Storified by ebanreb· Sat, Apr 13 2013 18:47:08
Soup Making Basics:
This subject will be covered over the next several chapters and includes:
2) Stock vs. Jar of Base or Bullion Cubes
3) Roux vs. Cornstarch
5) Creating a Cream Base
While I fully encourage you to use the resources available to you, and this most certainly includes leftovers. You cannot take a week old roast from the refrigerator and make an earth shattering soup, it will simply taste a week old. The fresher the ingredients, the better the soup!
Stock vs. Base:
For home use a good jar of base, or bullion cubs are the best options. Look at the ingredient list for actual animal content, and if you are sensitive to MSG, there are quite a few good bases that are MSG free. If using a salt based base, don't add salt. Judge the beef or chicken flavor by the salt content, if you need more salt simply add more base. Remember when judging the amount of salt that not everybody has the same tastes, so better less than more. So if I write salt and pepper to taste, this is based on using a stock.
You can use raw or cooked chicken, cover the chicken with water; add celery, onion, carrots, and a bay leaf; boil with a slow rolling boil for at least a couple of hours and strain. While most of the flavor will remain in the stock, if you wish you can de-bone the chicken and add it to the soup, but this is a matter of taste.
Salt, pepper, and garlic (I prefer minced garlic in oil, but you can use any type of garlic) are the seasonings most used in soups. Some people will add 1 bay leaf to soup, and to release the flavor break the leaf in half, but if you're not familiar with the flavor of bay leaf try using only half a leaf first. Other seasonings you may like in any soup depending on your tastes include a blend of Italian seasonings, thyme, rosemary, or basil. Try different things sparingly, but remember that the flavor of these herbs will be released gradually so don't add too much.