Monday, January 14, 2008


Sure, it doesn’t look like much, but that’s partly my fault for failing to garnish with apple slices and rosemary sprigs as directed, and not having any white pepper on hand instead of those big honking black specks you see. Anyway, who cares what it looks like when it tastes like apples and Brie?

Will you be surprised when I inform you that this soup is fabulous? Thank you, parents, for The St. Paul Farmers’ Market Cookbook, and thank you, St. Paul Farmers’ Market Cookbook, for including this recipe for one of the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant’s trademark dishes, and thank you, (former) executive chef Ken Goff, for creating it in the first place.

I had a few quibbles with the recipe—for one, it called for three cups of heavy cream, which is insane, considering we’re already using half a stick of butter and half a pound of Brie. The chef’s parenthetical notes grudgingly suggested I could substitute half and half or whole milk if I also used four potatoes instead of three. I went a step further down the ladder and used 1% milk, and it’s still the creamiest soup in Creamyland. I’m not even including the option for cream in my version of the recipe. Use milk and live longer, the better to enjoy more Brie and apple soup.

Also, the original recipe asked for just “4 small potatoes,” which is maddeningly unspecific. When I think “small potatoes,” I think teeny-tiny one-bite baby red potatoes, but I don’t think that’s what Goff meant. I used four smallish Russet potatoes, and that seemed about right. Just use enough potato slices to fit in the pan with the three cups of milk, but not so many that the milk doesn’t cover them. And speaking of that, Goff also became vague about cooking the potatoes in the milk, failing to give any guidance beyond “combine and cook slowly”—does that mean low heat? Medium? Can I blame this vagueness for the fact that the milk burned like hell onto the bottom of my (granted, not very high-quality or “thick-bottomed” pan)? Sadly, I think not. I hate any recipe that requires me to boil milk; I’m terrible at it, and burning inevitably ensues. It didn’t affect the taste of the soup at all, but it will affect my arm tonight when I try to scrape off the layers of char. Anyway, I’ve tried to clarify the directions below, but maybe you don’t want to listen to the woman who always burns the milk.

Finally, I’ve switched the steps around for maximum efficiency. The way the recipe was originally organized, I didn’t start cooking the potatoes and milk until after I’d added the chicken broth to the onions and apples. I figured: hey, 15 minutes for the onions and apples, 12 minutes for the potatoes and milk—that should time out pretty well! I had neglected to take into account the time it took for the refrigerator-cold milk to even heat up to a simmer, and thus the 12-minute clock didn’t even start running until well after the onions and apples were soft (I just turned the heat down to the lowest setting and kept cooking the onion/apple mixture until the potatoes were ready, and it was all fine, but it took a lot longer than it should have). So even though my directions sound complicated, making you jump back and forth between the two pots, it’s quicker this way, trust me.

Besides these minor frustrations, this wasn’t a hard recipe to make (as usual, the immersion blender helped immeasurably), and it turned out amazingly. Too rich and sweet to eat in great quantity, but so creamy and luxurious and with a great oniony, herby undertone. Unique and sophisticated, and thus perfect for serving to others so you can amaze them with your fancy-pantsness. But not too pretentious for just a simple Sunday night at home like ours, where we ate it with fresh dill bread (recipe to follow) and bitter green salads dressed with lemon vinaigrette (my favorite salad dressing ever: juice of one lemon, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, shake well) while watching The Amazing Race.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup sliced leeks (white part only)
4 large tart apples (I used Granny Smith), peeled and quartered
2 cups chicken broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 1½ inches long
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
1½ teaspoons salt
3 cups milk
4 small Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch thick
8 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into pieces
salt and ground pepper to taste

1. In a soup pot with a heavy bottom, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it foams. Add the onion, leek, and apple. Stir to coat them, then reduce heat to medium and cook until onions are softened, about 8 minutes.

2. While onions are cooking, combine the milk and potatoes in a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to medium-low, and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes.

3. When onions are softened in the first pot, add the chicken broth, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and 1½ teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

4. When potatoes are tender, add them to the pot with the onions and apples. Puree in batches in a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot), adding pieces of Brie gradually while blending just long enough to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour

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