But last week, of course, the fennel looked gorgeous so I had to pick up a couple, even though I no longer had a specific use for them. I also had a five-pound bag of organic yukon gold new potatoes (they were cheaper than the three-pound bag) I had to find ways to use. So I started thinking about the two together. I try not to eat too much meat, so I didn't want to make another roast so soon after the last one (although the other half of that chuck shoulder is sitting in the freezer, waiting). I thought of chicken, but I'm just not in the mood for that, either (although there are four Amish chicken quarters also waiting in the freezer thanks to Amish Healthy Foods, which if you live in Chicago and haven't visited yet you really ought to treat yourself to a visit).
What does that leave to make in this colder-than-usual winter? (Not that I'm complaining. I'm not. I much prefer winter to summer, no matter how cold and snowy it gets. At least I keep telling myself that.) Soup is the next logical step. I had the fennel, potatoes, some beautiful chickpea broth from the last time I cooked chickpeas, and a little cream. That seemed possible, so I got to work.
And now I feel the need to say a word about chickpea stock, or whatever you call it. I no longer remember where, but a few years ago I read a tip that you should save the cooking liquid from when you make chickpeas, if you're not going to use it in the dish for which you cooked them. So I started freezing it whenever I had it, and whenever I was out of chicken or vegetable broth I would use it. As it turns out, it's quite tasty and adds a beautiful, velvety texture to your soups. It doesn't smell like much, and you wouldn't think it had any taste, but it also adds just the hint of nuttiness that enhances just about anything. I cannot recommend this highly enough. I wouldn't use the liquid in canned chickpeas (even organic, but that's just me), but it is worth it to cook your own chickpeas so you can have this wonderful, rich broth as much as it is because the chickpeas themselves are much better cooked from fresh than out of a can.
It made a huge difference in the Potato Fennel soup. I only added about one-fourth of a cup of cream, but it tastes and feels like much more due to the creaminess of the chickpea liquid. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. I think you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
And because I had fresh dill around, I thought it would complement the potato and fennel, which it did. Some fennel fronds and toasted fennel seeds make the perfect garnish.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
POTATO FENNEL SOUPMakes 8 servings.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 medium fennel bulbs, quartered, cored and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp coriander
3 cups liquid from cooked chickpeas (or vegetable broth)
1 cup water, plus more as necessary
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp toasted fennel seeds for garnish
Fennel fronds for garnish
Heat oil and butter in a large dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the onions and fennel and sweat them until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add coriander, salt and pepper and cook for about one minute, until the coriander is fragrant.
Add the chicken broth and the potatoes. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that accumulates on top of the pot. Lower heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are all tender.
Remove from the heat puree with a stick blender or in a blender or food processor. Return to the heat. Add more water if it is too thick. Add the cream, lemon juice, and dill. And stir to incorporate.
Taste and adjust for seasonings. Serve hot, garnished with fennel fronds and the toasted fennel seeds.
Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (www.mountain-software.com)