Dinner:  January 5, 2009

For what seems like the umpteenth time in a row, I got home from work, started in on what I thought was going to be a risotto, then realized that I still haven’t restocked our Carnaroli rice. In this situation, though, it was easy to switch gears quickly – with aromatics already sautéing in a mix and butter and olive oil, and stock simmering on a back burner, soup was the obvious answer to “what do I do now?”

The key players in the soup were celery root and apple. I love these flavors on their own and thought they’d marry well in a dish, and my original plan was to grate them, cook them along with my softened shallot in that butter-oil mixture, then add the rice and proceed as usual. Instead, I peeled both and cut them into chunks, adding them to the pan with the shallots, and then pouring some vermouth and my warmed stock in. Once everything was tender I tasted and adjusted the seasoning (just sea salt, in this case), but I felt like I wanted one more component. I decided to add a cup or so of leftover mashed potatoes I had in the fridge – the potato would add some creaminess when the soup was blended together, without adding the richness of heavy cream, and the neutral flavor would let the flavors of the celery root and apple shine through.

Once the potato had melted into the soup, I pureed the mixture with a stick blender and tasted again for seasoning. I decided to give it a hit of the hard cider we still had in the fridge for a little bit of brightness. To keep the texture really smooth, I pressed the soup through a fine mesh strainer before pouring it into our bowls. I added a couple of croutons topped with chopped walnuts and melted Great Hill Blue cheese to each serving. It was even better than I expected – rich and creamy but not heavy, with a velvety texture and subtle nuances of both celery and apple flavor. The croutons added a nice punch of flavor as well, though next time I might crumble a little more of the blue cheese over the top.

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