Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dinner Party, day two: Soup's on!

Those appetizers and beverages from yesterday's post disappeared rather quickly didn't they? Told you so! Now that the appetites are whetted and the cocktails have started to have their desired effect, it's time to go to table for the first course. A soup course is one of the most underappreciated, overlooked, and easiest courses for home entertaining. I'm not talking big bowls filled to the brim here. Just a cup or so per person with a few slices of ciabatta (if you're in Portland preferably from Pearl Bakery) will provide just the right bit of tastebud titillation without stuffing everyone so much they won't be paying proper attention to the killer entrée to come. With a main course of braised beef, I thought a veggie soup would be perfect. Light, but with a nice gingery bite (that's the chopped ginger at right, waiting to work its flavoring magic!), this parsnip-carrot soup is really delicious. Blended to a silky smooth texture, with a beautiful yellow-orange color. I made it about three hours ahead of time and the flavors really came together by the time I served it. With a little thyme sprig garnish (you could also give it a squiggle of crème fraiche), this looks amazing.
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Parsnip, Carrot, and Ginger Soup
makes 6-8 first course servings

1 pound parsnips, peeled (about 2 large)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
12 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 4 medium)
1-1/2 qts. chicken broth or stock, more if needed
1-1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup whipping cream or half-and-half (optional...I did it without and preferred it that way. This soup is rich enough on it's own.-bb)
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. sweet vermouth (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh thyme sprigs, sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish

1-Cut the larger ends of parsnips lengthwise into quarters; if there any woody cores cut those away. Cut all parsnips into one inch chunks. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and stir one minute, then mix in the parsnips and carr5ots and cook five minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil., reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft, about one hour.

2-Puree the vegetables with the broth they are cooked in (preferably using a blender. a food processor or hand blender will never deliver that super smooth texture-bb), adding more broth if necessary to reach the desired consistency. When all the vegetables have been pureed, add the thyme and nutmeg. Thin the soup with broth or cream as necessary, then reheat without letting boil to allow flavors to meld. Add the vinegar and vermouth if desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3-Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with thyme sprig (or place sour cream or crème fraiche in a squeeze bottle and finish soup with a quick squiggle) and serve.

WINE SUGGESTION: I happened to have a magnum of Duval-Leroy Champagne that was demanding my attention and it was fabulous, as real Champagne has the tendency to be. Other great options would be a crisp Friulano from northern Italy or a fruity/spicy Gruner-Veltliner from Austria.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Pinot noir heaven....a magnum of 1999 Thomas Pinot Noir!

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