…November 11, 2009 in Connecticut, around 3:30pm to be exact…
Girl wants to make soup for boy on a chilly afternoon. A lazy, delicious conversation ensues.
Boy: What do we have on hand?
Girl: Turnips, carrots, onions, potatoes, and homemade soup stock, some tomatoes, cannellini beans, and all the spices and herbs (at least dried) we could want. Let’s stick to the things that are in season together, and nix the tomatoes. I’ve never made a turnip soup, but let’s try one. They’re a little starchy, sweet, and a little tangy, I think. That’s a good place to start.
Girl: Do we want a broth based one or a creamy one?
Boy: A savory broth soup.
Girl: Ok, maybe we can use some miso paste in with the chicken broth. We’ll want to put it in right at the end though, because otherwise it’ll lose a lot of the nutritive value. We won’t want to cook any of the vegetables after. I say if we want to make it a savory one, let’s also nix the cannellini beans. They will make it too meh.
Girl: Do we want something light or hearty?
Boy: Something good and hearty.
Girl: Ok, then we should probably go get some chicken breast or we could use beef or something.
Boy: Let’s stick with some chicken cause we have the stock. We can use some dark meat.
Girl: What do we want the texture to be like? Chunky, smooth, all different textures?
Boy: A thick broth but with tender chunks of turnips.
Girl: Ok, well then we can saute some onions and maybe a leek or something, then chop up the vegetables and add them in. Based on the ingredients so far, we can use some rosemary, and maybe a little dried oregano.
Girl: Do we want any spiciness to it?
Boy: Real basic stuff. Not a lot of Indian spice. Some toasted cumin, maybe, and some simple pepper heat.
Girl: A lot of pepper would be good.
…Girl and boy go to the grocery store. Later on in the day, 8:30pm to be exact…
Five cups of turnips have been painstakingly chopped into 1/2 inch dice along with 1/2 onion and six carrots on hand and two leeks and a sweet potato purchased at the store. The onion and leeks have been sauteed in ghee, the turnips and sweet potato added, then the carrots. Homemade chicken stock has also been made with a whole four pound chicken purchased at the store. Four cups of stock have been added to the soup along with 1/2 cup wine. The soup has been brought to a boil and simmered for ten minutes with a cocked lid. One teaspoon of toasted cumin, one tablespoon of fresh rosemary, and one teaspoon of dried oregano have also been added, along with a teaspoon of salt and ton of black pepper.
Girl: Time to add the chicken. Should we puree some of the soup to make the broth thicker?
Boy: Wow, it’s good but really sweet. Yea, I think that would be nice. Maybe just 1/4 of what you have there.
…30 minutes later…
1/4 of the soup has been pureed and added back in. The chicken has been broken up into bits, four more cups of stock has been added. The soup has been brought to the boil again, and more pepper added in. A ladle of soup has been removed and two tablespoons of miso mixed with it, then returned to the pot. The soup has been slowly simmered for five minutes more, then turned off and lidded. The soup is ladled into a big bowl and brought to the table.
Boy: F*cking noms.
Turnip Chicken Soup
I have always found myself a fan of plucking raspberries just before they’re ripe, when their pale seeds are in the transition between tart and sweet. So while I wasn’t sure I’d even like turnip soup, let alone add some super sweet sweet potato into it, this soup is so nourishing I actually have to wonder if we were just so hungry we would have eaten a box of Mike and Ike’s and dreamed about the experience. But we tried the soup again today, and it fully stood up to my first impression. Sort of a lingering sweet, coaxing the side of your tongue while a savory mouthful of chicken goodness, a little hint of onion and rosemary, and the tiniest blush of miso has you dipping in for seconds. And thirds. I don’t know if I’ll be raving about turnips anytime soon, but a good soup can settle many disagreements, I kid you not.
Makes 8-10 servings
2 tablespoons ghee
1 Spanish onion, 1/2 inch dice
5 cups yield turnips, peeled, ends removed, and chopped into 1/2 inch dice (about 4 medium sized turnips)
1 large sweet potato, peeled, ends removed, and chopped into 1/2 inch dice
5 carrots, peeled, ends removed, and chopped 1/2 inch dice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Boiled chicken, yield cut into pieces from a 4 pound Organic chicken and 2 quarts of stock (see my recipe on how to make)
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
A lot of black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark miso
Cut off the ends of the leeks and also the dark green part of the stalk. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, and then slice into 1/4 inch moons. Place the leeks in a bowl of cold water and stir around to dislodge any dirt. Strain in a colander and press out any remaining water.
In a heavy stock pot, heat the ghee on medium. Once hot, add the leeks and onions and saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Grind in some black pepper.
If all your veggies are about the same density, add them all in at the same time. If the sweet potato or the turnips are harder, add them in first and saute 4 minutes. Add in the remaining vegetables and saute another few minutes. Add a quart of the chicken stock, the red wine, cumin, oregano, 10 good grinds of black pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove 3 cups of the soup and puree in a blender, then add back into the soup. Add in the rosemary.
Add in the chicken and the rest of the stock and return to a boil. Add the salt. Spoon out a cup of stock and stir in the miso. Add back to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes more but make sure not to bring back to the boil. Taste, adjust seasonings, turn off the heat and allow the flavors to meld for 5 minutes. Serve with a good hunk of cozy bread.
Tip: When serving leftovers it’s nice to add a bit of fresh minced rosemary. This soup can be left in the fridge for up to 4 days or stored in the freezer for a month.