Every week, my husband saves the Food section of the New York Times for me. I had a few weeks worth piled up and in the January 20, 2016 edition, I came across Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe for Winter Vegetable Soup With Turnips, Carrots, Potatoes and Leeks. I quickly read her article and the list of ingredients, all of which I had on hand except turnips. I did however have parsnips.
I must be honest and say that the only reason I made this soup was to clean out my fridge. I had reservations about how the soup would actually taste as it didn’t seem that vegetables and herbs boiled in water (i.e. not broth or stock) would result in a flavorful soup. I was proven wrong.
This soup is absolutely delicious. It’s sweet, earthy and nutty from the parsnips and carrots. The potatoes add a hearty thickness. The leeks, celery and herbs enhance the overall flavor. The key is to purée the vegetables so they maintain a coarse texture. But the ingredient that makes this soup outstanding (and not just good) is crème fraîche. It finishes off the whole dish, adding a creamy, nutty and tangy flavor. If you want to cut down on calories, you could instead use non-fat Greek yogurt (making this a completely fat-free dish) or sour cream, but I encourage you to indulge and use crème fraîche – it’s only a dollop after all.
As I was enjoying this soup, I was reminded of the potage I first tried in France in the early 1990s. When I was in college I studied abroad in the Normandy region. The madame who hosted me for three months was an excellent cook and we often began our meals with a bowl of potage. She always swirled in a touch of heavy cream just before serving. If I didn’t know any better, I would call it “soup” but without getting too technical, Ms. Shulman’s soup is the exact definition of a potage – a thick soup, most often made with leeks, carrots and potatoes (and whatever vegetables you have on hand) that are boiled in water, pureed to a desired texture and finished off with a touch of cream. So please forgive me, but I’ve changed the name of Ms. Shulman’s soup to Winter Potage. Whatever you decide to call it, enjoy every toothsome spoonful.
Winter Potage. Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe for Winter Vegetable Soup With Turnips, Carrots, Potatoes and Leeks (New York Times, Food section January 20, 2016)
This is a vegetarian “soup” (or vegan if you decide to forego the dollop of cream). This dish is healthy, easy and deceptively delicious. Winter Potage stands on its own as a hearty meal with a hunk of crusty bread, especially on a cold day. Divide any leftovers into individual portions and freeze.
Serves 6 to 8 people; Prep time – 20 minutes; Cook time – 40 minutes
- 4 cups leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped or sliced
- 3 cups carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 3 cups parsnips, peeled and diced
- 2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf and 3 sprigs each thyme and parsley)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 quarts (8 cups) water
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Crème fraîche (or greek yogurt, sour cream or heavy cream), to taste
- Fresh parsley, minced
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the leeks, garlic, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, bouquet garni, 2 quarts water, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 40 to 45 minutes.
- Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Purée the vegetables using an immersion blender (or blender). If you use a regular blender, return the purée to the pot.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. I ended up adding an additional 3 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- To serve, ladle the potage in a bowl. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of parsley.