January is a gray month. The sky is gray, the ground is gray, the floors are gray when people track the gray inside. To battle the gray, Team P-Mag has assembled a month’s worth of delicious, colorful soups to help us trudge through until spring. First in the stockpot, my signature sweet potato soup.
This soup is one of my favorite things to make. It’s time intensive, but each step adds a layer of flavor to the final product. It’s good hot or cold, and it lends itself well to experimentation. You’ll need about an hour and a half to prep, and then you’ll need to have time to hang out in/by the kitchen for a few hours while the soup simmers, so you can stir.
- 2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into equal-ish sized cubes.
- 1 head cauliflower, florets only, cut into chunks. Get rid of all the thick, pulpy stem as you can.
- 1 red onion, cut into 8-10 pieces or so.
- 1 Granny Smith apple (or any tart, firm, baking apple you like), cored, peeled, and diced fine.
- 1 yellow onion, diced fine.
- 1 clove garlic, diced fine. You can add more if you love garlic, less if you don’t.
- Olive oil
- Herbsy things, I like rosemary, parsley, a bay leaf, and a little sage.
- Spice things, I like allspice, a pinch of cayenne, and a little clove.
- Salt and pepper
- Half gallon of apple cider
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
First, we’re going to roast the sweet potato, red onion, garlic, and cauliflower. When you’ve chopped them, pop your chunks in a bowl with your herbsy things and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Cover, and shake it all about to make sure everything is covered in oil. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet or pan, and roast at 450° for 45 minutes. About halfway through, flip all the veggie pieces over so they brown lightly on all sides.
Roughly 20 minutes before your roasted veggies are finished, heat a half-and-half mix of olive oil and butter in a sauté pan. Carefully drop in the yellow onion and apple. If you REALLY want to go for it, and aren’t opposed to the idea of a little pork in your soup, caramelize the apples and onions in bacon fat instead of olive oil and butter. Apologize to your cardiovascular system for me for putting the idea in your head. (It’s delicious.) Stir often and keep an eye on the pan, you want everything to be a rich brown, but you don’t want to burn the butter or the onions. When they’re finished, scoop out the bits and deposit them in your stock pot or slow cooker.
Keep the flame on, and de-glaze your saute pan with a cup or so of apple cider or stock. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits stuck to the sides or bottom. Pour into your soup pot. Add the roasted veggies and the rest of the liquid. Add your spice things, bonus points if you lightly toast them in a hot, dry pan first. (Layers of flavors.)
Cook all of this on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid reduces by about half, adjusted for how thick or thin you like your soup. Add salt and pepper. Cover, and let simmer on medium low for at least an hour and a half, stirring about every fifteen minutes. If you’re using a slow cooker instead, cook everything on high for two hours, and use 1/4 less liquid.
Take off the heat and let the soup set for about five minutes. Use a counter top blender or stick blender to puree. If you’re using a counter top blender, remove the plastic cap in the lid and cover with a towel before mixing, so you don’t end up with a steam burn. Steam bad! No touching steam! If you like your soup as smooth and silky as can be, take the additional step of pouring it through a sieve before serving.
Add a smooch of cream to the center by pouring it over the back of a spoon, top with a rosemary sprig or something equally fancy, and serve. Bask in the adoration of your family and/or friends.
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