Two soups in one bowl makes a most festive first course for a holiday or special occasion meal.
I’ve served this pureed vegetable soup duo on many occasions and these two soups in one bowl always elicits surprise both for color and the combination of flavors. Both soups are straightforward vegetable purees, brightened with acid and extended and lightened in color with a small amount of half&half. The pale green and orange colors also a natural couple that fall opposite each other on the color wheel. Fennel isn’t the best known vegetable. It’s appears on many Mediterranean tables, most notably Italian, where it is served in many ways from raw and shaved to braised. With a flavor like mild licorice-celery, it pairs nicely with the sweetness of the butternut squash.
Preparing fennel is easy. First, cut the bottom off the bulb and trim back the stems.
Quarter the bulb lengthwise. Then cut everything crosswise into slices, including all the flavorful green fronds. They are a cousin of dill.
Prepping a leeks begins the same way. Cut off the tip with the roots.
Cut off the dry ends of the dark green top and reserve for use in another soup or for broth.
Split the leek lengthwise.
Then give it a quarter turn and split it lengthwise again to open it up. There usually is a good deal of sand between the leaves.
Rinse the leaves under running water to remove all the sand. Cutting it lengthwise allows the fibrous leaves to open like a flower.
Then cut the white part crosswise for use in these soups or any other recipe.
The backbone of the soups, however, is my enriched chicken broth — ebroth for short — which I make by simmering the carcass of any cooked chicken, half an onion, a few celery leaves and some dried thyme with commercial chicken broth, covered, for about 45 minutes.
It’s important not to let the broth simmer too quickly — this video shows a good rate for that. The most intense broth results from cooking any chicken frame (all the bones stripped of meat and skin) with 1 quart of boxed broth but that can be stretched to 2 quarts.
The only tricky business is setting up the assembly line of warm bowls for the two soups — with the garnishes at the ready — and then ladling the simmering soup into each one. Serve immediately! With family and guests on hand at the holidays there should be no short supply of willing helpers to ferry the bowls to the table.
(Photos: Lisa Deyo)
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