I have a confession to make. I stole the carrots to make this soup. I’m guilty. But before you close this link out of fear that your integrity will be compromised by making this recipe, let me explain. We have a plot in our local community garden. The growing season is from April to December, or whenever the Village of Gambier gets around to clearing us out. I don’t know the actual demographics of our Village but I would guess that it is 95% populated by students and faculty of Kenyon College, ourselves included. Having been through one full growing season at the garden, I’ve noticed a trend amongst its residents. Come April/May, academics are feeling tired but enthusiastic about the impending summer months. June, July and August symbolize time to yourself, a chance to get out into the sunshine and steer clear of anyone between the ages of 18-22. They energetically plant their gardens, weed and water them for about a month. Then come the trips, Ohio’s unbearable humidity, and the slow, creeping realization that you’re being paid for 12 months a year because the expectation is that you’ll actually do a little work during the summer.
Meanwhile weeds begin to take over. Seeds fruit and then flower. Greens bolt. Summer squash takes over. And eventually these garden plots go from orderly, romantic landscapes to cubist nightmares. So on October 20th, as my daughter and I were harvesting ground cherries and arugula, I couldn’t help but peak over at our neighbors over grown mess and notice carrot tops. After carefully monitoring our surroundings for signs of approaching scholars, I ventured over to investigate. I brushed aside some dirt to find an outcropping of orange tops. I looked to my left and noticed a few more tops peaking out. Soon I had called Adeline over and we were excavating pounds of amazing carrots that had been sweetening all summer long! Round, knobby, crunchy and delicious, these were some of the best carrots I’d ever had.
So now I ask, can you really blame me? No reasonable person could let such beauties go to waste. I decided to make this soup to honor the nutty, sweet flavor of these carrots. You can for sure make this soup with store bought carrots but I can’t guarantee that it will taste as sinfully delicious.
Tips and Tricks
- In my experience, one pureed soup is like any other once you’ve got the technique. This means you can immediately start to play around with whatever you’ve got on hand. Substitute carrots for peas and asparagus and you’ve got a wonderfully sweet green soup. Triple the potatoes, double the leeks and leave out the carrots and you’ve got a smooth and rich vichyssoise. You absolutely do not need to add milk to your pureed soups. I decided to add a little to this recipe but I would encourage you to leave it out at first if you want to see how it tastes without it.
- You can easily make this recipe vegan by removing the milk and butter and using vegetable stock. I’m not aware of a good milk substitute for this but if you have one please let me know.
- Always peel your carrots. Some people may disagree and I’m sure that some nutritional value is lost by removing the peels. That said, I like my carrot flavor clean, sweet and nutty and find that the unpeeled carrots always maintain a little too much flavor from the soil.
- With the exception of thyme, rosemary and sometimes parsley, fresh herbs should not be cooked in soups. Make sure to add your herbs once the soup is fully cooked and before blending to retain the most flavor.
- Leeks are a wonderful addition to soups but can easily be substituted for yellow onions of you can’t find them. The taste will change slightly but flavor component will be the same. I would not recommend shallots for this recipe as I think their flavor is a bit too sharp.
- When using leeks, be sure to clean them carefully as they are often full of soil when harvested. The best way that I’ve found is to cut remove the base and greens and slice the shaft into long strips as seen below. Rinse them until cold water, careful to separate the sections and remove any lingering soil. Dry in a towel. If using for soup, you can easily stack them and slice them into small pieces one or two batches at a time.
- Adding potato to pureed soups contributes to both its thickness and its smoothness. It also mellows out the flavors just enough while keeping the soup tasting rich.
Guilty Carrot Soup (though I’m not actually guilty!)
- 2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
- 5 cups sliced carrots (roughly 2 lbs)
- 1 large potato or one medium and and one small. Any variety except new reds are fine.
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1 quart chicken stock (equal to one 32 oz carton of store bought stock)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Immersion blender or food processor
Peel and slice your carrots. Wash and slice leeks. Heat your soup pot on medium heat and add a good splash of olive oil and tablespoon of butter. Sauté leeks until soft. Be carefully not to cook them too quickly as you don’t want them to brown, approximately 8 minutes. Once soft, add your carrots and stir around until coated with the cooked leeks. Now peel your potatoes, cut them into large chunks and add to mixture.
Add your white wine and let it cook down with the vegetables for several minutes making sure to loosen any bits of leek that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Now add one quart of stock, equivalent to one carton of chicken or vegetable stock plus 1/2 cup of water, cover and let simmer.
Once the soup has come to a boil you can turn it down slightly and let it cook until the carrots and potatoes are soft, approximately 20 minutes. Meanwhile chop you tarragon and dill. If you’re not a fan of either of these herbs, you could also add cilantro or parsley. Personally, I think this soup needs some green so I’d encourage you not to leave out the herbs entirely unless you’re really averse.
Once the vegetables are cooked, turn the heat off and let it stand for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then add your herbs and blend the soup using your immersion blender. If you don’t have one, pour the soup in batches into a food processor. Blend the soup partially and then add your milk. Finish blending until the soup is very smooth. At this point you haven’t added any salt so it will likely taste bland. Add some kosher salt and stir. Let the soup rest a bit, stir and taste again for salt. Be really careful about over salting. You can always add salt to individual portions. Garish with a sprig of dill and lots of black pepper.