Blogger Risks Life and Limb for Sunchoke Soup!

by Guest Blogger Claudia Manley (aka The Fashionista)

During the next few weeks I am honoured to feature a series of guest posts by fellow bloggers, foodies and writers. This one is by The Fashionista, a writer, teacher and fashion aficionada, whose blog, Proper Tension can be found here (as well as on my blogroll). Heroic to a fault, Fashionista risked life and limb to make Gluten Free Girl’s Sunchoke Soup with Chile Oil. Enjoy!

Last week, Hungry Gal convinced me to buy sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes as they’re also known) during our tour of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. She assured me she had a great recipe for a sunchoke soup with chile oil, and I thought, “Why not?”

Well, it took me almost a week to get down to it, but get down to it, I did and how.

I made a couple of substitutions right off the bat. I happened to have dried ancho chiles as well as Thai chiles from last year’s garden so I used those instead of the arbol chile they called for.

Here’s one thing they don’t mention in the recipe – stay away from the toasting chiles! Whoa! Talk about eye-watering, sinus-clearing action. I also used “European bacon” instead of pancetta because I just like the fact that the Ukrainian woman I get it from at the farmers’ market thinks pancetta is just Italian snobbery.

I used my own frozen homemade veggie stock, and was overjoyed that I didn’t have to peel the sunchokes. That would’ve been a bitch. Everything seemed under control until I decided that the soup could use just a little more stock. So, as I have many times before, I tried to shake the frozen core out of one of the jars. It usually just takes a couple of shakes to make it slip out. This time, however, the jar broke in my hand, resulting in a number of mostly minor cuts (on both hands) and a totally ruined soup.

I dumped it all and had freezer-burned fish sticks and French fries for lunch that day.

But I was not to be dissuaded! I now had my chile oil as well as my yummy bits of bacon (which I’d taken to eating as a snack). So, back to the market for more sunchokes and potatoes…as well as a few carrots to round out a fresh batch of veggie stock.

This time, I started the onions and garlic in a combination of bacon grease and chicken fat (handily available in my fridge). I knew it would change the flavour base, but it smelled great and had a lovely depth. I used a food mill instead of a sieve (since I own one), figuring it would give me an even smoother consistency. It did. I also only used three tablespoons of olive oil (instead of six) and omitted the butter in its entirety without feeling like I’d compromised the soup.

The soup was good. I loved the artichoke hint of the sunchokes, and the chile oil was a fine accompaniment. When all was said and done, I ended up with a fresh batch of stock and multiple portions of soup to freeze as well as soup to eat for a few days, plus the chile oil.

I would definitely make this again. And I probably won’t have to make it twice.

POTATO SUNCHOKE SOUP WITH HOMEMADE CHILE OIL
(from the blog Gluten Free Girl and the Chef)

“You’ll probably have more chile oil than you will need for this soup. Yay! You can use the leftover chile oil as a marinade for beef, chicken, or fish for tacos or fajitas. Cook up your favorite vegetables in it with cumin or garlic. We like it as the oil for popcorn. Use your imagination!”

for the chile oil
½ cup grapeseed oil (you can also canola, safflower, or olive oil)
2 dried arbol chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chile powder

Heating the oil. Set a small saucepan over low heat. Pour the grapeseed oil into the pan. Gently heat the oil to a small simmer.

Toasting the chiles and spices. Meanwhile, set another small saucepan over medium-high heat. Crush up the chiles a bit and toss them into the hot pan. Toast the chiles for a minute, tossing them around. Add the paprika and chile powder. Toss them all together in the hot pan until the spices release their fragrance, about 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the chiles and spices and stir until you have a rough paste.

Letting the oil sit. Put the chile paste into a large bowl. Slowly, add the hot oil. Stir this up and let it sit for 1 hour.

Finishing the oil. Pour the chile oil through a strainer, lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, into a bowl. Let the oil sit overnight to develop its flavors.

for the soup
4 slices pancetta, rolled up like a cigar and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and medium dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 pounds sunchokes, cut into thick slices
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
5 cups liquid (chicken, vegetable stock, or water)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream (we used dairy-free Mimicreme)
juice of one lemon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Rendering the pancetta. Set a Dutch oven or large pot on medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the pancetta and the olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pancetta has crisped and the fat has rendered into the pan, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pancetta and set aside.

Sautéeing the onions and garlic. Add the onions and garlic to the rendered pancetta fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sunchokes and thyme and cook until you smell everything strongly in the room, about 3 minutes.

Cooking the soup. Cut each potato into half, lengthwise, then slice horizontally. Cut each potato half into thirds. (See photo above if this is not clear.) Throw in all the potato dices. Cook, stirring, until everything is well-coated, about 1 minute. Pour in the stock. This should be enough liquid to cover the potatoes and sunchokes. If not, add 1 cup more. Stir it all up, then cook until a sharp knife goes through a potato piece and a sunchoke piece easily, about 20 minutes.

Finishing the soup. Blend the soup in 3 batches, adding 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to each batch. You could try an immersion blender here, but a strong blender works better. Pour the first two batches of pureed soup through a sieve into a large bowl. (This will make the final soup smooth.) When you have blended all the soup, pour it all back into the Dutch oven. Add the cream and stir the soup, then the lemon juice and stir the soup. Taste. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste (you’re going to need more than you think!).

When the soup is seasoned as you like it, add the tablespoon of butter. Stir constantly, taking care not to scorch the soup, until the butter has disappeared entirely into the soup.

Ladle the soup into large bowls. Top with the crisp pancetta and drizzle with the prepared chile oil.

Feeds 8.

4 Comments

  1. I made this soup! (despite being slightly terrified by The Fashionista’s misadventures!) It is fantastic. My subsititutions included canned chipotle peppers instead of arbol chiles and sundried tomatoes (for a bit of tang) instead of pancetta, as I was making a vegetarian version. Also, I did not have time to strain either chile oil or soup and it was just fine.

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