Friday, August 22, 2008
A Blender Changes Everything
It is amazing what a blender can do to. It not only changes the texture of something, it actually transforms it into something else.
The other day, I made my favorite Carrot Vichyssoise – which I’ve written about before, (this time, though, I made it simply because I had leftover leeks).
After it was cooked, I stared at its simple homeliness. Not homely in the British sense of “homey” or comfortable, but homely as in “not attractive”. It’s true. The slight green tinge from the leeks was not engaging. The potatoes looked mealy and overcooked, and the carrots, in their irregular shapes, did nothing for the presentation.
BUT get it into the blender, whirl all those separate elements into one, and suddenly you have, I HAD, a show stopper of a soup. Smooth, thick enough to stay on a spoon easily and vibrantly pumpkin colored, Carrot Vichyssoise is perfect as the first course of an important dinner, or an afternoon snack to stave off hunger or even a delicious addition to a picnic. Added to its versatility is that it can be served hot or cold. It’s wonderful either way. And the blender made it all possible.
Carrot Vichyssoise (serves 4)
Vichyssoise is traditionally a cold soup. This is so good either way, make enough to serve hot AND cold.
2 tbls. olive oil
2 big carrots, chopped
optional (but it never hurts): 1 onion, chopped
1 big Idaho potato
2 cans vegetable or chicken stock
Cut the root end off the leek and the toughest part of the green leaf end. Using a sharp knife, cut green end off as if you were sharpening a pencil with a knife. It should end up pointy. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse (particularly the pointy end) in plenty of water. Slice thinly.
Heat olive oil in good heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and carrots and good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir and after the pan reaches a sizzle, cover it and turn down the heat to low. Leave it to sweat as long as you can, at least 10 minutes (20 minutes is better) until the leeks and onion are completely soft.
Meanwhile, peel, quarter and slice the potato into ½ inch slices. Stir into the vegetables and leave to sweat. (The previous vegetables have to be tender, tender, tender before you add the stock, not the potatoes.) Add another big pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Stir in stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, adding lots of freshly ground pepper as you go. Let cool slightly. Purée in blender in batches. Heat and serve. Or chill and serve. (Soup can be frozen, when cooled.)
NOTE: Another way of thickening this or any puréed soup is to use Julia’s trick of adding rice from The Way To Cook (page 6), which is useful when you don't any potatoes or not enough. For this recipe, add 2 tablespoons of long grain white Carolina rice after you’ve added the stock. Cook and blend as usual. Make sure the rice is COMPLETELY soft before you blend it. This is wonderful for thickening any vegetable soup, when you want a French type of “potage”.