First off, I just wanted to point out a new feature that Joe added to my blog: a print-friendly button! It's way at the bottom of each entry, and it will take you to a preview screen where you can then click a button to remove all images if you'd like, and you can also click on the text to remove any paragraphs that you don't want to print, such as my summaries at the beginnings of each post. Also, if you delete something you didn't mean to, there is an 'undo' button at the top.
Now, onto the real post: a soup that we actually made before Christmas. I'm finally getting back into blogging mode after a lovely and relaxing holiday season.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't have high hopes for this soup. About a month ago I made a smoky pumpkin soup that was only so-so (hence, the reason I chose not to blog about it), and I was about ready to throw in the towel and admit that I just wasn't a fan of smoky soups. Luckily, I was proved wrong - so wrong - with this recipe. It was amazing!
One thing that I have been unhappy with in some of the other pureed soups that I've made in the past is the texture. They tend to be a bit...mealy. Not silky smooth like pureed soups I get in restaurants. For this recipe, we used our immersion blender as usual, but we kept going longer than we have in the past, and I think that was the ticket; we just weren't doing it long enough. Gold star for improvement!
This soup achieves its bright orange color from a combination of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and some carrot, which I nearly forgot to add! The carrot was shredded, sitting in a container by all the other ingredients, yet it somehow never made it into the pot. When the soup was almost done I finally noticed it. I'm sure it wouldn't have made much difference if I omitted it, nevertheless, I got out a little skillet and quickly sauteed it on it own, to catch it up with the other already softened veggies, and threw it in right before we pureed the soup.
Personally, I thought the soup had a quite a bit of heat to it, so I used a lot of sour cream. I mixed a little into the soup, but that seemed to dull its cooling effect, so I found that I preferred to have a spoonful of the sour cream perched on the rim of my soup bowl, so I could dab a little onto my spoon with each bite of soup, thus increasing its spice-neutralizing ability. We also made some pepper-jack quesadillas to go with the soup.
In case you are new to my blog, refer to my previous tip on what to do with the rest of the can of chipotle peppers. It's not really my tip of course; I was given the suggestion by a co-worker a few years ago.
This recipe calls for either honey or maple syrup. I grew up on Mrs. Butterworth's and it wasn't until I was much older that I learned to appreciate the taste of real maple syrup. Now that's the only kind we buy. Maple syrup comes in Grades A or B. The best kind is Grade B. While Grade A is more common in stores and cheaper, it is lighter and has a little less flavor. That's what I've read anyway; I can't guarantee that I would be able to tell the difference in a taste test (maybe I should try sometime!). Either way, it's still a better choice than pancake or waffle syrup (aka, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth's). That stuff is really cheap, but doesn't have any actual maple sugar in it at all; it's mostly made of high-fructose corn syrup! Even though maple syrup is more expensive, you don't have to use as much because the flavor is so much more intense, so you can make it last longer. If you use the cheap fake stuff, you pour on a lot and it still doesn't even really taste like anything, not to mention it doesn't even soak into your pancake because it's so viscous from all the weird stuff they add to it.
Smoky-Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine - October 2008
Makes 4 very generous portions
4 sweet potatoes (2 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1-inch thick
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices smoky bacon, chopped (we just used regular bacon)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce (if you don't want it very spicy, use only half of a pepper, and remove the seeds first)
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
32 ounces chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated peel and juice of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Honey or maple syrup, for drizzling
Sour cream, for passing at the table.
Add the sweet potatoes to a large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, add some salt, and cook until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain, return to pot.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium pot. Add the bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, until crisp, stirring often. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Try not to sneak too many bites, as you will need this later for garnishing the soup.
Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the onion, carrot, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Cook for about 6-7 minutes, or until the onions have softened. Stir in the chicken broth, orange peel, orange juice and cinnamon. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Around the time the potatoes should be done. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
Add the broth mixture to the pot of sweet potatoes. Puree until silky smooth with an immersion blender (or puree in batches in a food processor or blender).
Serve the soup with sour cream and bacon on top.