I once hosted a potluck party for a group of baking friends. I provided the lunch items and they brought desserts. Of course you can imagine how incredible the dessert buffet was! It was a cold March day and one of them decided to bring a pot of soup. That was the day I fell in love with carrot soup. Smooth, creamy, soothing, and absolutely delicious – and I don’t particularly care for carrots! I couldn’t get over how amazing it was. It transformed the lowly carrot into a sumptuous repast.
We all grew up eating vegetable soups, thick and chunky with a variety of ingredients. Delicious as they were, I never understood how my mother could torture me by serving me eat so many vegetables in one sitting. I liked the broth but would stubbornly leave all the solids in the bowl. If she had pureed them all together I never would have known what I was eating and would have gobbled it up!
By limiting the number of vegetables you concentrate the flavors and celebrate the primary ingredient. Most carrot soups are seasoned with ginger and little else. I like this version because it adds so much flavor and spice to an otherwise rather ordinary soup. If you are sensitive to spicy foods or prefer a milder soup, you can replace the habanero with any mild chile such as Poblano, Anaheim, and New Mexico red. A portion of a can of chopped mild green chiles can also be substituted.
Carrots are one of nature’s greatest gifts. Naturally sweet and full of beta-carotene, it is a natural cancer fighter. It is also very high in folic acid, part of the vitamin B group that helps fight against free radicals, substances that cause cancer in our bodies. Carrots may help lower blood pressure and it is good for your eyesight. Vitamin A (what beta-carotene becomes in our body) is essential for healthy cell grown and a strong immune system. Because Vitamin A is fat-soluble, its nutrition is absorbed better with the presence of fats. Cooking with butter and adding the chile oil help your body absorb the vitamins and nutrients. While we’re talking about the health benefits, by cooking a potato in the soup and then pureeing it, you get the same smooth texture as a creamed soup without the cream. It has fewer calories and is dairy-free!
The garnishes are all optional, but each adds a nice texture, flavor, or contrast to the soup. The chopped herbs and scallions add color and punch up the flavor. The chile oil adds a little heat and a beautiful red color. The crème fraîche can help cool the heat of the spices and adds a bit more creaminess to the texture. And of course the Parmesan croutons, in addition to be scrumptious, add that crunch that is so satisfying. Add what you like in any combination.
Inexpensive, healthy, and delicious, soup is one of my favorite foods and a great option for those days when the next paycheck seems very far away. Perfect for fall or winter, this soup will warm you on even the chilliest days. Nothing makes your home more welcoming than wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen. Now, when can I come over? I’ll bring dessert!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Making your garnishes for this soup is great, but not necessary. If you can find freshly made crème fraîche at the grocery store, by all means you can use that. There are lots of options for store bought chili oils that I really enjoy using. They add a subtle heat to many dishes and are a fun surprise in a salad.
Kitchen Skill: Blending Hot Liquids
Why: To create a smooth soup
How: There are three ways to puree soups. One is to use an Immersion Blender and puree the soup right in the pot you cooked it in. This is obviously very easy and safer because doesn’t involve transferring the boiling liquid. However, you cannot get quite as smooth a puree using this appliance. Secondly, you can use a food processor, but due to size limitation, you will have to blend the soup in batches. While this is very effective, you may still wind up with some solids that need to be strained out. For the smoothest product, you need to use a blender.
To use a blender, transfer a portion of the hot liquid to the container. Make sure it is no more than half full. Place the lid on the blender, but leave one corner partially lifted. You need to allow the steam to escape or it will explode all over your kitchen. I took me hours to find all the splatters when I learned this lesson! Hold the cover with a kitchen towel to catch any hot liquid and steam that escapes. Blend until smooth. Pour into a clean bowl, tureen, or saucepan. Continue with remaining soup or liquid, blending in batches until it is all pureed. If you want the soup extra smooth, pour it through a wire strainer to filter out any solids.
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 lb carrots, thickly sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 large scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 to 1/2 Habanero or Serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced, or to taste
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp chopped thyme
- 1/2 tsp minced or finely grated ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- Pinch ground allspice
- 1/2 to 1 tsp jerk seasoning, or to taste, optional
- 6 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
- 1 small potato, peeled and thickly sliced (thickens soup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Fresh dill, sage, cilantro, or Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional fresh scallions, chopped
- Chile Oil
- 2 cups olive oil
- 1 to 4 dried hot peppers, or to taste
- Crème Fraîche
- 2 tbsp buttermilk
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
- Parmesan Croutons
- 1 baguette sweet French bread
- Olive oil
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the carrots and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the scallions, chiles, soy sauce, thyme, ginger, cumin, and allspice and stir until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the stock, potato and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the potato is tender, about 25 minutes.
- Remove the soup from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Puree the soup in batches in a blender and return it to the saucepan. Season the soup with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Garnish with a swirl of chili oil and dollop of crème fraîche. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and scallions. Serve Parmesan croutons alongside or crumbled on top.
- The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Homemade Chile Oil
Heat oil until just below the smoke point. Add dried hot chiles (such as chipotle, serrano, cayenne, Tien Tien, Thai, or Habanero) and transfer to a jar. Store in refrigerator to infuse. Strain out peppers when oil is hot enough for your tastes. The longer it sits, the hotter it will become. Store oil in the refrigerator.
Homemade Crème Fraîche
Combine the buttermilk and cream in a saucepan and heat until barely tepid (should not feel warm to the touch). Pour into a clean glass bowl or jar. Partially cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours, or until thickened. Stir and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using. The cream will keep 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Slice baguette on the bias, brush each piece with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 350°F until lightly golden brown and crispy.
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