Simple soup serves for post-holiday dinner

Entertaining

Entertaining: Ease in preparation is a bonus for the feast-weary cook.

January 07, 2001|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

After the holidays I am always exhausted from marathon cooking. Along with the culinary fatigue, I feel guilty for having indulged with such abandon in the season's traditional high-calorie dishes. However, my husband and I, both social creatures, can't wait to see friends and colleagues who have been away during this period, so inevitably we pick up the phone and invite friends over for a winter soup supper during the first month of the new year.

Having prepared many labor-intensive menus for Christmas and New Year's, I welcome the idea of a simple soup as a main course for a meal. This year I plan to serve one of my favorite recipes for our get-together. The potage is made with hearty root vegetables -- carrots, turnips and leeks -- which are sauteed in a little butter, then simmered in chicken stock and pureed.

The trio of vegetables works harmoniously in this melange, with the carrots providing a hint of sweetness, the turnips a slightly bitter note and the leeks an earthy taste. Thick and satisfying, this vibrant, orange-hued soup makes a splendid entree for cold-weather evenings.

To accompany the soup you might offer a mixed-greens salad tossed in a red wine vinaigrette dressing, garnished with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a sprinkle of toasted walnuts. Or, you could assemble a salad of arugula napped in a balsamic dressing and dotted with morsels of creamy goat cheese and bits of bacon. A basket of warm breads -- crusty baguettes, herbed rolls or peasant loaves -- is essential for this menu.

For dessert, try a warm apple or pear gratin, and if the scales have been kind to you, top each serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Cut off and discard root ends and dark green stems of leeks. Cut leeks in half, lengthwise, and rinse under cold running water to remove any dirt or grit. Pat leeks dry and slice thinly. Prepare carrots and turnips.

Heat butter in large, heavy, deep-sided pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, carrots and turnips, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Add 6 cups stock and bring to simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all vegetables are fork-tender, 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove from heat. Puree soup in food processor, blender or food mill. Return soup to pot in which it was cooked. Whisk in half and half. If soup is too thick, whisk in additional stock. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. (Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring often.)

To serve, ladle soup into 6 large soup bowls. Garnish each portion with some chopped parsley.

Winter Carrot, Turnip and Leek Soup

Makes 6 servings

2 to 3 medium leeks

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch-thick slices

1 1/2 pounds turnips, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2 -inch-thick slices

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

salt, freshly ground black pepper

6 cups chicken stock, plus up to 1 cup more if needed

2 / 3 cup half and half

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

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