Recipes | By Margaret M. Johnson
The Christian world begins its observation of Lent tomorrow and for those who observe it, Ash Wednesday means fast and abstinence (no need for explanation, I trust). For my part, I like to suggest some recipes for “serious” soups that are good for Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays and, for that matter, any other day as well. The soup toppings are optional but worth a try.
CREAMY CARROT SOUP
SERVES 6 TO 8
A few whole cloves add magic to this soup, which you can serve “as is” or embellished Bacon Breadcrumbs (recipe follow), if wish. For a thicker consistency add a chopped potato.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 carrots, diced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 10 whole cloves
4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of sugar
- Ground pepper
- 6 tablespoon heavy cream
- Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- Bacon breadcrumbs, for topping (optional)
- In large saucepan over medium heat, heat butter and oil. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and cloves; Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft but not browned.
- Add stock or broth, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Remove cloves and discard. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Working in batches, transfer mixture to food processor or blender and purée until smooth. (May be prepared to this point 1 day ahead). Return purée to saucepan over medium heat and stir in lemon juice and sugar. Simmer until heated through; season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, ladle the soup into shallow bowls; drizzle with cream and sprinkle with parsley. Top with breadcrumbs, if using.
Bacon Bread Crumbs
2 slices bacon
2 slices white sandwich bread
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Ground black pepper
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook bacon for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain; discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet.
- In a mini food processor, pulse bread 8 to 10 times to medium-fine crumbs. Transfer bread crumbs to bacon fat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to small bowl.
- Pulse bacon in food processor to fine bits and stir into breadcrumbs. Stir in parsley and pepper. (Store leftover breadcrumbs in refrigerator for up to 3 days).
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LEEK AND POTATO SOUP
SERVES 4 TO 6
Leek and potato soup, also known as brotchán foltchep (from the Irish words meaning “broth” and “leeks”), is one of Ireland’s most popular soups. Once thickened with oatmeal, today’s leek broth is thickened with potatoes; half and half or cream is added for smoothness. Serve it with brown soda bread or Fried Parsley-Oatmeal Biscuits (recipe follows).
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced
6 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
6 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 1/4 cups half and half or cream
Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Minced fresh chives, for garnish
Fried Parsley-Oatmeal Biscuits, for topping (optional)
- In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, leeks, and potatoes; stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft but not browned; stir in thyme.
- Add stock or broth, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
- Working in batches, transfer mixture to food processor or blender and purée until smooth. (May be prepared to this point 1 day ahead). Return purée to saucepan over medium heat, whisk in half and half or cream and season with salt and pepper. Add some of the parsley; simmer until heated through.
- To serve, ladle soup into shallow bowls; sprinkle with remaining parsley and chives. Serve with biscuits, if using.
FRIED PARSLEY-OATMEAL BISCUITS
Makes 20 biscuits
2 tablespoons canola oil
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
8 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup Irish oatmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In small skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Fry parsley for 1 to 2 minutes, or until crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain; crumble and reserve.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until smooth.
- In another large bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture; stir in egg yolks, lemon pepper and fried parsley. Gently knead and shape into a round
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 1/2-inch-thick square. Cut dough into 1-inch-wide strips and then cut strips into twenty 2-inch-long biscuits. Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes; turn each biscuit over and bake for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until lightly browned.
- Remove from oven and let biscuits cool in pan on a wire rack. (Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days).
GUINNESS ONION SOUP WITH BLUE CHEESE CROUTONS
Onion soup is a surefire hit on anyone’s winter menu. Instead of using only yellow onions, this soup uses three — yellow, red and shallots — adds Guinness to flavor the broth, and tops it with hearty, thick-cut croutons with melted blue cheese — Cashel Blue preferred! You can make the croutons ahead of time and store in an airtight container.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large yellow onions, sliced
2 large red onions, sliced
4 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
3 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-sodium beef broth
1 cup Guinness
1/2-pound loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup crumbled Cashel Blue cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- Make soup. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions, shallots, and garlic; cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Add bay leaves, basil, thyme, brown sugar, stock or broth and Guinness; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until onions are tender; season with salt and pepper.
- Make croutons. Preheat oven to 425º F. Put bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil; spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp; remove from oven.
- Preheat broiler. Arrange eight flameproof crocks on a baking sheet. Ladle soup into crocks and top with croutons; sprinkle with blue cheese. Place under broiler 4 inches from heat source; broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until cheese melts and browns. Remove from oven; sprinkle with parsley and chives. Using oven mitts to protect your hands, place a crock in the center of a serving plate; serve immediately.