For weeks, many Delawareans have looked forward to “sweater weather.”
But in the culinary world, a nip in the air means soup is on the stove.
Here are a few area favorites for you to sip in the dining room or order to go.
Matzo Ball Soup
The opening of Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen in Mid-Town Brandywine means Wilmington residents have easy access to this deli delight.
Founder Warren Rosenfeld was inspired by his mother’s and his sister’s recipes. He wasn’t afraid to deviate.
“I wanted more of a rich, vegetable soup, instead of the clear soup with the matzo ball that is served on some holidays,” he said. “The key is adding dill — a lot of it — at the very end when the soup is already on our steam table. The smell, color and flavor make it the secret ingredient.”
This American staple comes in a variety of styles. At Pizza by Elizabeths, cloves, cayenne and cream come together to create one of the Greenville restaurant’s signature dishes — aside from pizza, of course.
In North Wilmington, Culinaria takes a lighter touch. The soup starts with tomatoes sautéed in olive oil and poured into the chicken broth. Crunchy croutons, fine Parmesan cheese and fresh basil help create a tangy cup of comfort.
A classic dish in the Brandywine Valley, this soup also comes in many forms.
At Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville, for instance, Chef Tom Hannum keeps it simple. His version contains two types of mushrooms, onions, celery, rosemary, salt and pepper.
At Home Grown Café in Newark, the stars are portobello, shiitake and white button mushrooms. Chives and sherry provide the finishing touches.
Arguably, the most well-known version is the pumpkin-mushroom soup at The Back Burner and The Back Burner To Go.
A Google search produces several “adaptations” of the secret recipe that all listed curry, honey and pumpkin puree — not pumpkin pie filling. And don’t forget the fresh mushrooms.
Pumpkin-mushroom soup is available all year long, but it’s suited to the season.
That’s also true of Chef Lisa Scolaro’s “Pumpkin Chunkin’ Apple Soup,” which is available at HoneyBee Seasonal Kitchen & Market in Trolley Square. Her equally autumnal turkey mulligatawny includes curried apples.
At Dorcea in Wilmington, Jamaican carrot soup possesses fall flair.
“We put it on the menu as a temporary rotating soup of the day, and it sold so well, we have kept it on permanently,” said co-owner Anthony Bomba.
The vegetarian soup is available alone or in a flight of three.
Dorcea also features crab bisque and New England clam chowder.
In Delaware, these soups — along with Maryland crab — are standard on restaurant menus.
At Krazy Kat’s in Montchanin, the crab bisque gets a boost from roasted red pepper. Down in Lewes, crab bisque with sherry and lump crab is the only soup on Striper Bites’ main menu, and it’s been a star since the eatery opened in 2001.
Jimmy O’Conor, the owner of Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill, developed the restaurant’s Maryland Crab Soup recipe. Naturally, the Baltimore native adds Old Bay.
Whether or not gumbo falls into the soup category is up for debate. Depending on the darkness of the roux, gumbo can eat like a meal. It’s also a labor of love.
Don Applebaum of Cajun Kate’s perfected his recipe working as a soucier at the restaurant NOLA in New Orleans. His responsibility was to make stocks, soups and sauces.
“For 11 months, I roasted chicken, beef, pork and veal bones, made countless stocks and demiglaces, hand-cut hundreds of gallons of trinity (onions peppers and celery) — the mirepoix of New Orleans — and learned how to make that one-of-a-kind dark New Orleans roux,” he said.
Nearly 20 years later, he’s still roasting bones, making fresh stock and cutting trinity for his Cajun Kate’s locations on Philadelphia Pike and in the Booths Corner Farmers Market. The roux takes more than an hour to make.
“I heat the oil until it smokes, and then the fun begins,” he said. “I stir constantly as I incrementally add the all-purpose flour. I keep the heat on high and control the temperature by adding more flour. It’s fast and furious, and by far the most dangerous thing I make every week.”
The goal is to stir until the flour is dark brown but not burnt. When it looks like all-natural peanut butter, it’s done, Applebaum maintained.
Add the roux to the stock, and “something magical happens as I start to whisk,” he said. The gumbo takes on a velvet consistency. Once he adds the trinity, the gumbo simmers for 45 minutes.
Added proteins might include brisket, roast pork, chicken and sausage, shrimp, sausage, alligator and andouille — alone or in combinations. During Mardi Gras, he makes seafood gumbo and smoked duck and wild mushroom gumbo.
For a lighter touch, try the gumbo at Po’ Boys Creole Restaurant, a hidden gem off the beaten path — aka Route 1 — in Milton.
Many Asian-inspired soups boast a zing that will warm you up on a chilly day. Hannum at Buckley Tavern honors the Thai noodle soup recipe that’s been on the menu for decades. Ingredients include coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and chicken broth.
In Trolley Square, Southeast Kitchen wows guests with pho and tom kha gai, a medley of tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, onions and chicken in a coconut milk broth.
In Rehoboth Beach, try the chicken-ginger soup at Confucius, which is filled with sliced ginger and wood ear mushrooms.
At HoneyBee Seasonal Kitchen & Market, Scolaro whips up a flavorful menu of Asian-style soups, including one made with red Thai curry.
These dishes will warm you up both inside and out.