The bleak and barren days of January are upon us. Trees bereft of leaves and chilling winds are here for a few more months at least. The weather in DC has been beyond freezing for quite some time (although this weekend was finally over 30 degrees for a few days), causing cracked skin, chapped lips and and my transformation into the Michelin tire man. 17 layers are not flattering, especially when one is a layer of blubber my body thought would be "in" this season. It's not.
In light of my last statement, I found myself thumbing through Cooking Light magazine, hunting for something hearty, warming and... healthy. Strange concept, I know. My soul is crying out for springtime already, but until then I will have to console myself with steamy bowls of soups. At least I truly love winter vegetables, in all of their hideous, rooty glory. I like to think of these secret vegetables lurking beneath the surface, waiting to be harvested in the dead of winter and turned into cheerful, thawing meals.
This is where Soupe Savoyard enters the scene. This winter soup originated in the French Alps. Upon learning this, I was bombarded with images of rosy cheeked French swilling wine in front of the fire, in some highly perched ski chalet. Since I'm not there though, I will just have to make due with this lovely soup. It tastes creamy, peppery and earthy all at once. I made the soup according to the recipe for the most part, but next time there are a few changes I'd like to make: addition of fennel, a bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme and sage tied together with twine) and use of Reblochon cheese (a cheese that hails from the French Alps region).
Winter Vegetable Soup (Soupe Savoyarde) from Cooking Light Jan 2009
1 russet potato, cut into (1/2-inch)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped white onion
3 cups thinly sliced leek (about 3 large)
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used more, these veggies tend to need extra)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (also used more than recommended, it really adds something)
2 turnips, peeled and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread
8 (1/2-ounce) slices sharp white cheddar (I used Gruyére for this, especially since the origin of this recipe is French)
1. Peel and dice the potato. Submerse cubes in cold water and let sit.
2. Melt butter in a dutch oven. (I subbed a heavy bottom pot for this) Add onions and cook until soft but not browned. Add leeks, turnips, celery root, salt and pepper. Cover the top of the pot with aluminum foil. Set heat to low, cover and let sit for 15 min, stirring occasionally.
4. When the vegetables have started to tenderize, add the potatoes and water. Cover and simmer on low heat until all vegetables are tender. I beleive that the potatoes are added at this point so they do not totally disintegrate- the other vegetables are a little crisper and need the extra time in the pot.
5. Heat milk in a small saucepan until there are tiny little bubbles around the edges. DO NOT BOIL THE MILK. When hot, gradually stir into the vegetable/water mixture. Remove from heat and add salt/pep to taste.
6. Take your slices of French bread and broil them. Do not leave unattended, they'll burn in a matter of seconds! Take it from me... When they are nice and brown, put one or two on the bottom of a bowl, add a slice of cheese and top with soup.
7. I added one or two shreds of cheese on top and a grind of pepper.
8. Eat it up! Don't burn your tongue, and remember to share.
So, while this soup is not glamorous in nature, it brings to mind images of soft white snow, flames licking pine logs and the chatter of friends keeping warm indoors. I also imagine they've all had a lot of regional white wine to drink, and are attempting to play charades. Maybe you should try that, too.