Monday, March 29, 2010

Wait - I thought it was spring!

Those of you who live in the northeastern United States no doubt shared my disappointment in the subfreezing temperatures we experienced this weekend. It's the end of March; I shouldn't be schlepping to the Greenmarket in gloves, a scarf and my winter coat!

But schlep I did, and I'm better off for it. Root vegetables abounded, and I decided that some celeriac (also known as celery root) soup would be just the thing for my lunches this week. I didn't want to do anything too complicated, so I just sauteed some aromatics (leeks, shallots, garlic), added some celeriac and other root vegetables (carrots, potatoes) and threw in a few sprigs of thyme for good measure.

When the soup was done, I tasted it and decided it needed something a bit richer to balance out all the veggie goodness. In went a touch of half-and-half and a smidge of browned butter. The result? Creamy, satisfying soup, the perfect antidote to an early spring chill.

Celeriac Soup with Browned Butter

2 tbs. olive oil
2 small leeks (white and light green parts only), cut into half-moons and washed
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise
1 pound celeriac, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small, waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup half and half
2 tbs. butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Set a medium pot (I used my 3 1/2 quart French oven.) over high heat. After a minute or so, add the olive oil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks and saute for a moment, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute until the leeks are translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the celeriac and stir to combine well with the leek mixture, then add the carrots and potatoes, along with a healthy pinch of salt and some pepper.

Add the thyme sprigs to the pan and pour in the wine. Allow to cook at high heat, stirring, for a few minutes, until it doesn't smell too boozy. Pour the chicken stock over the vegetables and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork.

While the soup is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan set over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter until it begins to turn brown and smells nutty. Take off the heat immediately and set aside.

Once the vegetables are tender, remove the soup from the heat. Pull out the (now bare) thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is thick and smooth. (If you want to go crazy, you can also pour it through a strainer or chinois to make the soup super-smooth.) Stir in the half and half and browned butter.

If serving immediately, taste and adjust for seasoning. If not, allow the soup to cool to room temperature, cover, and transfer to the fridge. Reheat gently over medium heat, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Serves four.

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