With record-breaking inflation and talk of a future recession dominating headlines, it’s not uncommon for families to be on the hunt for ways to save a bit of money on their monthly grocery bills. Enter canned soup, an ingredient Top Chefs alum Richard Blais says is a perfect way to streamline dinnertime “for a reasonable price per person.”
“I don’t have any recession tips except that we’re all in the same situation together,” Blais tells Yahoo Life. “I just came back from overseas and it’s a global thing. [With canned soup]you can cook restaurant-quality meals at home and you can do it within a budget.”
Canned soups are for more than casseroles
“I put some cream of chicken soup in some mulligatawny soup last night and it was amazing,” says Blais. “I made a French onion soup quesadilla the other day. I made beans on toast and used tomato soup in the beans, so using the soup as a shortcut to get you restaurant-quality meals has been a lot of fun.”
Blais spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his recent partnership with Campbell’s, where he’s sharing canned soup-based recipes through the Yes Chef campaign. From a cauliflower curry with cream of celery soup to rigatoni alla vodka made with classic condensed tomato soup, Blais says coming up with each recipe in the campaign was a great time not only for himself, but also for his family.
“Outside of the recipes that I did [for Campbell’s]I made three dishes this week that are unrelated to those recipes,” he says. “I think a lot of times chefs get that rap of Oh, I’m sure when he’s home he’s shaving truffles on foie gras and eating caviarbut no: I have a family that’s busy and we’ve gotta get food on the table but we also want it to be delicious and we want to explore culture through it, because you can travel the world with food.”
Use canned soup for kitchen shortcuts
“Instead of a roux — pulling out the flour and the butter and spending 30 minutes — two spoons of cream of chicken is going to do the same thing that the roux would do,” says Blais. “It’s an ultimate shortcut when it comes to technique and flavor.”
“Sometimes when you are tasked with a challenge you wonder if you’re going to revamp the recipes you’ve always done or if there’s going to be inspiration that comes in the moment,” he continues. “For me, there were a couple of moments, like using cream of mushroom inside of an omelet — to make a creamy omelette with the soup — that were like a lightbulb moment. It was real inspiration. Braising pork in French onion soup was another moment like that.”
Travel the world from your kitchen … with soup
From Thailand to New Orleans, Blais says each of the 10 recipes he developed for Campbell’s were designed to highlight a different part of the world.
“Especially with my kids, during these times, maybe we can’t take a family trip somewhere but every day we can make a dish and talk about a place,” he says. “It’s such a great way to open up a conversation both about food and where that food is from.”
So does he have a favorite variety of canned soup? Although it’s “tough to pick a favorite,” there is one that stands out.
“The tostada recipe was with Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup, a product I wasn’t familiar with before the campaign,” he added. “It’s got this creamy cheesy texture and obviously it’s perfect for these tostadas that we made. Even as a drizzly cheese sauce over nachos? What a great utilization of that product. I love cheesy sauces and I love cheese. It’s a perfect element that gets people want to eat something.”
Blais recently announced plans to open California English, his newest concept restaurant, in San Diego, Calif. Last year, he opened Four Flamingos, a Florida-style restaurant in Orlando. The 50-year-old chef also just wrapped filming Season 2 of Next LevelChefthe cooking competition he hosts with fellow chefs Nyesha Arrington and Gordon Ramsay.
While Season 2 of Next LevelChef is set to air immediately following the Super Bowl on Fox, Blais says he’s also busy mentoring the Season 1 winner, Pyet DeSpain. “We went into Season 1 and didn’t quite know what was going to be like, but Pyet has made it easy because she’s fabulous,” he says. “It’s been inspiring for me and I hope Pyet’s enjoyed it as well — she’s just got a great story and her food is fantastic.”
Want to try one of Blais’s soup-forward recipes at home? He shares his recipe for Cheddar Chorizo and Chicken Tostadas below.
Cheddar Chorizo and Chicken Tostadas
Courtesy of Campbell’s and Richard Blais
1 cup crumbled cooked chorizo sausage
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell’s Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 can (about 15 ounces) refried beans, warmed
4 tostada shells (6-inch), warmed
3 cups shredded cooked chicken, warmed
1 cup pico de gallo or salsa
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
Heat cooked chorizo and cheese soup in a saucepan until hot.
Spread beans on tostadas.
Top with shredded chicken and pico de gallo.
Spoon soup mixture over chicken.
Top with sliced avocado and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired, and serve.
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