Monday, February 6, 2012

Keepin' it Real, Real Seasonal: Sweet Curry Parsnip Soup with a sauteed leek and crispy bacon garnish


Patience is a virtue as they say, and with the winter weather not quite setting in as expected, it's been tough to get into winter soup mode.  Nevertheless, it's been almost a year since the parsnips were seeded out in the field and there's no better time than late winter to get harvesting.  Just like carrots and spinach, parsnips help protect themselves through the colder and darker winter months by converting the sun's energy, usually stored as starch, into sugar.  This makes for extra sweet and delicious parsnips, perfect for a rich, creamy soup.  My first instinct was to look online for some recipes, but with such incredible food resources roming around the farm, I decided to put my faith in a passionate culinary school grad/Livestock apprentice and housemate, Sam, who broke down all the basics of how to make a great root veggie soup in a few easy steps.  Throw in some extra spices and this was one of the most

unique soups I've tried yet.

To skip right to the recipe click here

My notes and the chef's signature/seal of approval

Get some freshly pulled parsnips (and any other roots you like, I had an extra celeriac from earlier in the season) wash, peel and cube them.  We had a large group so we put in about 1-2 pounds of parsnips.  

celeriac adds a nice subtle celery flavor
Chop 3 winter leeks, 2 whole onions and sauté them in your soup pot with some oil or butter.

Once the leeks and onions have caramelized in the bottom of the pot, toss in some minced garlic and let simmer for a few minutes on a low heat without burning the garlic.  Then pour your soup stock or water into the pot.  Sam happened to have made a few batches of stock with some leftover Berkshire Pig parts that were not being used by the restaurant, this mainly consisted of the pig's head.  Stock can be as simple as salt water or even leftover vegetables boiled in water.  Either way, there is no waste, only potential and this pig based stock added a lot of flavor.

Once this mixture comes to a boil, add the parsnips and celeriac and cook until tender.

Once a fork could easily go through the root veggies, we pureed everything in a Cuisinart to get a smooth creamy texture.  While Sam did this, I started preparing our garnish by placed some bacon in a pan, cooking until crispy.  In another pan I sauteed more chopped leeks.

Add 1/2 to 1 cup of cream and finally spice to taste.  We used Sweet Curry powder, salt and pepper.

I never really had much of an appreciation for garnish because I always felt that it was too subtle to have an effect on my meal, but I'm starting to see that a garnish can really enhance the flavor of a meal that may otherwise be unnoticed if simply mixed in with all the other ingredients.  In this case, the crispy bacon and smooth leek textures diversified each spoonful of the creamy soup and the contrast of savory to sweet was also extremely enjoyable.  Definitely a soup I was proud to be a part of.

Parsnip Soup Review

1.  Wash, peel and cut 1 -2 pounds of parsnips, 1-2 celeriac, 1 whole onion, 2-3 leeks
2.  In a large soup pot, sauté chopped onions, leeks until caramelized
3.  Add in minced or diced garlic and stir
4.  Once you begin to smell the garlic add your stock and boil
5.  Salt to taste, add all root vegetables and cook until tender
6.  Puree, put back on stove and finish with 1/2 - 1 cup of cream depending on your desire.
7.  Add Sweet Curry powder, salt, pepper to taste

In separate pans sauté leeks and fry multiple slabs of bacon until crispy.  Chop and serve alongside soup.  Since there is a much higher soup to garnish ratio, it's best to add this per bowl and not in the main pot where it will get lost.



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