People always want to jazz up carrot soup with something – cilantro or red pepper or orange or parsnip or curry – to distract you from the fact that carrots are “boring”. I hate this.
There is a difference between boring and familiar! They’ve got depth, they’re sweet, they’re a fun color!! Justice for Carrots!
Carrot soup is one of my favorite party tricks because, like most of the things I am sharing with you, it is both tremendously good and extremely easy.
Chop some carrots, let them hang out, drunk on a little sherry, with a softened, buttery onion in a saucepan sauna for an hour, and they will mellow out into a deep, rich, almost jammy sweetness that is the base of honestly probably my favorite soup.
For those of you playing along at home, that’s a whopping 5 ingredients to make a tastier, more satisfying soup than I’ve ever been served at a restaurant.
Listen, I know carrot soup is not sexy. A lot of the time it is downright bad. I had a “carrot” soup on my lunch break last year that scarred me for life.
Nothing can prepare you for the sight of a man rolling an open vat of “soup” in through the front door of the café in front of God and everybody: bald, unlidded, without so much as a windshield or a parasol or even a scrap of clingwrap for modesty, just fully open to the elements, Mad Max war-chariot style, when you have just ordered a bowl of said soup.
I guess the kitchen part of the café was… somewhere… else? I’m assuming they had a kitchen, I could be wrong. That soup might have come straight out of the back of a van marked Depressing Soups, Inc. (Company Motto: Lids Schmids! A subsidiary of Depressing Soup Industries, LLC) Anyway, I had paid for it, so I ate it. It was definitely technically a food. It had salt. It was… smooth? It, uh, tasted.
I’m gonna bet that most of the carrot soups you’ve had in your life have been further towards the Beige Mystery Soup end of the spectrum than the Transcendently Good Please Can I Have Thirds end. I don’t blame you for this. People underestimate carrots, but not us. Not today.
Okay. So, you’ve roasted a chicken, you’ve made the stock, and you’ve realized that the 4-ish carrots you used for that leave you with most of a giant bag of carrots left over. And probably an onion or two, if you got the 3-onion bag they sell at Trader Joe’s.
The good news is, you’re now two ingredients in to the 5-ingredient soup of your dreams. All you need is half a stick of butter, some dry cooking sherry, and your already-made chicken stock.
(Dry cooking sherry is not a sexy ingredient. I realize this. It is not a superfood, it is not the kind of thing you’d pick up on a whim, but I swear it’s one of the most useful things I keep in my pantry. It gives savory dishes a sweet richness and depth that you just can’t get with anything else. It’s like blonde, alcoholic Worcestershire sauce.)
This soup is extra-great because, unlike your boyfriend, it’s sweet, it’s rich, and it’s super easy to make vegan. All you have to do is switch the butter out for olive oil and the chicken stock for vegetable stock, and you’re good to go. This is really the epitome of good vegan cooking, which I think should be about figuring out just how great you can make a plant taste. Carrot soup, to me, is the highest glory any carrot can hope to achieve. (Wait, no. That’s carrot cake. It’s a real close second, though.)
If you don’t go the vegan route, though, the chicken stock adds a beautifully comforting, savory depth to what is already a soup as mellow and tender as a Mulatu Astatke saxophone line. Just remember that when you made the stock, you salted and concentrated it a bunch, so don’t add any salt or pepper to this soup until the very end. Once it’s blended you can taste it to figure out what you’re dealing with.
AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Remember last week when we boiled up the stock from your already-eaten chicken, and then froze it? If you defrost that stock, you can never re-frost it again. Literally the only reason to use fresh chicken to make stock is so you can freeze the stock, and then defrost it to make soup, and then re-freeze that soup.
If you’re doing the method I’ve outlined in the last few posts, you can’t re-freeze the soup. You gotta eat whatever you make with that frozen stock within the week, or sooner. Do not re-freeze, do not mix with fresh stock and re-freeze, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars OR food poisoning.
Without further ado, then, please welcome the third and perhaps most glorious entry in my Chicken Trilogy. That same chicken (let’s call her Tabitha) is still feeding you deliciously and nutritiously two days, or two weeks, or six months in the future. Good work, Tabitha. Good work to you, too.
CLASSIC CARROT SOUP
2 oz (60g, or half a stick) unsalted butter
One fat onion (not bodyshaming – this is literally what it says in my mother’s recipe)
2 lbs carrots (they usually come in a 2lb bag at the grocery store)
¼ cup dry sherry
5 cups chicken stock
Two sheets of greaseproof paper (parchment paper or wax paper)
A heavy-bottomed saucepan with a close-fitting lid. Your trusty dutch oven or stockpot will work well here, or whatever pot you have with a lid that fits well.
- Peel and chop your carrots into smallish dice – it’s more important that they’re all about the sameish size (between a nickel and a dime) than that they’re teeny-tiny. Do this first, it takes awhile. A good moment for releasing the pent-up aggression of the day.
- Chop the onion into similarly-sized bits to the carrot, and sauté it in your chosen soup pot with the butter until it’s translucent. Do this on a lower heat rather than rushing through it – you don’t want the onion to take on color, just soften up. It should take a good 6-7 minutes.
- While the onion is onioning, take the lid of your pot and use it to trace two circles of greaseproof paper – use a pencil.
- When the onion is soft and translucent, add the carrots and the ¼ c sherry, and then run your two circles of paper under a cold tap for a second so they’re covered in drops of cold water. Cover the pot with the damp paper, and then put on the tightly-fitting lid. It’s okay if the paper sticks out a little as long as there’s a good seal and steam can’t escape.
- Put the pot on the lowest setting of the lowest burner on your stove and leave it alone for an hour. The paper seal means that the carrots and onion steam in their own juices with the butter and sherry, intensifying and concentrating the flavor.
- After 45 minutes, start heating your chicken stock up. It should be at a rolling boil when you…
- …Add the stock to the vegetables and stir!
- Make sure everything is piping hot, then use an immersion blender, a food processor, or a regular blender to process until smooth. Be careful processing hot soup in a blender – do it in batches if there’s not enough room, it will absolutely go everywhere and scald the shit out of your arm.
- At this point you can taste for salt and pepper. It might have been awhile since you made the stock, so it’s good to wait until the end before adding any seasoning because you might not remember how highly flavored it is.
- If it’s too thick, you can add water, milk or cream to let it down a bit. Like most things, it also goes great with croutons or fresh crusty bread of any kind.