Brrr. It’s cold out there.
As temperatures plummet and the snow piles high, I recommend retreating indoors for some good old-fashioned soup making. Here’s the product of my last snow day: a roasty, toasty fennel and leek puree soup. Actually, this recipe is a good guide for using just about any winter vegetable in a soup. I chose fennel, garlic, and leek, but you could just as easily follow this recipe using carrot and scallion, cauliflower and shallot, or parsnip and onion.
Sometimes I think pureed vegetable soups taste like little more than stock and cream. Roasting vegetables before throwing them into a soup pot brings a smoky, earthy flavor to the table and helps to enhance the flavor of the vegetable that comes through in the finished product. In this case, the anise flavor of the fennel is front and center, with the sweet buttery leek coming in as the finish. And the potato adds creaminess so you can get away with using a lot less cream or milk. In fact, I add only 1/2 cup of 2% milk to give it a bit of a velvet texture.
Next time you feel like hunkering down to wait out the winter, give this soup a try. It’s guaranteed to steam up your windows and your insides as well.
Makes about 9 cups / Serves 4 as a main course
2 medium fennel bulbs, fronds reserved, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 large potato, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt to taste
1/2 cup 2% milk
Cracked black pepper for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large roasting pan, place the garlic and fennel. Add the 3 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat. Roast 30-35 minutes, until the fennel is tender and browned.
- Meanwhile, in a soup pot, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil with the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the leek and cook, stirring, until soft but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the fennel seeds and potato and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.
- Remove the garlic cloves from the fennel roasting pan and set aside for a minute. While still hot, pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour everything in the pan into the soup pot. Remove the garlic from their skins and add them to the soup pot as well.
- Into the soup pot, pour the stock and 2 cups water. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover, and continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
- Let the soup cool slightly before adding, in batches, to a blender. (If you try to do this while the soup is piping hot, you will wind up with soup exploded all over your kitchen. I’ve been there.) Puree until smooth then pour back into a clean soup pot. Add the milk, season to taste with salt and warm, without boiling. Serve in soup bowls topped with reserved fennel fronds and plenty of black pepper over top.
Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 385, Fat 19g, Sodium 433, Carbohydrate 43g, Fiber 7g, Sugar 8g, Protein 11g.