Natural Nibbles: Hearty Roasted Potato and Garlic Soup
It’s that time of year again, when the frosty wind whips your already-frozen cheeks and the frigid air surprise-shocks your lungs when you inhale. Before I came to New England for college, I never appreciated the joy of warm logs roasting on a fire (we have faux gas “fireplaces” in California anyway), I drank hot chocolate as if it were an a-temporal dessert rather than as if it were a soul-warmer, and I thought snow was made of pretty white flakes of Christmas. I’d say that I know a little more about cold weather than I used to. I no longer wear flip flops to walk from my room to the campus convenience store. I’ve stopped draping polyester blankets around me when I’m outside because I now have a squishy down coat. I’ve realized that keeping warm means cider in the fall and mulled wine in the winter. I understand now what I couldn’t comprehend growing up in California, that Paula Deen’s obsession with sticks of fat is only her wisdom trying to teach me a lesson. Butter does a cold body a good layer of winter fat.
Since I moved out here for college, I would say that for four years running, the first thought that crosses my mind when I wake up every morning from December through February is, “Gee, I wish it would just be 50 degrees again.” It’s never happened. So, in order to cope, I’ve come up with a defense mechanism that I think works pretty well. It involves staying inside and never going outside. Like most of my other defenses, however, this one defies logic and ceases to work whenever I get hungry.
And so, like many other sun-lovers, I’ve learned to take refuge in layers upon layers of clothing. I remember watching movies on TV during Christmas break with my family when I was still in the single-digits. The plot lines were always annoyingly disrupted by token holiday ads whose points I couldn’t relate to. Every year in the Campbell’s soup commercial Frosty the Snowman would walk into the kitchen and sit down at the table. After one bite of steaming-hot soup, his snowy exterior would melt away into an adorably smiling child who was happy to be inside and warm again. I disliked that little boy. He came between me and my Charlie Brown Christmas too many years in a row. Who needed soup when Christmas meant cookies?
That was before I knew what karma was. Now three months out of the year the only thing I can think about is what I can possibly do to make my frozen tummy and blue limbs feel alive again. Ironically, I’ve only just figured out in my last New England winter that the only thing that warms me up quick is a thick batch of cream of “some vegetable” or a chunky, hearty meat stew. I’ve recently been quite fascinated by the trend of blended soups, in which vegetables are roasted or boiled and emulsified in a blender, and so I thought I’d give one a try. I hadn’t seen a recipe for a blended potato soup when I came up with this recipe, but since potatoes and squash are both rather knobby and solid, I figured potatoes might also make a good soup blend. I was in the mood for flavor, but didn’t want to alienate my friends and family so I opted to roast the clove of garlic before putting it in the soup. Roasting garlic turns its pungency into something milder and quite sweet. Once the vegetables were out of the oven, I simply boiled some chicken stock and threw it all together. It’s actually the best and easiest thing I’ve made all winter. Well, that and the cauliflower-parsnip soup I made last night.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 large russet potato, cubed
1 bulb of garlic, unpeeled, with the crown sliced off
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of chicken stock (vegetable stock or water works as well)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the cubed potatoes and garlic with the olive oil, salting them lightly. You don’t want to salt them too liberally here, because they’re going into the soup, which you can adjust later. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
2. When the veggies are done, boil the liquid. Add the veggies and the hot liquid to a blender and pulse. Salt and pepper it to your fancy. Alternatively, if you have an emulsion blender, you can put the roasted vegetables into the hot liquid and blend it together in the pot.