Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I just realized that my last three posts have featured brown foods. It’s that time of year. But thank goodness for carrots, without which winter eating would be drab indeed. There are few things more cheerful on a cold day than steaming bright-orange soup, and I already have a couple of favorite recipes. I still had to try this one, though, because it has fennel.

I’m nurturing a nascent love affair with fennel, which is too bad for A because he’s decided he doesn’t entirely like the stuff. So, as in a restrained BBC costume drama, I’m fighting to keep my feelings in check while casting longing glances across the farmers’ market at the creamy white bulbs and feathery fronds. I refuse to be kept from fennel entirely, but fennel and I have agreed to see other people. In other words, I’m trying not to put it on the menu every week.

This recipe from Serious Eats seemed like it might be an acceptable compromise, a way to satisfy my fennel craving while pureeing it into oblivion for A’s sake (he says that while he doesn’t really dig the flavor of fennel, it’s the texture he really doesn’t like). I’d tried a different carrot-fennel soup recipe before and been disappointed, but this one wooed me with its talk of roasting the vegetables, because fennel is best when caramelized and carrots and onions aren’t too shabby either. The soup was easy to make and I followed the instructions pretty much to the letter, except for altering the process slightly to use my immersion blender. In retrospect, I think the traditional blender might have been easier in this case; roasted vegetables have a bit more resistance to pureeing than boiled ones, and I had to work for a long time (and add all the stock, not just part of it) to get it suitably smooth. But it wasn’t really a problem. I also used chicken stock instead of vegetable and crème fraiche instead of heavy cream because I had both of them on hand, and both worked very well.

The finished soup was delicious. A doesn’t really care for pureed soups (I just can’t win!), but he found it palatable enough. I’m almost tempted to leave out the wine next time because once I’d added it I found it impossible to ignore, even after the alcohol cooked off; I think it really changed the flavor and I had a nagging suspicion I might have liked the original flavor even better—but it did add a nice complexity, so I recommend at least trying it once. I happily ate the leftovers all week; the multigrain rolls I just baked were a nice accompaniment.

If you’re unsure about fennel, this might be a good way to try it. You get to taste both the bulb and the fronds, but the flavor in the finished soup isn’t overwhelming.

1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), thinly sliced, 1–2 tablespoons of chopped fronds reserved
1 pound carrots, quartered lengthwise
1 medium onion, quartered
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup white wine
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
½ cup heavy whipping cream (I used about ¼ cup crème fraiche)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine fennel bulb, carrots, onion, olive oil, sugar, and salt. Spread vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven, flipping occasionally, until browned and very tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Remove the vegetables from the oven. Add half of them to the bowl of a food processor or blender with 1 cup stock; puree the vegetables until smooth, about 1 minute, and transfer to a large soup pot or Dutch oven, then repeat with the remaining half of vegetables and another cup of stock. (Or, if you have an immersion blender, just add all the vegetables and all 4 cups of stock to the pot and blend until smooth.)

4. Add butter and wine to the pot with the puree and cook it over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the remaining stock to adjust consistency and simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

Serves: 4–5 (recipe says 4, but I got 5)
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good; will keep in the fridge for 1 week and in the freezer for months.

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