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Food and Drink Features

Boss broths

Whether the weather cooperates or not, enjoy a meal that will warm the insides.

Greg Elwell December 12th, 2012

There is a brief period of time in Oklahoma, beginning in November and running until the end of February, when it can get legitimately cold.

Bone-chillingly cold. White-walker-from-beyond-the-Wall cold, to put it in a Game of Thrones perspective.

If your hands are shaking and you can see your breath, how about some soup?

That’s right: soup. Poor, oft-maligned soup. Relegated to the margins as “food for when you’re sick” or “what churches serve to the homeless,” soup is actually magical.

Consider the base ingredients — carrot, celery, onion. These are foods you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy!

A great chef, however, can take that garden garbage and turn it into something that exceeds the sum of its parts.

Like the French onion soup ($6) at Red PrimeSteak, 504 N. Broadway.

The key to a great French onion soup is time. Chef Luke Fry has trained kitchen staff not to rush the process, instead letting the mix of yellow and white onions caramelize, deglazing the pot and letting it happen again and again. Add in sherry and sherry vinegar, and you’ve got a soup that is dark, rich and flavorful.

But don’t forget the crouton! Fry is especially proud (as he should be) of the final product: bread that melts into the soup and cheese that blends into each bite.

“I’d put this up against any French onion soup in the city,” he said.

Those other soups ought to be quaking in their crocks, because this stuff is amazing.

Soupy sells
Another steakhouse with its eyes on the soupy prize is Boulevard Steakhouse in Edmond, 505 S. Boulevard, which has one of the finest mushroom soups ($6.99) known to man.

My wife orders the soup and a steak every time she goes to Boulevard. Then she laments not just ordering four bowls of soup, because it is amazing — rich and creamy — but infused with a ton of hearty mushroom flavor.

The soup has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and has been a consistent favorite, chef Jimmy Stepney said.

A combination of portobello and button mushrooms is cooked slowly to extract all their flavors. Add in white wine, heavy cream and fresh butter, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

“It takes three or four hours to make, but it’s worth it,” said Stepney.

Each bowl is finished off with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives. The end result is a smooth, savory and satisfying soup.

Extra points if you don’t care what people think, and dip some of their fresh-baked bread in it.

But you can’t talk soup in OKC without mentioning pho, the Vietnamese beef and noodle soup that is rumored to cure hangovers as well as it cures hungry bellies.

At Pho Lien Hoa, 901 N.W.

23rd, pho comes in three sizes: large, extra large and feeds an army. OK, technically they’re listed as small ($5.85), large ($6.50) and extra large ($7.50), but once you see them, you’ll know I was right.

What makes its pho so good? In addition to phenomenal seasoning, Pho Lien Hoa’s broth is served piping hot — too hot to eat at first. Liquid-magma hot.

So when you do start eating it, first by air-lifting out some noodles, then swishing around your cuts of beef (I recommend the Pho Tai Gau: rare steak and brisket), then by drinking down that savory liquid, it’s still hot.

Abundance of flavor
Some might argue that the birria (small $5, medium $7, large $9) at Birrieria Diaz, 6700 N.W. 39th Expressway, is not soup. Those people will get a smack in the mouth.

It’s an intoxicating broth with tender pieces of meat. So what if you spoon it onto a tortilla?

It’s soup. It’s good soup. Shut up. Available in either beef or “sheep,” birria is all kinds of terrific and it comes with quite a set-up. Tortillas, onions, peppers, herbs and sauces are all there for you to fix it the way you like it. Me? I like it on a spoon, heading into my mouth.

And if you like a constantly rotating cast of characters, be sure to go to Rococo, 2824 N. Pennsylvania and 12252 N. May, where owner-chef Bruce Rinehart takes special pride in his daily soups.

Whether it’s a beef and vegetable with broth so dark you can’t see what’s below the surface, a smooth split pea and ham with an abundance of flavor or even a crab-heavy gumbo, Rococo never fails to satisfy.

There are other great soups in town — shrimp and sizzling rice soup at Dot Wo, 10600 S. Pennsylvania, roast pork congee at Golden Phoenix, 2728 N. Classen, and the white chicken chili at Coolgreens, several metro locations.

So get out, get a bowl and warm up before those breath demons finally come to take you away.

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