Velvet in a Bowl

    "I live on good soup, not on fine words."
    - Moliere

Prior to Thanksgiving, I contemplated a new soup. It's not the sort of thing I do often. Now, don't get me wrong. I love soup and make it often. I just don't often contemplate it. I'm either putting together something tried and true or a minor variation on something I've done before, or I'm tossing things together to use what's in the refrigerator or pantry in an effort I like to call Leftover Soup. Most of the soup-making I embark upon falls into one of these two categories, so contemplating soup was something a bit unique and I decided to let the process age a bit and enjoy it. I tossed some ideas out, got some input from friends that tend toward culinary adventure, and enjoyed my Thanksgiving holiday and beyond.

Then, on Monday, I pulled out a pot, the ingredients my brain had pondered for a week, and a sharp knife and cutting board. What resulted after less than an hour of dicing and simmering was a velvety smooth soup that blended vegetables and fruit, cream and chicken stock. A savory soup with overtones of sweetness and a swirl of tanginess that really gives a nod to the season in which it was born. I'd be equally happy to serve it as a soup course at a holiday gathering or as a lunchmate to simple grilled cheese sandwich to be enjoyed while watching snow fall gently outside.

There are some tweaks that you could make to this soup, but I'd be careful with them, as balancing the flavors is pretty important here. The red onion could give way to shallots, but avoid anything stronger or you'll mask the pear too much in the final dish. I wouldn't recommend using anything other than butter, parsnips, celery root, and properly ripe pears. The butter adds a creaminess that the dish wants and the parsnips and celery root add both flavor and easily blending texture to the dish. If you have anything but ripe pear, the texture will end up grainy and you will lose homogeneity. You could opt for vegetable broth instead of chicken broth fairly easily and I chose chicken broth because that was what I had on hand. Turkey broth would also work well. I really love the impact that the nutmeg-crusted goat cheese offers and even if you opt to use other items for garnishing, please do yourself a favor and try it this way at least once.

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I did. Sometimes spending a little time contemplating a recipe and letting it age really pays off. This one is one of my keepers.

Parsnip-Pear Soup

  • 4 T. butter
  • 1/4 c. red onion, diced to 1/4-inch
  • 2 c. parsnips, peeled and diced to 1/4-inch
  • 1/2 c. celery root, peeled and diced to 1/4-inch
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. pear, peeled and diced 1/4-inch
  • 1/4 c. cream
  • Salt, to taste

In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the red onions and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the parsnips and celery root, and sweat for 5-6 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the nutmeg on a small plate and roll the goat cheese log in the nutmeg, coating it evenly. You may need to roll the cheese to a smaller diameter to get it evenly coated. Slice the goat cheese log into 1/4-inch coins and chill until the soup is ready for serving. If the goat cheese is too soft, chill it before slicing.

After the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, add the pear and cook for 4-5 minutes more.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Blend on high with an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender) and puree till smooth. Season to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and gently float 2-3 goat cheese coins on the top of each bowl. Then stir the cheese into the soup and enjoy!

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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