I love this time of year anywhere north of the Equator, but I especially love fall in Charleston. The reasons are many, and I’ve outlined and given information about some of them in this post on Charleston The Permanent Tourist:
Remember to keep up with me on facebook.com/tptcharleston and twitter: @tptcharleston.
Happy fall tidings! Holly
The temperature is rising and it really is beginning to feel like the summer that officially began earlier this week.
Take advantage of these two recipes for delicious cool soups as posted earlier today at charleston.thepermanenttourist.com
These are two of my favorites from my latest cookbook, The French Cook-Soups & Stews (Gibbs Smith) to be released Sept. 1 – details provided in the link above.
As always, happy (and cool!) cooking!
The brutal winter weather of the past few weeks has left me with a near constant craving for soups and also long-braised stews. Combine this with the near constant recipe testing for my next cookbook, The French Cook: Soups and Stews (Gibbs Smith,Late summer, 2014) my beloved Dutch ovens are getting daily work-outs and I’m a very well-fed girl. The soup that follows is layered with the earthy, peppery flavors and chewy density of the Puy lentil. I love these guys so much, I once suffered an hour delay in customs trying to convince the agent they were legal. This soup is remarkably delicious, easy to make and a little dressier than most lentil soups. I think you’ll love it. It’s adapted from the yet to be published pages of the new cookbook.
French Green Lentil Soup with Bacon
(Makes 8 servings)
Deep in the volcanic rich-soil of Auvergne in South Central France reside the nutrients that help create the special flavor and color of the Puy lentil. It is an extra firm, dark green lentil with sage-hued threads and a peppery flavor. Unlike other lentils, it holds its shape and its firm, toothsome texture even when cooked, rather than breaking down into mushy legume puddles. Referred to as French Green Lentils in the United States, they are increasingly easy to find here at regular grocery stores and markets. They are worth tracking down, as their body and flavor are what make this simple, yet delicious soup so outstanding. Be sure to rinse the lentils and pick over for any small stones. It’s ok to salt them very lightly in the beginning of the cooking process, but save the bulk of the salt until finishing the seasoning after they’re cooked. Salt can harden the lentils. This soup can be left in its whole lentil state, but I like to lighten it and puree it with an immersion blender. A dash of cloves and dried sage give it an extra earthy, hard to resist flavor that works magic with the peppery nature of the lentils. Not only do these lentils make delicious soups, they are outstanding cooked in salads or as a seasoned garnish to fish, particularly salmon.
1 1/2 cups (about 8 slices) bacon cut into a 1/2” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed to 1” above the white part of the stalk, halved vertically, finely chopped, and well-rinsed
2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
Light salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good quality full-bodied red wine (suggest Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups French Green Lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
Generous pinch ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the garnish:
1/2 reserved cooked bacon
1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
3 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Heat a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven or similarly sized soup pot over medium high. Add the diced bacon and black pepper. Cook to render fat and brown the bacon, stirring every minute or so. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking the bacon until it’s cooked through and nicely browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Drain off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the cooking pot. Add the onion, leeks, celery, carrot, and garlic. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine, stirring to pick up any brown bits from the bacon. Increase heat to high and reduce the wine by about half. Add the lentils, vegetable stock, water, bay leaves, ground cloves and ground sage. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring up to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook uncovered until the lentils have softened to a gentle chew state (al dente), 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender until aerated and chunky-smooth. Return to the pot and bring to a low simmer. If it seems too thick, add enough water to adjust more to your taste, about 1/2 – 1 cup of water should do it. Stir in 1/2 of the reserved bacon. Taste carefully and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls, garnishing each with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche and a drizzle of bacon and fresh parsley. (Note: The soup can be made ahead and refrigerated for 1 or 2 days or frozen up to 2 months and reheated before serving).
In between holidays, I’ve been having fun in my kitchen experimenting with French soups for my upcoming book on the same subject. One of the things that makes soup French (aside from being delicious) is the attention to detail in the garnishes and in the presentation. This fantastically layered and delicious soup gets treated to a garnish trifecta with housemade croutons and creme fraiche as well as bacon. In the book it is in the cold soup chapter, but it is just as delicious served piping hot. To go that route, instead of following the directions for cold below, just be sure to reheat the soup thoroughly before serving. I love the idea of serving this brilliantly red, white and green soup as a start to Christmas dinner. It would be the perfect prelude to a standing beef roast. Adapted from (draft version) The French Cook: Soups and Stews (Gibbs Smith, Fall 2014).
Roasting already sweet, available year-round grape tomatoes makes these royal-red gems even sweeter and a decadent flavor backdrop for fresh thyme-cloaked croutons and salty bacon. A swirl of crème fraiche (recipe and method to follow) on top delivers a crowning French flavor twist.
Roasted Grape Tomato Soup with Thyme Croutons, Bacon and Creme Fraiche
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
1 quart (4 cups) fresh red (or substitute another color such as yellow) grape tomatoes, thoroughly rinsed
1 large shallot, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar (or substitute cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper
For the croutons:
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 small, day-old baguette, cut into 1/4” cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 slices bacon, browned, drained and coarsely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup crème fraiche (recipe follows this one, below)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 450F. In a roasting pan or full-sized, edged baking sheet, combine the tomatoes, shallot, vinegar, and olive oil, tossing to coat evenly. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the fresh thyme stalks. Roast in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to pop and implode, tossing 15 minutes into the cooking. Leave the oven on (for the croutons) and discard the thyme branches. Spoon the roasted tomatoes, shallot and any roasting juices into a food processor fitted with a metal blade or a blender. Use the chicken stock to deglaze the hot roasting pan, stirring up any browned bits. Add the stock to the processor/blender. Blend until chunky smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn into a bowl, cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
To make the croutons, toss together the thyme, bread cubes, olive oil and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Turn out onto a small baking sheet and roast in the pre-heated 450 oven until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing once. Set aside to cool. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls, top each with a dollop (or drizzle) of crème fraiche, 4 or 5 croutons, 1/2 teaspoon bacon, and a drizzle of fresh thyme leaves.
Make Your Own Crème Fraiche
Crème Fraiche, a thick, fermented whole cream, is the darling of Dieppe in the milk and apple rich region of Normandy, France. Though increasingly easier to find in the United States, it can still be a challenge. For a more authentic and easier crème fraiche when not in France, it’s best to make your own. In addition to its distinctive creamy flavor, crème fraiche (made with heavy cream) will not break when cooked into soups or sauces and makes a beautiful garnish for any soup, hot or cold.
Last week, a full two weeks before Thanksgiving was even scheduled to arrive, I got an intense craving for turkey. No, not the deli variety, and not the roasted kind you can buy. I needed to have a fragrant bird filling up my house with its gorgeous aromas while I worked on my new French soup cookbook upstairs in my office.
So, I went to the grocery and bought a small, five pound, bone-in turkey breast. I had to wait a day to thaw it in the fridge, and then I got busy doing what I always do for any turkey I’m about to roast. I rub mine down with olive oil, season generously all over with ground black pepper and kosher salt, and nestle a couple of pats of butter under the skin of the breast. I start mine in a hot, 425F oven and let it cook for about 20 minutes, or until it starts to form a kind of golden “crust” within which the seasoning is embedded. Then, I reduce the heat to 325F, and start basting it with a combination of 1 cup white wine, 1 cup chicken stock, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, whisked together. I baste (or return the love back to the turkey) every 20 minutes, spooning the flavorful pan juices over the bird along the way. Stop cooking the turkey when the center of the breast reads 160F and let it rest, lightly covered with tin foil, for at least 30 minutes. This whole process, at 20 minutes per pound, took less than 2 hours.
Then, I started carving the juicy, tender white meat away from the bone for the week of turkey sandwiches I enjoyed the past several days. Never one to endorse wasting food or flavor, I coarsely chopped the remaining carcass and put it in a large stock pot with a quartered onion, a couple of stalks of celery, a carrot, 2 bay leaves, and enough water to cover the contents . I brought it up to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and cooked it ever so slowly, uncovered for about 6 hours, skimming off any “scum” as it rose to the top. The result was a gorgeous, clear, fragrant stock.
So, a little bit early, I had on-hand exactly what you will have on-hand the day after Thanksgiving. Plenty of turkey and stock to put to good use. The obvious solution is a fragrant, light and delicate soup. Because the book I’m working on uses French technique and method, I cut up all of the vegetables very finely, into what is called a brunoise. This is a tiny 1/8″ dice. It looks pretty and allows all of the vegetables to cook quickly and for the same amount of time. A petite dice of warm croutons on top finishes it off in a very French way for this wonderfully American holiday. Because basically everything is prepped ahead, it comes together in just about 20 minutes. Bon appetit! If you’re careful in your planning, you should still have plenty of roast turkey for sandwiches. This soup uses only about 2 cups.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 large stalks celery very finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed into a paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups very finely chopped crimini mushrooms (Note: Remove any dirt with a damp paper towel and pull out any tough stems before cutting.)
1 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage leaves
1/4 cup dry vermouth
6 cups reserved turkey stock
2 cups turkey breast, skin removed and cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped
For the croutons:
1 cup dried white bread, such as baguette, crust removed and cut into 1/4″ cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage leaves
Roast turkey on Thanksgiving using method described in the front of this recipe. After the meat’s been cut off the bone, reserve the carcass and prepare the stock using the method in the front of this recipe and reserve the stock and the turkey meat separately in the refrigerator. The following day, proceed as follows.
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and a light dusting of salt and pepper. Stir to coat, reduce heat to medium, and sweat the vegetables for 5 to 8 minutes or until they’re softened. Add the chopped crimini, dried sage and stir to coat. Add the vermouth, stir and increase heat to medium high. Reduce the vermouth to a glaze, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved turkey stock and cubed turkey meat. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook for 20 minutes to soften the veggies and bring the flavors together. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Meanwhile, to prepare the croutons, melt the butter and the oil together over medium high heat in a saute pan. When sizzling, add the cubed bread, salt, pepper and dried sage. Toss to coat evenly. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking the croutons, tossing, until golden brown on all sides. Reserve warm.
Serve the soup very hot in shallow bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of freshly chopped rosemary and arrange a pyramid of warm croutons in the center of each bowl just before serving.
Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving!