Friday, February 5, 2010

soup by-the-seat-of-the-pants

We ate this carrot soup on Christmas Eve. It was a big hit, which was especially gratifying because the cooking was totally fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants.

I had originally planned to make a roasted squash soup, and had gathered these two recipes from Melissa's Produce and a blog called Seed to Table. Then the Mr. (who also snapped the photo for this post--thanks hon!) reminded me that we had a bunch of carrots in the garden that needed to be used, so I switched gears a bit. Just a little bit--I basically combined the two recipes, and substituted carrots for the squash. To simplify things, I decided to just simmer the carrots on the stove rather than roasting them.

So the carrots for the soup were hyper-local, but the chestnuts, of course, were quite the opposite. Despite their hefty tally of food miles, I was curious to try cooking with chestnuts, which just seem like a quintessential luxurious winter ingredient to me. And indeed, they gave the soup a gorgeous velvety texture.  Hopefully soon, those of us in North America will have access to closer-to-local chestnuts again.

This soup is not particularly quick--it takes a long, slow simmer--but it is very easy. Just a few minutes at the beginning chopping vegetables and tossing them into the pot, and a quick whiz in the blender at the end.  Dinner practically makes itself.

The soup is garnished with a dollop of chipotle creme fraiche, which makes a nice contrast to the creamy, slightly sweet vegetable puree. You will probably end up with a little bit of extra chipotle creme fraiche. It would be good in an omelet, in a buckwheat crepe, spread thinly on a sandwich, or even just smeared on a cracker and topped with a bit of fresh chevre. Not that I have extensive personal experience with that last option or anything.

Carrot, Leek, and Chestnut Soup with Chipotle Cream

2 Tbsp. butter
2 leeks
2 lb. carrots
4-oz. package shelled chestnuts
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 C vegetable broth or water

1/2 C creme fraiche
2 tsp tomato paste
1/4-1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder, or to taste

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, wash the leeks and cut them (white parts only--reserve the green parts for another use) into 1-inch chunks. Add the leeks to the pan and saute, stirring occasionally. Wash, peel, and roughly chop the carrots, and add them to the pan. Then add the chestnuts, salt, pepper, and liquid. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, until carrots and leeks are very, very tender--at least an hour, and an hour and a half doesn't hurt.

Meanwhile, stir together the creme fraiche, tomato paste, and chipotle powder. Refrigerate until needed.

When the vegetables are done, remove the soup from the heat. Puree in batches in a blender--be careful not to fill the blender too full, so that it does not spatter. Return the soup to the pan and heat gently.

For each serving, stir a dollop of the chipotle creme fraiche into the bowl.

Makes about 5 servings.

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