The One That Got Away
Tonight I made soup for a Thanksgiving starter, made of Jerusalem artichokes and celery root. It’s a very French soup, since topinambours and céleri rave are all the rage, but as I peeled and chopped I just couldn’t bring myself to cut this cute guy up, or it would have felt like cannibal soup.
Normally I’d make this soup with chicken broth, and you can too, but this time I need it to be vegetarian, so water’s the word.
The result is an ethereal little soup, savory, hinting of the dinner to come, but very light, almost a palate refresher. Which, when you think of it, is just what you want before the feast to come. That’s not to say that you can’t add some little crispy dice of pancetta, or a small dollop of crème fraîche if you wish, but keep it light, so that your guests will enjoy their dinner.
Not Cannibal Soup
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes
1 lb celery root
filtered or excellent-tasting water
3 T butter
1/8 tsp ground coriander
tiny pinch of each: garlic powder and onion powder
ground sumac (or substitute paprika)
Fill a pot halfway with water. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes with a small sharp knife, cut each one into 3-4 pieces, and drop them immediately into the water to prevent browning. I don’t kill myself peeling all of the little knobs, I just cut them off and go for the center of the tuber where it peels more easily. Peel, slice, then dice the celery root, again dropping the pieces immediately into the water to keep them white. When all the vegetables are in the water, either add or remove water so that your vegetables are covered with 2 inches of water. Boil them gently until tender, about 25 minutes, skimming foam as necessary.
Once the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the heat and purée everything with an immersion blender to a fine velvety texture. If you’d like the soup a bit thicker, just simmer to reduce. If you’d like it thinner, add a little water. Now begin to season it carefully with salt, tasting as you go, until the celery flavor pops out at you. Add a very small amount of onion and garlic powders, and the coriander. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Now taste again. You want to be able to taste the vegetables, with the spices being just the merest hint of extra flavor. Adjust the seasonings to suit yourself. Serve with a little sprinkle of sumac, which adds just a whisper of tartness. Lemon doesn’t work the same way, so if you can’t get sumac, just use paprika for color, since this soup is a very delicate celadon color and will thank you for giving it a little brightening up.