For the past few years, much of the Internet has consisted of useless lists. I've been guilty of this myself. To celebrate the holiday season, here's a list that does the exact sort of thing I like doing - telling people how to do their grocery shopping from the comfort of my home. It may even be useful, for those who do things like comparison shop at every opportunity.
Here's a list of my six favourite Campbell's soups, in order. Think of it as the NFL Power Rankings for things you eat while watching the NFL. As with that glorious league, I've selected six soups to top these rankings, sort of as though Campbell's comprises a conference and these are the six playoff teams. The upcoming Wildcard Weekend only makes this more relevant. Seeing as the Canadian headquarters is in my hometown of Toronto, and I have a history of blogging about soup, I figure it's a fitting thing for me to post. Perhaps most importantly, I've posted the entries in descending order, as I find those countdown lists needlessly annoying.
Oh, and I'm excluding chili or any product marketed as chili. Sorry, Mister "Chili-Style Soup" (should sparkling lemonade be called "pop-style lemonade" now?), this means you, delicious as you are.
The bye-week soups:
1. Chunky Sirloin Burger / BBQ Chipotle Sirloin Burger
Although I've listed two soups, they're really the same soup. One simply has some sweet chipotle tang to it and is therefore more pub-style. Each is the best canned beef stew I've ever had, which is saying something, because I grew up on Puritan. Each is versatile, accommodating pretty well any spice very well. I'm a bit of a spice junkie, so being able to put anything from chili flakes to steak spice to roasted garlic in my stew is a big plus for me. The pieces of beef are also substantial, which is great in the thick broth.
The one qualm I have with this otherwise superior product is that, for all its wonderful stew qualities, it doesn't fit its burger theme. The shepherd's pie soup, which contains mashed potatoes of all things, shows that Campbell's is not above moving away from traditional soup ingredients in order to make its themed soups closer to the real thing. Why, then, would the sirloin burger soup contain peas, carrots, potatoes and green beans? The round shape of the miniature beef patties in the soup clearly indicates it's meant to have a burger theme. If you can find me someone who actually eats stew ingredients like peas, carrots, potatoes and green beans on a burger, I'll buy that person that burger, I suppose. (Not as a unilateral contract offer, though.)
2. Alehouse Shepherd's Pie
2014-2015 is the year of pub-style! It's also apparently the year of beef, which is fitting considering the Dallas Cowboys have had their best season in years. Alehouse shepherd's pie soup is an at first seemingly bizarre idea that takes Campbell's into unfamiliar territory. Whereas past soup launches have gone in relatively safe directions, with none being more adventurous than the I-think-it-sucks Chicken a la King, shepherd's pie isn't even really liquid-y. It's about as high up on the list of pub foods I'd nominate for conversion into soup as, say, chicken wings or pizza. If anything, I'd have expected Campbell's to have released a pub-style curry soup by now. (Please do that, Campbell's.) Shepherd's pie has ended up being a powerhouse, though. It's the most filling Campbell's soup I've ever eaten without it being crazily high in saturated fat.
As an aside, the URL in the soup's title here reads "chunky_shepherd". I couldn't help but smile at the idea of a German shepherd perhaps indulging in a little too much pub food over the holidays.
Wildcard Weekend, in soup form:
3. Herbed Chicken Noodle
The first of today's slate of wildcard chicken soups, herbed chicken noodle occupies a special place in the Campbell's repertoire. It's a bolstered version of the classic chicken noodle, with (mostly) whole-grain rotini and vegetables. It's also one of the healthiest soups Campbell's offers. But for the pub invasion of barely a few months ago, this soup would have the top spot.
4. Chunky Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
For years, this reigned as my favourite Chunky soup. Whether the pub-style soups are truly Chunky is a matter of interpretation. Although Southwestern Chicken has come close to edging it out due to having better chunks of chicken, chicken and sausage is a combination of meats I seek in everything from pasta dishes to rice dishes. I'm also partial to anything remotely Louisianan.
Whether the new Healthy Request version will outstrip any of the top three choices remains to be seen, or, rather, eaten. To the Batcave!
5. Chunky Southwestern Chicken
If you like big chunks of chicken and black beans, this one's your bet. It has potatoes, too, which I generally like more than rice. Its main drawbacks are that its broth is a little on the sweet and viscous side, and that that it isn't as versatile seasoning-wise as numbers 1, 3, 4 and 6 on this list. Still, I've eaten Southwestern Chicken a lot more often than the gumbo recently, and this could be an upset pick if I were actually judging these soups in a tournament.
6. Condensed Chicken Noodle
The one that started them all? Probably, and it certainly is in my own made-up world. It's still a favourite, especially as either part of a larger snack or when I have a salty craving, which is usually. It's best with chili powder, curry powder or sriracha, I find. Hot sauce and unexpected spices are some of my favourite soup additives.
Hilariously, the gold writing on the red background is so faint I didn't notice it for a solid couple years. I'd wondered why my chicken noodle soup was so salty until my girlfriend pointed it out to me. Empirically tested tip: use half a can of water, not a full can like it recommends. A full can makes the soup extremely watery.
I'm picking all four home teams to win and cover this weekend. I feel highly unlikely to go 4-0 but sufficiently likely to go 3-1. If I knew which game I thought I'd lose, I'd change that pick. Go Panthers, etc.