Still have winter veggies left? Yuh, me too. Fortunately it’s raining out (which means that it’s warm enough not to be snowing!), and therefore a good day for soup. And even though this contains the same old winter vegetables that you are tired of, by infusing the milk before adding it to the soup you achieve a complex floral flavor melange. What I’m telling you is that this soup is not boring, and that it’s worth more than your last turnips.
It’s ladled over toast or croutons and cheese, which makes the cheese get all melty and the bread a little soft (I recommend hearty bread that doesn’t fall apart). Altogether very satisfying.
A shareable: good old (he is getting up there) Wendell Berry has a new piece about changes in farming in the last century or so. If you don’t know Wendell Berry and you are interested in food/farming/agriculture/community/the world, make yourself familiar with his work. Start with The Unsettling of America. His main themes are the importance of place, the value of hard work, and the development of community; he is generally anti-industrialist, primarily due to the detrimental effect industrialism has had on our communities.
Recipe from Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for everyone.
Winter Vegetable Chowder Milk: 2 cups whole milk Parsley Thyme (fresh or dried) 2-3 bay leaves 1/2 onion Peppercorns (at least 10) Juniper berries (I didn't actually have any, but they would be awesome) Soup: Butter or oil Leeks or onion 4 cups winter vegetables: carrots, turnips, celeriac, rutabaga, parsnip, sunchokes 2 bay leaves Parsley (and other herbs, as you see fit) Salt 2 tablespoons flour 5 cups water (or stock, but I would say save stock for soups that need more added flavor) Pepper Seedy country sourdough bread, toasted (as stated, choose a hearty bread that won't disintegrate too quickly when added to soup. This is a good use for some of those loaves that turned a little more brick-like than you usually like) Cheese, such as Gruyère, for toast
Steep the milk first: heat it up all the “milk” ingredients in a saucepan or the microwave until boiling, then turn it off, cover, and set aside to infuse.
Chop all the veggies for the soup, in 1/2-3/4 inch chunks. Melt butter or heat oil in a large saucepan/soup pot, and add the vegetables, with the bay leaves, herbs, and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. Stir in the flour, then add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, another 25 minutes or so.
Pour the milk into the soup (strain if you like, although I didn’t—I find it kind of exciting to get a peppercorn in your soup, but you might not). Taste for salt, and pepper as needed.
To serve: place toast in a bowl, and cover with grated cheese. Ladle soup on top, sprinkle with a little extra parsley, and enjoy.