Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Celeriac, Pear, and Leek Soup

As I mentioned yesterday, creating seasonal soups is simple and potentially effortless.

All that is required is a sense of adventure in the kitchen and a sense for pairing flavors.

A blender is helpful too.

Today's soup has a strong celery flavor because it features celeriac or celery root.

As you can see in the pic to the left celeriac is a bulbous root vegetable with the appearance of a turnip.

It is light brown on the outside and white on the inside. And it has celery-like green tops that grow above the ground while the bulb grows below the ground.

When you cut open a celeriac bulb it has a distinct celery aroma. When you cook it, it's not fibrous like celery stalks, rather, once mashed, it's quite creamy, like mashed potato or turnip, and the flavor is a combination of a turnip, potato and celery.

Slightly earthy, slightly acrid, with mild bitter tones, celeriac pairs well with other root vegetables and it also pairs well with sweet juicy pears.

If you think about Waldorf Salad with its combination of celery, apples, and walnuts, you'll realize where I'm borrowing the flavor combination for this soup. Because of the mild bitter quality of celery, sweet and fleshy autumnal fruits like apples and pears are great texture and flavor pals to celery, and celeriac.

Add leeks to celeriac and you might be aware that I'm borrowing from the French classic, leek and potato soup or Vichyssoise.

Leeks have a mild onion flavor so they're suited to soups with fruit (they'll compliment rather than overwhelm the fruit) and to soups with a smooth, creamy texture (leeks love creaminess, think Creamed Leeks).

Leeks combined with fruit to create a smooth, creamy texture describe well the soup I'm sharing with you today.

Celeriac, Pear and Leek Soup
1) Cut the outer skin from the celeriac bulb. It's easier to cut the skin off rather than try and peel it off; the skin is too tough for peeling.
2) Chop the peeled bulb into small cubes and set aside.
3) Wash and chop several pieces of the celeriac stalks (optional, since usually the bulb is sold without the top stalks intact.) You can use regular celery instead of celeriac stalks, if you wish.
4) Top and tail 2 leeks; slice and then wash the pieces, removing any dirt caught in the leek.
5) Wash and peel 2 pears. Try either Bosc or Bartlett Pears. Bartletts are soft and very juicy and will disintegrate quickly upon cooking, whereas Bosc pears are firm and crunchy and hold their texture upon cooking. Either is fine, experiment. Or you could use apple instead, after all, it is the main ingredient in Waldorf Salad.
6) Melt butter and a bit of light oil in a soup pot on the stove. Add the leeks, sauteing over low heat until they're wilted; then add the chopped celeriac stalks (or celery), cubed celeriac, and finally the pears (or apple).
7) Gently saute over low heat until all ingredients are slightly wilted and then cover with either chicken stock or water. Place lid on pot and gently simmer for about 45 mins or until celeriac is tender.
8) Run soup through a blender, taste-test and add salt and pepper to your liking. Return soup to pot and keep on low heat until ready to serve.

To Serve: Ladle soup into bowls, swirl in either half-and-half, a blob of sour cream or yogurt and sprinkle with chopped chives or chopped parsley.

No comments: