Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cream of Carrot Soup

Last weekend, Andrew (the future husband, for those of you just tuning in) had his wisdom teeth removed. Naturally, my first thought was, “OK, so what should I cook?” I mean, that was my second thought. My first thought was, “Gee, I hope he’ll be all right.” And, of course, he was. The operation went very smoothly and the whole ordeal was about as problem-free as we could expect.

So, that put me into the role of Andrew’s personal at-home nurse: I made sure he took his pills, iced his swollen cheeks, and ate lots of delicious pureed foods. I bought pudding, Jell-O, and popsicles and I made gallons of soup. I made Chilled Edamame Soup and I made Tomato Soup and I made Cream of Carrot Soup.
My cream of carrot soup is fairly straight-forward and involves nothing earth-shattering in terms of technique, but it always receives rave reviews. I first made it at the restaurant I worked at over the summer where soup was the only thing that staff were allowed to eat free of charge. When I was the daytime cook, it was one of my responsibilities in the morning to make the soup of the day. This happened to be my favorite responsibility because I pretty much had carte blanche to make whatever I wanted using anything we already had in the restaurant. The only drawback was the selection wasn’t great in terms of ingredients. Chicken noodle and vegetable soups were standard, and cream soups were also usually doable. Sometimes, one or two of the servers would take a bowl of soup during their shift, but we often barely went through half the pot in a day. Soup doesn’t sell very well in the summer and I have to say, our soup selections were not exactly inspiring. Well, the first time I made cream of carrot, the pot was gone before my shift ended. One waitress tried it, and spread the word to customers and coworkers that it was a soup worth ordering, and it was gone in no time.
I think that a lot of people are turned off by the thought of cream of carrot soup. It sounds a little like baby food. In terms of taste, though, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Carrots are one of the most under-valued vegetables out there. They are far more remarkable than people give them credit for: they manage to be both sweet and savory at the same time and this is most evident when they are cooked. The sugars become more concentrated, sweetening the carrots, while they still remain savory. And in case that wasn’t convincing enough, I’ll also remind you that carrots are packed with nutrients, and incredibly inexpensive. I bought a two-pound bag for a dollar. As wonderful as carrots are, there is more to this soup that makes it such a hit. I hate to bring this up after raving about the nutritional value of carrots, but two other necessary components of this soup are butter and cream. Yep: pure, unadulterated, saturated fat. That said, there isn’t exactly a ton of it in there. Butter is used to sauté the vegetables and make the roux, and the soup is finished with cream. Bowl for bowl, there really isn’t an excessive amount of fat: the carrots really have center stage here.

Now, a quick note on production: at the restaurant, I had to puree my soup by transferring it, bit by bit, into a food processor. This was a messy and cumbersome process. At home, I have an immersion blender and it works wonders. It’s simple to use, easy to clean, and involves no transferring of the soup to different containers. I got mine for $30, and I highly recommend it as a kitchen must-have.
Of course, if you don’t have one and can’t get one, a blender or food processor works just fine.

So, if you or someone you know is having teeth pulled out of their mouth, make them this soup. Or, just make it for yourself and enjoy the creamy, rich, carroty goodness.

Cream of Carrot Soup
Makes about 4 medium bowls

I use chicken stock to make this soup, but if you wanted to make it vegetarian, you could use vegetable stock. A word of warning though: try to use a stock that is as smooth and mild as you can find it. Vegetable stocks can sometimes have strong flavors, but you really don’t want that here. Try making the stock yourself using only very mild vegetables. Use a lot of carrots!

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, cold
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. crème fraîche (optional)
2 tsp. chopped chives (optional)
Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and sauté until carrots begin to soften, 6-7 minutes. Stir in the flour and continue to cook and stir for one minute.

Stir in the stock and thyme, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender and the flour taste of the roux is gone, about 30-40 minutes. It is important that the carrots are soft all the way through. Otherwise, you’ll have lumpy soup.

Off the heat and puree the soup using an immersion blender, or by transferring it in batches to a food processor or blender. If necessary, return the soup to the pot, and place over medium-low heat. Stir in the cream and nutmeg and cook gently until it heats through. Taste and season with salt and pepper (use white pepper if you don’t want dark flecks in your soup).

If desired, garnish with a drop or drizzle of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of chives.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds sooo good! I love carrot soup. I'm going to try your recipe.