Monday, January 24, 2011

Parsnip Soup (for a Soup Swap!)

Sunday was so much fun!! I was inspired by my sister's story on NPR and decided to host a soup swap here where nearly 100 quarts of soup were on hand to be shared and traded. In a nutshell, a soup swap is when everyone makes a big pot of soup, freezes it into one quart portions, then meets up to tell stories and take turns selecting different soups to bring home. Knowing our freezers would soon be filled with yummy homemade soups, we also pulled some canned good out of our pantries and collectively filled three boxes which are being donated to a local food pantry.
I spent some time thinking about what I would bring to the party, and ultimately decided to make parsnip soup because it is a favorite of mine and the kids, and I like telling the story of the first time I tried it.
The story: Five years ago Jim and I escaped (without toddler Spencer) to Vegas for a few days in December. We were having dinner at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in the Venetian, and shortly after we were seated, the table next to us received their food which included a bowl of delicious-looking soup. My mind was decided in that instant I wanted a bowl of soup too. I scanned the menu for their different soups, and noticed there was exactly one listed: parsnip soup. Parsnip soup? I had never had parsnip soup before. Actually, I had never even eaten parsnips before. I went back and forth in my head for a bit - really wanting a bowl of soup, and being wholly unsure of parnsips. Ultimately, I decided that this was a great restaurant and I trusted that they would be serving me a great bowl of (parsnip!) soup.
Guess what - the soup totally rocked! After returning home, I wanted to make it myself and couldn't find the recipe online. Luckily, the nice folks at replied to my email and sent it to me.
So, my hope is that making this soup for the swap and sharing this story might help someone else discover the awesomeness of parsnip soup!

Parnsip Soup
from Wolfgang Puck's Postrio Restaurant

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and rough diced (or one large onion)
2 stalks celery, cut to 1” lengths
6 cups parsnips, peeled and cut to 1” cubes (will be rough)
1 ea potato, peeled and cut into four quarters
1 ½ ea granny smith apples, peeled and diced to 1” (rough)
8-12 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups heavy cream
12 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together tightly with string
2 tsp lemon juice
white pepper

- In a medium sized soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, season well with salt, and sweat on medium heat until translucent (about 5 minutes). Do not brown the onion. Add the celery and cook for 3 more minutes.

- In a separate pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil and reduce heat to just a high simmer.

- Add the parsnips to the onions and stir well. Continue to cook for two minutes. Add enough hot chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Add the potato, apples, and thyme.

- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil, and cook uncovered until vegetables are very soft, about 50 minutes. You may need to add stock during the cooking time, but do so just that the vegetables are covered. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

- Add the cream and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the thyme. Puree the soup in batches in a blender. ALWAYS BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL WHEN PUREEING HOT LIQUIDS. Use the lid on the blender. When pureeing, fill the blender cup only 2/3 full, as the soup will be thick and you will need room to add more stock. If the soup is very thick in the blender, turn it off, add a little hot stock, cover and puree.

- Position a strainer over a clean soup pot and pour directly from the blender into the strainer. Push the soup through the strainer with a ladle.

- Place soup back over very low heat on the stove. Adjust consistency of the soup with chicken stock. Add the lemon juice and season finally to taste with salt and pepper. The soup is ready to serve, or can be chilled in an icebath and kept for up to 3 days.

- Serve soup in warm bowls. Drizzle lightly with lemon thyme oil, and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Lemon-Thyme Oil
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of half a lemon
12 sprigs fresh thyme
- Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat to just hot to the touch (DO NOT BOIL), remove from heat and allow to steep for 1 hour. Strain and reserve oil. Allow to cool completely before serving.