Monday, November 16, 2009

Rachel's Roasted Asian Pear and Fennel Soup

It's time to start planning exciting veggie side dishes to go with that big, boring Thanksgiving turkey. To jump-start your menu planning, we're blogging hearty, seasonal, late-autumn fare from now until the big day. And check out our Thanksgiving tag for inspiration from years past.

Our first Thanksgiving submission is another genius recipe from Hannah's sister! This soup combines the crisp, delicate flavors of two November favorites--Asian pears and fennel--roasted to bring out their rich, creamy potential. The result is a lovely blend of sweet and savory, an excellent first course if you're serving anything sharply-flavored like arugula. Although there are a lot of concurrent activities here, most of this recipe is inactive: you're basically just waiting around for half an hour or so while the pears and fennel roast, the stock simmers and the onions caramelize.

3 medium-sized Asian pears, diced (save the cores for stock)
1 bulb fennel, diced (save the stalks for stock and the fronds for garnish)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 onion, sliced into rings (save skins and trimmings for stock)
1/4 cup whole peppercorns
1/2 cup apple cider

For garnish:
Plain yogurt (optional if you want to make it vegan)
Fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 375. In a 9 x 13 inch pan, toss the fennel and pears with two tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, until very soft.

Meanwhile, combine pear cores, fennel stalks, onion skins & trimmings and peppercorns in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer while everything else cooks, about half an hour, then strain out solids.

While the stock is simmering and the pears and fennel are roasting, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned and soft.

Now, put it all together: combine the roasted pears, fennel, 3 cups of stock, caramelized onions and cider in a blender and blend until very smooth. (We also passed ours through a food mill to remove any grainy pieces of Asian pear peel and get the texture extra-velvety.) Add salt and pepper to taste and then serve with a swirl of yogurt and some chopped fennel fronds.

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