Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ugly vegetables make beautiful soup

Celeriac – which is also called celery root – is not a pretty vegetable.

It is homely and gnarly and hairy.

I’m afraid I had ignored it for years . . . but it kept looking at me reproachfully in the winter, and whispering as I rolled my cart by: “I may be ugly, but I’m in season!”

In season, yes, but what do I do with you?

Then, one day, I had a revelation. Soup. Root vegetables are generally good for roasting and for soup. I must get over my revulsion and just take it home. Maybe, I thought, it’s like the beast in Beauty and the Beast: homely, gnarly, hairy but with a kind and tender heart.

And how kind and tender it is, in my pretty new bowl.

Celeriac cooks into a creamy, velvety soup that belies its humble beginnings.

Once I had peeled and chopped the celeriac, I smelled it . . . and was pleased. It smelled faintly of celery, but was richer and deeper. I decided to caramelize the onions to complement that mellow flavour and not overpower it.

In the end, swirled with a bit of cream and green onion, the soup is a beautiful, pale green colour. It doesn’t have a brash, look-at-me beauty but it’s certainly better than its natural hairy state.

Beautiful, and definitely worth eating. We had it for dinner with Brazilian cheese buns. But I think it would also work well as a little starter soup. You could ladle it into small teacups to begin a fancy dinner party.

creamy celeriac soup

serves 4-5

just over 1 lb. (500 g.) celeriac, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 medium-large baking potato (about 11 oz. or 300 g.)
5 c. chicken stock
3 tbsp. green onion, chopped finely
1/2 c. cream

Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over low to medium heat.

Add onion, sugar, salt and pepper. Lower the heat to prevent sticking and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Eventually, they will become caramelized onions – soft and sweet.

While the onions are cooking, you can prepare the celeriac, potato and green onion.

Once the onions are caramelized, add the stock and celeriac. Bring them to a boil and simmer for 6 minutes.

Add the potatoes and simmer until both vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat.

Pull out your immersion blender, or carefully move portions of the soup to a regular blender. (The immersion blender is much easier.)

If you haven’t already got an apron on, put it on now. Blend the soup together, taking care not to let it splatter up to you.

Return the soup to the stovetop and turn the heat on to medium-low. Now, be careful! This soup likes to burp the soup up towards the cook, so stand back and keep the heat down.

Stir in the cream and most of the green onion, and heat just till hot. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Sprinkle a few pieces of green onion on each bowl when serving.

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