The first thing to know about Eleven Madison Park’s Soup Box is that its name is a bit of a misnomer. The package will help you make soup, but it’s not an all-in-one meal kit in the way Blue Apron or HelloFresh is. Which is to say—there’s still a lot of work involved here, and it might be more effort than one is willing to put in.
If you’re up for the challenge, though, the box includes three different soup starters and three types of grains or legumes. The current selection leans wintery, with the base flavors being Saffron Tomato, Wild Mushroom, and Seaweed. To put into your broth, you’re given a mix of organic ingredients: beans from an upstate New York farm, New Jersey brown rice, and beluga lentils all the way from Montana. On its own, each starter makes four quarts of broth and can be used for a soup that feeds four.
As far as the actual cooking process goes, making the broth is a breeze. You simply dump the starter into a pot, add water, and you’ve got yourself a rich, flavorful base in about half an hour. That beats the typical broth-making process, which can take hours, by a long shot. I chose to start with the Saffron Tomato variation—packed with smoked paprika, coriander, and aji amarillo—and was pleasantly surprised by the depth of umami achieved after just 30 minutes.
Turning that broth into a soup is where the real cooking begins, though. Because the Soup Box is rather scant in terms of its ingredients, you’ve got to acquire a whole host of additional items to go from broth to soup. The recommended Tomato Saffron Minestrone is by far the most basic of the three options, yet you still need to buy another 10 or so vegetables. At least they’re all pretty normal items, like cauliflower and sweet potatoes; the Seaweed Broth with Heirloom Beans, Tofu, and Sunflower Miso calls for specifics like hon-shimeji mushrooms and sunflower sprouts. This is EMP, after all.
Despite my slight annoyance at having to go to the grocery store for the extra ingredients, the Tomato Saffron Minestrone came together more quickly than I had imagined, with the chopping not taking as long as it may seem when reading the recipe. My one qualm here is that I was left with odd amounts of leftover veggies, as the recipe lists its measurements in cups (one cup of diced carrots, for example, rather than just one or two carrots). I was left with three-quarters of a head of cauliflower, which admittedly ended up being quite useful in a pinch (it’s very good roasted alongside some Kraft mac and cheese when you’re too lazy to cook much else; it’s all about the high/low mix, folks).
In the end, the minestrone was a very serviceable work-from-home weeknight dinner, and it’s hearty enough on its own thanks to the inclusion of the beluga lentils. I’ve yet to experiment with the Seaweed dish or the Wild Mushroom’s Black Forbidden Rice with Roasted Maitake, Kabocha Squash, and Ginger, but I expect those to be a bit more involved—although the flavor payoff seems like it will be worth the effort. And while the $117 price tag may seem steep for a few pouches of soup starter, beans, and grains, that’s still hundreds less than EMP’s $365 tasting menu.
The Soup Box definitely takes more work than simply showing up at Daniel Humm’s N.Y.C. institution, though.