It's that time again, The Royal Food Joust entry time.
We always seem to be scrambling come the deadline for our Joust entry. It's our fault, of course, for being so indecisive. Not only do we start late, but we throw out ideas and keep discussing them and discussing them and discussing them. . . the next thing we know it's time to send in something and we still haven't decided.
This month's Joust ingredients: fennel, dairy, and parsley. We agreed on keeping it simple and just wanted to let the fennel be the main ingredient.
Here's our Cream of Fennel soup. This... is its story. (Chug-chung!)
We start with the most important ingredient of all...
In a pot, we rendered some bacon until crispy, adding some fennel seeds in the process. It was really nice to have crisp bacon with fennel seeds on them. We took the bacon out of the pan and set it aside.
Then, it's a straight dump-into-a-pot operation. We rough-chopped a couple of fennel bulbs (including the stalky parts) and put it in the pot with rendered bacon fat. We let it sweat for a couple of minutes, then added a glug of white wine. After a couple more minutes, we added water about 1/3 or halfway up the pot. We brought the mixture to a boil, covered the pot, and let the mixture simmer until the fennel was very tender.
I buzzed the mixture in the pot until well-blended. Then (so very unlike us), I strained the mixture. I put the smooth liquid back into the pot.
At this stage, we added the heavy cream.
It was also at this time that we added our secret ingredient: roasted garlic! Just a little bit, maybe 1 or 2 cloves. This is completely optional, of course, but it does add depth and a little something-something to the soup.
I whisked the mixture until smooth, adjusting the seasoning (salt and pepper). The black pepper is very important to the taste of the soup. For us, anyway. But, if you prefer not to have black specks in the white soup, that's fine as well.
But wait! Where's the parsley?
At first, we were thinking of adding the parsley right into the soup. But then, I wanted the soup to be pure and very pale. So, we made parsley oil. I blended some parsley with a little olive oil then strained the mixture. I also added salt into the mix.
I was a bit lazy and didn't bother straining through a coffee filter. The result is an oil that is tad sediment-y. It doesn't affect the taste, but please be more refined than I was and use a coffee filter. =)
To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, add a generous amount of parsley oil and garnish with crispy fennel-y bacon and some fennel fronds.
We had some homemade limpa bread -- a Swedish bread flavored with, among other things, fennel seeds -- and served that alongside. Any good, crusty bread would do, and this makes a nice lunch or a light supper.
This is a very comforting dish, very creamy and very soothing, the anise-y mildness of the fennel bulbs supported by the subtle depth and body of the roasted garlic. There is also a wonderful contrast in textures and flavors: creamy soup vs. crispy bacon and whole fennel seeds, mild round flavor vs. salty bacon and bright, sprightly bite of the fennel seeds. The parsley oil is not merely for "garnish." A good dose of it is needed to add a fresh, verdant flavour to the smooth creaminess.
The soup is pretty even after it's all mixed up. Look at its marbly pattern!
Cream of Fennel Soup with Parsley Oil
Makes 2 meal-sized servings or 4 starter servings
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
3 slices bacon, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 medium-large fennel bulbs including stalks, roughly chopped
reserved fennel fronds
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1-2 cloves roasted garlic (optional)
salt and pepper
To make parsley oil:
Boil some water in a small pot. When boiling, add chopped parsley and blanch for a few seconds. Drain and add blanched parsley to blender. Add olive oil and blend very well. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve (or line a sieve with a coffee filter). Set aside.
For the soup:
In a pot or saucepan, turn heat to medium and add bacon slices and fennel seeds. Stir occasionally until the bacon renders its fat and turns crispy. Take bacon pieces and fennel seeds out of the pot. Set aside.
Heat the bacon fat and add the chopped fennel bulbs. Sweat for a couple of minutes; do not brown. Turn heat to high and add white wine. Let the alcohol evaporate (a couple of minutes), then add the water. The water should be about 1/3 up the pot. Do not add too much water. Let the mixture boil, then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Simmer until fennel is very tender, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
When fennel is tender, puree using an immersion blender. (Or transfer contents to a blender and puree.) Strain the mixture and add the strained liquid back into the pot, over medium-low heat.
Add roasted garlic (if using), heavy cream, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and consistency of the soup as you like.
Ladle soup into bowls. Add generous amount of parsley oil in each, and divide bacon among the bowls. Garnish with fennel fronds if desired and serve with crusty bread.
This is our entry to the Royal Food Joust (created by The Leftover Queen).
[eatingclub] vancouver Royal Food Joust posts:
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Cream of Fennel Soup with Parsey Oil
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel" Brittle
Squash Churros with Orange-Sage Hot Chocolate
Coffee Pancakes with Honey Ricotta and Black Pepper & Coffee-Crusted Bacon
Caribbean "Fish & (Banana) Chips"
Steelhead Trout and Enoki Mushrooms with Wasabi Cream Sauce
We're submitting this to Culinarty's Original Recipes.
More information here.
The Round-ups here.