Thursday, November 01, 2007

Root soup

For many years in Milwaukee, the root soup at County Clare was one of my favorite things. I would go there with Jocelyn, or any number of other people, and we would get that and maybe a salad (Waitron: "How is everything?" Jocelyn: "This is the best fucking salad I have ever had.") and I would definitely drink beer and there were some good times. I had a birthday party there once, years ago, that's where we met Brent for the first time, if you can believe that there was a time when we didn't know Brent. And my going-away party, when I left Milwaukee for Atlanta, was there, in the Saint's Snug, which is in the corner by the fireplace and a prime location if you can snag it early on a weekend night. Our roommate, Not-Gay-Jonathan, his father used to run the giftshop (now there's a soccer watching room where the giftshop used to be) and they always decorated really really well for the holidays. And they would put a little shamrock into the foam atop your Guinness. Anyway, there's some other great Irish bars in Milwaukee (I also can wax profoundly upon the merits of Paddy's), but County Clare has a special place in my heart. I didn't realize until writing this just how how much time we spent there--I think we must have wound up there a lot more often than I thought. I remember us walking past the building in the daylight once and I said "what? it's PINK?" Apparently it is, I had just never noticed. Their root soup is that fantastic. Here's my version of it; not as good, but when you are 800 miles from home, beggars simply can't be choosers.

Peeled and chopped into smallish chunks 1 large sweet potato. Dumped it in a roasting pan along with a ton of peeled, chopped carrots--probably at least 2 pounds worth. I just had a ton of extra carrots in the fridge for some reason. Put the pan with the veggies into the oven at 400 and roasted them until soft and lightly browned, tossing often, for about 25-30 minutes. Heated 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in my large cast iron dutch oven pot. Added 1 small onion, chopped and stirred around until it started to get a little bit soft, then added in the roasted sweet potato and carrots from the oven. Also put in about 8 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped. I don't think the original version uses parsnips, but I would have added it if I had had one around the house. I also added one small peeled and chopped up potato because I felt like I had a lot of carrot and needed to balance it out. You don't need to do that if you don't want. After the vegetables were all getting soft, added in about 5 cups of chicken stock and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and covered to simmer for 25 minutes or so. The cream thickens up everything as it simmers. Took the pot off heat and poured the soup through a food mill and cranked it into a clean container. I actually ended up putting it through the food mill twice to smooth it out. If you have a good blender that might work better, but make sure you don't burn yourself. Pour the smooth soup back into your original cooking pot to reheat if necessary and taste for seasoning--I ended up adding a bit of black pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and some salt. By the way, since you had the oven going anyway to roast the carrots and sweet potatoes, dump some cubes of bread (I had pumpernickel and mulitgrain) into the now-empty roasting pan and cover them with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss them around and return them to the oven to crisp up into croutons. Keep a good eye on them, they can burn up, so probably no more than 10 minutes or so. County Clare never put croutons in their soup--but they did drizzle a little crème fraîche shamrock shape on top.

1 comment:

j.bird said...

indeed. it was the grilled vegetable salad, for those of you who care. i am sad to report that the salad declined a bit in quality since my now-infamous praise of it. they changed the formulation of it a bit - i assume for cost reasons. anyway, the soup is as good as ever. i had it on my most recent visit to the homeland, even though it is not technically vegetarian (damn you, chicken stock!).

the funny bit about that story, however, was when the waiter came back and said that the kitchen appreciated my comments. this is why everyone in MKE should support their local irish pubs.