celery root soup

It has been unusually cold in my neck of the woods this winter, and all I want to do is lay in bed with my hot water bottle (because I’m secretly an 80 year old man) and look at cookbooks. And eat everything. All the time. I’ve been craving belly warming things, like stews and soups and hot beverages. Luckily for me, the holidays left behind a few ham bones, which made excellent split pea soup, and turkey carcasses so there have been several soup du jour at my house over the last few weeks.

Since someone has been in lazybones mode lately, a result of December being the crazy busy month that it was, I only want to make things that require little effort/minimal dish washing and soup seems to fit the bill very nicely. I’ve been really into creamy vegetable soups that don’t actually involve a whole lot of heavy cream so I decided it was time for a celery root soup, which I’d been dying to make for weeks.

This recipe immediately caught my eye because it starts off with a little fried bacon, followed by leeks sauteed in the reserved bacon fat. I am a firm believer that bacon makes everything better (I recently met a very lovely young man who was sure he won the heart of his partner with homemade bacon infused bourbon) and I’m pretty sure that that philosophy applies to this soup. The smokiness of the bacon gives it this extra bit of flavor that might be lacking otherwise, and the crispy bacon garnish adds just the right amount of texture. It’s one of those soups that you just can’t wait to go home and eat, especially on a cold day.

celery root soup with bacon

adapted from Gourmet

serves 4

3 medium leeks (3/4 lb), white and pale green parts only

3 bacon slices or 1 tablespoon butter if omitting bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 lb celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 cups water

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/3 cup inner celery leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup half-and-half

Halve leeks lengthwise, then coarsely chop. Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out onto paper towels and pat dry.

Cook bacon in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.

Reserve 2 teaspoons of fat from the bacon, then add oil and cook leeks over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add celery root and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add water and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until celery root is very tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in a blender  or food processor until smooth. Return soup to cleaned pot. If soup is too thick, thin with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. Stir in salt, pepper, and half-and-half and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm. Top with chopped celery leaves and coarsely crumbled bacon.

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