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Parsnip Comfort Soup

05 February

Okay, it’s true confessions time. I don’t like parsnips… well, at least, I thought I didn’t. Turns out I’m just not keen on their “parsnippy” flavor when they’re a-la-carte. We’ve started getting parsnips in the boxes again, and here I was on the verge of admitting defeat… but instead I decided to give them another shot. And wouldn’t you know it, I learned something new! My dislike was misdirected; I realized that they are great when mixed with other things, so that their flavor compliments instead of dominates. Who’d’a thunkit? It’s almost like a completely different vegetable! And what did I prepare that changed my mind? Soup. Simple, humble root soup.

I call it “Parsnip Comfort Soup”, because it is, well, just like it sounds. It’s not knock-your-socks-off-Wow! stuff; it is fall-apart comfort goodness like a cozy, warm blanket. Absolutely fabulous for this cold, grey, rainy weather we’re having. A steamy bowl of this is just so delicious; subtle, yet complex because the flavors of the different veggies you include imbue the stock with mellow richness.

And you know me, I’m all about simple, accessible cooking; stuff that’s easy for anyone to do – no fancy techniques or specialty ingredients involved. This is very forgiving.

In a nutshell, you heat stock of some sort*, add coarsely chunked up veggies plus some salt, peppercorns and chopped parsley, then cover and simmer it all for an hour or so… and that’s it! I’ve made this twice now, with different “supporting” veggies, and both versions just hit the spot.

*It’s always best with homemade stock, of course: vegetable, chicken, beef bones – I used chicken stock here (I always save carcasses and make my own/freeze it). This would probably also be lovely using just a ham hock and water as the “stock” — simmer the hock in several cups of water for a couple hours, until it’s falling apart; remove and dice up meat then add it back to pot along with veggies and cook that additional hour or so, ’til veggies are falling-apart soft.

What veggies?
parsnips
carrots
onion – red or yellow; doesn’t matter
celery

Optional (any or all)
fennel
potatoes
mushrooms
rutabaga
celery root (celeriac)

What seasonings?
just salt & pepper [I like whole peppercorns] and a goodly amount of chopped parsley

Also optional
meat — you could certainly add chunks of chicken if using a chicken stock, or chunks of beef if using beef… maybe even some sausage of some sort (I already mentioned ham hocks above, when discussing stock); but it is certainly not at all necessary. Again, it’s really forgiving.

Steps
Simply thaw/heat your frozen stock while you chop up your veggies. Peel and coarsely chunk up parsnips and celery root (if using – I used celery root this time, because I didn’t have any celery); toss ’em into the pot. The carrots are small right now, so just scrub them then nip off the tops and tails and maybe cut them in half. Chunk up anything else you’re adding… mushrooms, fennel, celery, whatever… add to pot. Chop up a bunch of parsley, add that. Toss in some peppercorns, add a little salt, bring just to a boil then turn down heat to the barest simmer, cover, and cook about an hour while you go do something else (make a salad, clean up the kitchen, help your kids with homework, whatever); the pot doesn’t have to be “babysat”.

Make yourself a pot of this soup, then serve it up with any green salad you like and maybe some good bread and butter (mmm, I’m thinking Companion Bakeshop’s fresh sourdough… you know, from the CSA’s bread option?) and you’ve got yourself a meal. The soup makes great left-overs for lunch, too, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch!

Here’s the ingredients for today’s batch.
ParsnipComfortSoup-1
Start thawing/heating the stock while you chop veggies.
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Peel the parsnips, cut out any funky spots (sometimes they get hit with the digging fork, as in this case), cut into big chunks (no need to dice).
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You can add the chopped veggies as you go; you don’t have to wait and add them all at once.
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It’s not easy to peel a celery root with a peeler – I typically use a paring knife to cut away the outside down to its white interior, and work around its gnarly-root bottom.
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The carrots are small so just scrub them; no need to peel. (That smashed and distorted veggie scrub brush may look awful — it’s old, from the now defunct Fuller Brush Company — but it has nice stiff bristles and does the job; plus I haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement!)
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Here’s the pot with all the veggies freshly added… parsnips, celery root, carrot, red onion, mushrooms, parsley and peppercorns (they sunk to the bottom).
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And here it is again an hour later. Notice how the parsnips are nice and soft.
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Lastly, this is the version I made the week before, with parsnips, carrots, celery, fennel, yellow onion (and the parsley, salt and peppercorns). Slightly different in flavor, with the fennel adding a nice dimension, but both were equally delicious!
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Oh, and this photo has nothing to do with anything except I just had to share it with you guys ‘cuz it’s so fun! This is Belina, one of my chickens, “helping” me with the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle (Faye and Audrey kibbitzing below) as I sit on my back steps and enjoy some sunshine.
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