Last Friday at Haven’s Kitchen I taught a class on winter soups, stews, and chowdahs. Creamy soups (you know, the type with “cream of” in the title) were my favorite growing up. But my stomach just can’t handle them anymore. What can I say, I’m 27 going on 50. Nowadays, one of the things I love doing is adding potato to the broth–what the French call a “potage”–which creates an amazing full-bodied, smooth texture when pureed. It’s one of the things I demo-ed in this segment, and it was something I really wanted to include in my soup class for those with dietary restrictions.
I’ve been making a version of this roasted carrot-fennel soup for years, and though it’s not quite as flashy as some of my other dishes, my HK students appreciated its easy preparation and soothing, simple flavors.
My first private chef client ever was an 83-year-old woman named Henny. Her daughter was the one who hired me, and she made sure to mention in no diplomatic uncertain terms, that her mother was a difficult woman. I love the challenge of appeasing challenging people, especially when the medium at hand is food. And I now know from experience that nothing brings a smile to an old grouch’s face like a bowl of comforting soup. During the first course of the first meal I cooked for her, this carrot-fennel soup succeeded in turning Henny’s frown upside down.
The roasting of the vegetables is an utterly worthwhile extra step. It especially intensifies the flavor of the fennel, which gives the finished soup an unidentifiable sweetness. Of all the dishes I cooked for Henny in the 9 months before she passed away, this soup was the most highly requested, and though she ate very little, when the sterling silver dinner bell was rung and I came to clear the course, her bowl was always empty.
A recent addition, which I tested out a few months ago at a tasting at my apartment, was this dill oil. It’s a simple puree of herbs and olive oil – nothing crazy – but it gives a nice brightness to the roasted vegetables. I also toasted up some croutons which add some much needed texture. Nuts would also do the trick.
I’m off to Phili today to do a little talk at Wharton. I’ll be bringing my cutting board and knives to the lecture hall in hopes of teaching all those smarty pants a helpful kitchen trick or two. One of the things I’m going to tell them, and will tell you as well: buy an immersion blender. You’ll thank me later. Like when you make this soup.
Carrot-Fennel Potage with Dill Oil
Makes 4 servings
1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
4 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled, halved width-wise, and quartered
1 medium Spanish onion, quartered
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 medium Yukon gold potato (about ½ pound), peeled and diced
3 tablespoons Pernod or dry white wine
1 quart vegetable stock
1/4 cup fresh dill leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the fennel, carrots, and onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Divide among the baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast in the oven until caramelized, about 40 minutes, swapping the pans halfway through cooking.
Note: the vegetables can be roasted up to two days in advance.
3. Add the roasted veggies to a medium stockpot along with the raw potato and the remaining salt. Pour in the wine, stock, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or by transferring to a standing blender. Add more liquid if necessary to reach your desired consistency.
5. Meanwhile, combine the dill and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth, adding more oil as necessary.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with the dill oil. Garnish with some croutons or a few nuts.