Thursday, January 13, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

No, dear reader, your eyes do not deceive you. I made another orange soup. But while my carrot soup awakened the palate with a good hit of spice, this sweet potato soup melts in the mouth like butter. Buttah . . . . This soup is so rich and creamy that it verges on a puree, but the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cayenne keep things interesting. (Tip: if you hate sweet potato and/or pumpkin pie, this soup is not for you.) I encourage you to thin out the soup with additional liquid if you so desire, but keep in mind that this may dilute the flavors. Season accordingly.

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 8 ounces low-fat milk (I used 1%)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into a half-inch dice. Spread on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook until roux is just turning brown.
  3. Add the broth and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  4. Stir in the sweet potatoes and spices and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Ladle soup into a blender and puree.
  6. Return the soup to the pot and add milk and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Curry Ginger Carrot Soup

To me, there are few things more comforting than a piping hot bowl of soup. A cold sandwich or a salad just won't do when the thermostat refuses to creep above 40.

The amount of spice in this recipe makes it the perfect soup for anyone battling a cold, but feel free to reduce the curry powder and cinnamon if you prefer a subtler flavor. In addition to being highly tasty, this soup is a breeze to put together, even on a weeknight.

Curry Ginger Carrot Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 two inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 ounces heavy cream

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion and ginger and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, cloves, and coriander. Add 4 cups chicken broth and 1 cup water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree. Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Pie Crusts

Cornish Pasty



As anyone who has heard me speak at length about celebrity chefs can attest, I have a deep-seated aversion to Sandra Lee. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her "semi-homemade" philosophy, Lee's approach is to combine "70% ready-made products with 30% fresh and creative touches" so that you take "100% of the credit." As if a cuisine based heavily on sodium-laden spice packets and canned soups weren't bad enough, the woman prances around her kitchen like a beauty queen. She adopts a theme each episode and then selects her outfit and redecorates her kitchen to match. Don't get me started on "tablescapes."

So, given my dislike of Lee, you can imagine my horror one evening when I found myself watching her show with rapt attention. Even worse, my mouth started to water as I watched her make caramelized onion and goat cheese tarts.

I pride myself on being rational and fair, however, so I promptly bookmarked the recipe on the Food Network website. I even decided to make them for my holiday party. The concept, I reasoned, was sound. Most of the ingredients were in their original state. Except for the frozen chopped onions, that is. And the store-bought pie crust. Oh, the pie crust.

Homemade pie crust has long been de rigueur in my family. I remember the first Thanksgiving when my mom gave me the task of making the traditional pumpkin and pecan pies. Making a pie crust from scratch seemed rather daunting at the time, so I suggested that we use store-bought crust. My mother's response was "Didn't I raise you right?"

Of course it would be easy to substitute homemade pie crust in the recipe, but I figured I'd cut myself a break given the time constraints inherent in throwing a party. Still, I felt some major filial and foodie guilt.

Ironically, I ran out of time to make even the shortcut recipe, which meant that I had 3 boxes of store-bought pie crust sitting in my fridge with 2 crusts to a box. That's a lot of dough.

One crust made a pumpkin pie that I took to my office holiday party. Another went into the trash after I tore it trying to make the crust for that pie. That left 4 crusts. Figuring that I should make myself something slightly more substantial than pie for dinner at home, I decided to make 2 Cornish pasties and a quiche. I found that store-bought pie crust was much better in the former application than in the latter.

As Wikipedia will tell you, pasty is indigenous to Cornwall, England. My mom would make pasty for us growing up, but her version was in a deep pie pan with a huge domed crust. As is typical of most Midwestern fare, hers was loaded with ground hamburger, onions, potatoes, and carrots. We would cut huge slices and then smother the filling in ketchup.

No offense, Mom, but I think the recipe below is much tastier. I've adapted it from this recipe at I think the blue cheese really makes the dish, giving it a nice piquancy that plays against the earthiness of the root vegetables.

Cornish Pasty

  • 1 15-ounce package refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)
  • 12 ounces stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped peeled sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped peeled rutabaga
  • ¾ cup chopped peeled carrot or parsnip

  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  1. Using on/off turns, coarsely chop meat in processor.
  2. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add sweet potato, rutabaga, carrot, onion, parsley, thyme and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add meat. Sauté until meat browns, about 10 minutes.
  5. Mix in cream. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper. Cool filling completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover; refrigerate.)
  6. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  7. Unfold crusts on work surface. Spoon half of filling onto half of each crust. Sprinkle blue cheese over the filling. Fold other half of each crust over filling. Crimp edges or seal them with a fork. Transfer turnovers to baking sheet. If desired, beat an egg and brush over the tops of the pasties for a shiny crust.
  8. Bake turnovers until golden, about 30 minutes. Cut each in half and serve.

While I'd declare the pasties an unqualified success, the quiche was another story. The crusts on the pasty baked up golden and flaky. The quiche was a soggy, sorry mess. The bottom of the crust barely cooked at all, and the edges were so thin that they almost burned. My fluted edges refused to hold their shape. A homemade crust would work much better, especially since there would be more dough to fold over to form the fluted edge (a thicker edge would be less susceptible to burning). Here's the recipe I used, courtesy of another blogger.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Quiche

  • 1 standard 8" pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (about 2 large) onions, thinly sliced (a mandolin works really well here)
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • A few ounces goat cheese
  • Nutmeg
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Heat butter in heavy pan until melted, add onions and saute slowly over medium to low heat until caramelized. This step may take 30 minutes or so. Stir in thyme.
  2. Meanwhile par-bake the pie crust at 375° for 5-10 minutes, until golden-brown, then reduce oven to 325°.
  3. In large bowl gently beat together eggs, milk, a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Add salt & pepper.
  4. Spread the onions over the crust, and pour in egg mixture. Crumble goat cheese over the top.
  5. Bake at 325° until quiche is set, approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Broil it for a minute or two at the end to give the top a nice golden top.

Incidentally, I realized as I was writing this post that I pitted a very classic English dish against a very classic French dish. It seems the Anglo-French rivalry continues, at least in the kitchen. This round goes to the English.