, it’s light. Without your roux, the soup is just puréed vegetables.
Time for a trip down memory lane…
Cream of Carrot Soup
- 2 tbsp of canola or vegetable oil
- 2 white onions, chopped
- 4 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup of water
- 1 1/2 pounds of carrots, chopped into chunks
- 4 stalks of celery, chopped into chunks
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a stock pot, heat up the oil on medium heat.
- Place the onion into the oil and saute until soft.
- Raise the heat to high and pour in the chicken broth and water, stir.
- When the broth is starting to boil, add in the carrots and celery.
- Bring the soup to a boil again, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, and in small batches, use a blender or food processor to purée the soup. Pour your purée into a bowl and set aside.
- Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter to a liquid over low heat. Be sure not to burn it.
- When the butter is melted, add in the flour and whisk the mixture. Make sure the butter and flour fully combine, but don't let it cook too long where it changes color.
- Add in the milk and continue to whisk until the whole liquid thickens.
- Take your roux off the heat and stir it into the puréed soup.
- Season your soup with salt and pepper to your taste.
With the carrots and celery, you don't have to finely chop any of it. Just chop them into chunks because you'll be pureeing them later.
When you make your roux, be sure to move quickly and carefully. The goal is to combine the butter and flour into a nice paste, but not have it change color. If it yellows a little, that's ok. If it turns brown then you cooked it too long. We want a white or blond roux here.
Be sure to taste the final soup before you season it with salt and pepper. It might taste sweet, hence why you add salt and pepper until it has a slightly-sweet, but more savory flavor.
There's lots of room for variation here. You can remove the celery if you wish, or add in potatoes, cauliflower, or even leeks. Some like to season this soup with ginger, curry, or thyme. Feel free to experiment.
Healthy It Up
Easiest ways to make this healthier is to use low-sodium chicken broth and skim milk. I would not skip on the butter though. This is where part of the final flavor comes from.
For those who are curious, my father sold the Super Cup in 2008 due to a combination of the unstable economy and old age. Also, the name “Super Cup” wasn’t his idea. He simply took the name that was there, not wanting to throw the neighborhood off by a sudden change. His restaurant is still missed by many in the area.