I am endeavoring to have a good attitude about the remains of winter – now that the glow and fun of the holidays are well behind us.
There is definite beauty in this chilly season, the landscape is peaceful and tranquil in its dormancy, and the bare trees offer a change in scenery – an opening that allows for views that are unseen when covered in leaves.
There is still sufficient time to enjoy bundling ourselves in cozy, cold weather clothing, and to fully appreciate the warmer, heartier, comforting foods of this crisp time.
CORN SOUP WITH POTATOES AND SMOKED HAM
1/4 cup lard
1 1/2 cups diced smoked ham steak
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 (10-ounce) smoked ham hock
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 cups water
Melt lard in a heavy large pot over high heat. Add ham steak, onion, both bell peppers, and garlic, sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add corn and stir 5 minutes. Add ham hock and potato, then 5 cups of water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer partially covered for 1 hour. Remove ham hock. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2006
CELERY ROOT SOUP WITH MANDARIN RELISH TOASTS
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds of celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon minced tarragon
1/2-inch thick baguette toasts
Heat oven to 350F. In a saucepan melt the butter. Add the leek and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add the celery root, broth and water. Bring to a simmer, cook until the celery root is tender, 20 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender (or use an immersion blender), return to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, remove the peel and white pith from the clementines. Working over a skillet, cut between the membranes to release the sections. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the skillet, add the shallot, vinegar and mustard seeds. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until most of the juice has evaporated and the fruit has started to break down, 2 minutes. Let the relish cool to room temperature. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt. Spread the relish over the toasts and serve with the soup.
Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, January 2009
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GOLDEN BEET SOUP
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 golden beets, greens removed, scrubbed well and quartered
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Assorted garnishes, such as sliced lemon, cucumber, watermelon radish
Heat oven to 400F. On a large baking sheet, spread squash, beets, onion and garlic in a single layer, toss with olive oil. Roast until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer vegetables and any accumulated juices to a blender (or use an immersion blender), add broth, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, thinning with more broth or water as necessary. Divide among bowls and garnish as desired.
Recipe adapted from Self, January 2015
MIXED MUSHROOM SOUP
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped shallots
8 ounces portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, finely chopped
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cups red wine
1 cup tawny Port
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup chilled cream
Melt butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender and golden, about 3 minuets. Add all mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add wine, Port, 2 teaspoons of thyme and rosemary, increase heat to high. Simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth, simmer until reduced to 9 cups, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth (or use an immersion blender). Return to pot. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine cream and remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme in a large bowl. Whisk until soft peaks almost form. Ladle soup into cups or small bowls, top with cream and serve.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2005