Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Creamed Celeriac Soup with Potatoes, Sausage, and Kale

Pin It
I always learn something from Soup Night.

This month, after I realized that we'd unintentionally scheduled our first soup event of the year right smack dab on top of a Packers' play-off game, I re-learned one of the initial lessons that apply when you don't require RSVP's:  it doesn't matter how many people turn up, it's still a party.

The fact of the matter is, Soup Night always attracts just the right number of people. Not too many, and never too few.  Though I make three pots of soup every time, it always seems to become the perfect amount.  And I'm always surprised by how everything just works out.

Some guests wandered in and out of the dining room, checking the score of the game.  Others stood near the table, nibbling and visiting like old friends. All the while I was moved by the goodness of friends -- not only in the joy they brought to the event, but by the way new guests were welcomed into the fold and embraced -- often by strangers.

I was also reminded about the beauty of simplicity.  Although I made a lovely beef stock for the French onion soup, and tweaked a number of elements (including roasting the broccoli and garlic) for creamy broccoli soup, it was the hearty, seasonal peasant-inspired creamed celeriac soup with roasted potatoes, sausage, and kale that won the most accolades.

Diced celeriac, cooked in chicken stock and blended into a smooth puree, forms the base for this lusciously creamy soup. Sauteed Hungarian sausages provide seasoning, while roasted potatoes and chopped lacinato kale serve to give the soup a stick-to-your-ribs quality.
Celeriac is a gnarly vegetable -- often misunderstood simply for its looks, and likely avoided for the same reasons. But, this root vegetable has a gentle flavor, reminiscent of celery and parsley, and isn't nearly as starchy as many of its counterparts. It's hearty, stores well, and is delicious boiled, sauteed and roasted.

If you've never cooked with celeriac, this soup is a nearly perfect way to try it out for the first time. You'll be shocked by its sweet richness, and bewitched by its easy-going personality. Celeriac marries perfectly with potatoes. But it gets along with sausage and kale just as well.

Simple. Delicious. And no RSVP required.

Creamed Celeriac Soup with Potatoes, Sausage, and Kale

Friday, January 13, 2012

NYE 2011: Starting off the year on the right foot

Or maybe it was the left foot. I'm not sure I really remember. But, I do remember this delicious pizza.  And I've been lusting after it all year.

Not as bad as it sounds, considering we last made this delicious pie on New Year's Eve.  But, when a food haunts you like this has... it's none too pleasant.

It's tradition for us to celebrate New Year's Eve at home in the company of our good friend Steph. It's customary for us to get together the week before Christmas to choose a theme for our celebration. And then we spend the days before New Year's gathering up a slew of great looking recipes to challenge us in the kitchen. Last year, we cooked up an amazing Greek feast that took us at least two days to consume. 

This year, we decided to go simple. We picked pizza.  And it was fabulous.  We stocked up on cheese, vegetables, and meats.  A few days ahead we made up a batch of hybrid sourdough ala Cakewalk (using beer instead of buttermilk).

And then we put our creative thinking caps on.

We made a host of stellar pies.  We paired shredded brussels sprouts with bacon and caramelized onions.  We indulged in a wild mushroom pizza with sheep's milk truffle cheese.  There was spanikopita pizza topped with spinach, feta, and dill, and a homemade Italian sausage 'za with peppers and spinach.

And yet, my favorite remained.  Fig and proscuitto.
I know it sounds like a gourmet cliche.  But, I can't withhold my praise.  It was wonderful.  And oh-so-simple.  An instance where the quality and simplicity of ingredients results in something far greater than the sum of its parts.

First, we took a handful of chopped dried figs, cooked down in a bit of water and mashed into a paste. After adding a pinch of salt, we had a deliciously nectarous sauce, which we spread on the uncooked pizza dough.  We covered the fig paste with a liberal sprinkling of one of my favorite cheeses, Kerrygold Dubliner, along with a bit of shredded Romano. As a final gesture, we topped the pizza with lovely little rosettes of proscuitto (with a little dollop of fig in the center of each, just for good measure. 

The finished product was crisp and caramelized.  Sweet and savory.  The cheese was sharp and nutty, with the bite and crystalline qualities of Parmesan, we suspected that this would be the perfect foil for the sweet figs... and it really was.  And the proscuitto rosettes crisped up into the most delicious little bundles of pig we'd ever tasted. 

What a nearly perfect way to end a far-from-perfect year.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens