Ricki Cooking School, Chapter Two – Sweet Potato Soup

I made Thanksgiving this year for the largest group I’ve made it for so far. It was very exciting. Of course, I had help. My in-laws brought Burgundy mushrooms and seven-layer cookies. My friends Vanessa and Peter brought two kinds of homemade rolls and the essential, pumpkin pie. My friends Gretchen and Geoffrey brought green bean casserole and stuffing. Geoffrey carved the bird. My father-in-law washed up. My mother-in-law helped me set up appetizers. Gretchen helped me serve. The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is when it’s a group project like that. Everyone comes together to make a holiday for each other. It’s, you know . . . hamish.

My most successful dish was, as ever, sweet potato soup. I use my stepmom’s recipe. The thing about this soup is, having it was the first time I ever liked sweet potatoes. Or pureed soups. Or, um, a Thanksgiving meal. (I am not a fan of most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. And when I was a kid, I was especially picky.)

So, with the hope that she won’t be mad at me for publicizing it, here’s how you make Sweet Potato Soup:

1. Chop up some garlic and onions. How many? Well, my instructions say three garlic cloves and one onion. Knowing myself as I do, I probably only used one onion but I probably used more garlic. Given that this recipe comes from my stepmother, I probably trusted her garlic amount to some extent – like, I used six large cloves and not a whole head – but I’m certain I’ve never used only three garlic cloves to make anything in the whole course of my life.

2. Melt some unsalted butter in a large pot. My instructions say one tbsp but basically you want enough to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and then, when that’s fragrant, add the onions. Let them sauté until they’re soft (so keep the heat relatively low).

3. Cut up four large sweet potatoes. Like, baby’s-head large. My instructions say to peel them, but I don’t, because a) all the nutrition is in the skin! and b) it’s a pain in the ass. Throw in the pot.

4. Add broth to cover. I used vegetable broth on Thanksgiving because I had a vegetarian at table (who didn’t care but still) and also I’m trying to use non-meat products where possible. I have done it with chicken broth before. I honestly don’t think it makes one whit of difference what kind of broth you use here. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are soft (15 min – 1/2 an hour). (Sometimes at this stage I throw in a whole sprig or two of rosemary and then take it out before step 5. I didn’t yesterday but one could.) (Also throwing in some white wine at this stage probably wouldn’t hurt anything.)

My instructions say that this is the point where you could stop, cover and refrigerate until later. I usually do the next step first.

5. Let cool slightly, then puree, either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. I use an immersion blender because it is so very much easier. I really don’t think I’d make this soup if I didn’t have one. Seriously, they’re cheap, so if you like pureed soups or if you’re going to home-make baby food or anything, get one.

This is the point where I cover and chill until I’m nearly ready to serve it. Then I bring it up to a simmer again while I make garnish.

6. The garnish: This Thanksgiving I toasted walnuts and rosemary with some olive oil and salt to sprinkle on top. You could also use hazelnuts, pecans, or a mix. You could use sage or thyme instead of or in addition to rosemary. I make that while the soup is reheating (or, if I am making it all the same day I’m serving, while the soup simmers away).

7. Once it’s reheated, salt and pepper that baby (unless you did that before, which would have been fine) and then stir in some heavy cream. How much cream? I don’t know. Pour and stir until the soup is of a color and consistency that look tasty to you. Then serve and sprinkle with the garnish.

Important reheating information: Cream must be reheated delicately. No microwaving the leftovers. Heat it in a pot on medium-low to low heat. Don’t let it fully boil. If you have a whole lot of soup and not a whole lot of people, keep some aside, un-creamed, and cream it the next time you heat it up.




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