mains, sides

fennel soup + chorizo mini-meatballs.

fennel soup + chorizo mini-meatballs.

Sunday, 6 October 2013, 1:00 pm.

  • weather: chilly and waffling between clouds and sun; a little moody. sweater weather.
  • sleep quality: wonderful, mostly because it was cold in the house all night.
  • plans: none, except for a little recipe experimentation.
  • sound: football, as background noise; iPod, on a weather-appropriate shuffle.
  • owl candelabra:Β lit up like a Christmas tree, as are most of the other candles. Chilly weather calls for flickering flame of some sort.
  • lunch/dinner craving: this soup.

Who knew fennel soup was so entirely soul-satisfying? I, for one, did not. I couldn’t quite put my finger on how it would taste, considering it looks a lot like a celery root soup, somehow creamy, yet without any cream in it. I’ve had some experience with fennel in the recent past, but nothing which would lead me to believe that this soup would turn into one of my favorites.Β 

I thought it would be slightly boring. Maybe it would be un-boring, but certainly a little one-note, right? I mean, fennel: it’s fennel. A strong, singular flavor. I wasn’t prepared for the depth in which I would adore this soup, nor was I prepared for how much everyone else would like it, either. Non-foodie people, even: they loved it. People don’t always realize it, but fennel, when prepared this way, is a familiar flavor: it’s reminiscent of a classic italian meatball, and indeed, it’s one of the spices which typically goes into them.

fennel soup + chorizo mini-meatballs.

The soup is wonderful on its own , but what really makes it a party? The tiny chorizo meatballs. I’m not always one for chorizo by itself, but drowned in this soup, they are outstanding little balls of spice explosion. they pair wonderfully with the caramelized fennel flavor, but in a way that both the soup and the meatballs retain their individuality. When throw together, they sing.

I think of this as a more sophisticated take on that “let’s make a pot of chili” feeling which comes over us on those frosty weekends. Chili, don’t get me wrong, is fabulous, but if you’re looking for something different, but just as guy-friendly (because, friends, that’s who enjoyed this the most: the dudes), think about making this. It’s spicy and excellent, and you’ll want to make it anytime you feel that snap of cold in the morning.

fennel soup + chorizo mini-meatballs.

Best thing of all: fennel is wonderful for you. It’s a natural detoxifier, so you can feel good while eating it. Sure, the chorizo can be fatty, but you can add or subtract meatballs as you see fit, and you’ll still get all the heartiness. Besides, chorizo has lots of redeeming qualities, like its unmatched spice and endless flavor, so meatballs or no, don’t skip the oil drizzle before serving: it really brings out fennel’s surprising meaty side.

Adapted from Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy by Gordon Ramsay, which remains one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, and for good reason. The way that man puts a recipe together is really something, even when you’re dealing with simple or few-ingredient recipes. It’s truly beautiful; he’s really a food artist, in my opinion. I’m reminded of this every time I crack open one of his books.

Fennel Soup + Chorizo Mini-Meatballs

for the soup:

  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 fennel bulbs, cores removed, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced thinly
  • 8 cups unsalted good-quality chicken or vegetable stock (i like Kitchen Basics)
  • 1 cup parsely, lightly packed and finely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

for the meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed

to serve:

  • chorizo oil (reserved from cooking meatballs)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Note: all chorizos are not created equally, so always try to find the best one you can. Obviously this can translate not only to your meatballs, but also to the vibrancy and spiciness of your serving oil. If your feel like yours isn’t dramatic enough in flavor or color, throw a little smoked paprika (or sweet, if that’s what you have) into the oil after you’ve removed the meatballs: it adds a little spice and helps the color along nicely. If you have to do this, make sure to stir up the oil prior to spiraling it over the top: the paprika tends to sink a little to the bottom when left alone.

Make the soup:

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and celery, and stir to coat in olive oil. Cook until everything has softened and fennel has just started to get golden, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and let cook for about 30 seconds, then add the stock, parsley, coriander, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for around 45 minutes.

When simmered down to your liking, remove from the heat, fish out your bay leaves, and leave to cool for a few minutes. Working either with an immersion blender or (in batches) a blender, blend the soup until velvety and smooth. Return it to the pan (if you used a blender) and season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Begin to heat again on low so it’s ready when your meatballs are.

Make the meatballs:

Using your hands, shape the chorizo into 3/4 inch balls (diameter). They don’t have to be super tiny, but a smaller meatball here is good: you should get about 60 total when all is said and done.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches once your skillet is hot, cook your meatballs until they are browned and cooked through, which, depending on size, could take you anywhere from 5-8 minutes.

While the are cooking, set out some paper towels on a large plate. When your meatballs are done, transfer them to the paper towels, keeping as much of the choriso oil as possible in the pan (I suggest using tongs), but allowing the paper towels to de-grease whatever remains on the meatballs.

Once all the meatballs are cooked, look to see how much oil you have in your pan. if you need to, add a little more oil to the pan and let heat for a minute or so to absorb the spice. Remove oil to a small, heatproof dish (like a ramekin.)

Serve that soup:

Since I’m all for equality, I like serving this in low bowls, with the meatballs set in ahead of the soup; it’s the only way to make sure everyone gets the same amount. Layer the meatballs in first – as many as you wish, keeping in mind number of guests – then ladle the hot soup over top. Garnish with a fling of chopped fresh parsley, and drizzle the spicy chorizo oil over top in a little spiral. SO fancy. Serve immediately.

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  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats October 7, 2013 at 10:27 am

    owl candelabra?! I need to see a picture of that. So jealous you had a chilly weekend. Hopefully today is the last day in the 70s until spring. I’ve never pureed fennel but that sound like a wonderful idea…and these mini meatballs are so cute!! I love chorizo. I am SO making this soup asap. It sounds seriously amazing, Shannon. and that drizzle on top is so purty…so clever reserving the chorizo oil πŸ˜‰

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:27 am

      just for you, amy, i’ll make a photo of the owl candelabra. it’s wonderful. there’s just the one owl, but he sits in the middle of all the candles looking very glamorous. πŸ™‚
      make the soup! i had never pureed fennel until this soup either, and it was pretty amazing watching what was just chunks of vegetable turn into cream…all on its own! I hope you love it when you try it: i’m a big sucker for chorizo also, and those paired with the fennel makes you just want to snuggle up in a sweater by the fire.

  • Reply Monica October 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Mini chorizo meatballs! Yum! I’m not a big fan of raw fennel but I think I would enjoy this way a lot. I love thick soups like this that don’t have cream or dairy. I’m totally daydreaming about piping hot soup these days…

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Monica, everyone has their specific way of liking (and not liking) fennel, i think. I can eat it all the ways, but i prefer it this way: cooked down to really get that pizza-ish flavor going. I’m also a fan of thick soups that don’t need cream assistance: it’s nice not having the extra stuff in there.

  • Reply Willow October 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I. Want. This. Soup. I take that back, I *need* this soup in my life, and in my belly. I’ve never had anything like it, but I just know how the fennel caramelizes, how the chorizo offsets it, how they would work so perfectly together… it almost makes me swoon over Gordon Ramsey, which I never thought would be possible. Thanks for sharing the recipe — it’s going onto my to-make list some chilly night this year!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:30 am

      confession: i swoon over gordon ramsay a lot: it’s like a weird secret crush or something, and i never know if it’s him, or just his cooking. it’s only mildly embarassing most days, but he deserves some big hugs for this particular soup/meatball combo. I would have never thought of it on my own, but he’s great for inspiration. We underrate him here, but he’s so much more than just some screaming crazy cooking show person.

  • Reply Faygie October 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    This soup sounds incredible!

    After a HOT weekend (90 degrees) we finally have some cooler temps (and possibly some rain) in the forecast, and I CAN NOT wait! I was so excited to plan this week’s menu. I may need to add this to next week’s menu, if the cooler weather continues.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

      I’m SO thrilled you are getting cooler weather right now! I think it’s unfair in october to still be dealing with hot temps, no matter where you’re located. Cruel, even. πŸ™‚ if you don’t get a chance to make this soup soon, definitely add it to a winter week menu: preferably one that’s rainy…this recipe goes SO well with rain and gloom. and sweaters. πŸ™‚

      • Reply Faygie October 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

        Unfortunately it didn’t last–we’re back into the mid-80’s :p

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats October 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    i could totally make this because the high is only 87 thursday!! 87!! That means I might even get to wear a hoodie on my way to work in the morning, because it might be like 60 or something out.

    And fennel soup, you say? Detoxifying and life changing, you say? Hmm….


    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:35 am

      get out the sweatshirts! poor AZ: always sweltering when everyone else is frolicking through falling leaves. i hate that for you.

      SO detoxifying! I guess raw is always healthier than cooked with most any vegetable, but you don’t cook it a ton, so i bet all the good stuff is still in there for you. AND no cream, which doesn’t detract from it.

      ALL the owls are friends. except this one pesky one, but he lives in my room. it’s like those cats that suddenly attack all the other cats. Potholder owl especially likes Candelabra owl, as they occupy the same space. Candelabra owl is MUCH more stately, but they appreciate each others’ differences.

  • Reply Deb October 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I adore the flavors of fennel and celery paired with spicy meatballs! What a fantastic fall dinner recipe!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:36 am

      thank you, Deb! I hope you get a chance to try this one out; i plan to make it repeatedly this fall and winter.

  • Reply Sharon October 7, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I love soup, especially soup with sausage in it. Fantastic! Going to check out that cookbook, too. Thanks!

    • Reply Sharon October 9, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      Made this tonight and am scraping the bottom of my bowl! My chorizo, unfortunately, didn’t even come close to making meatballs, but I made a full recovery with some spare linguica. It’s our first cool rainy night, and this completely hit the spot.

      • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

        Sharon, i’m so happy you liked the soup! And i’m sad about the meatballs; i wonder what happened? πŸ™ let me know if it’s having to do with just different types of chorizo, because i’d love to include it in the recipes notes. I’d hate to be telling people to make something that doesn’t universally work, and i’m not a chorizo expert by any stretch of the imagination.

        • Reply Sharon October 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

          Not your fault at all! I love this soup!! I used a Mexican chorizo that was way too finely ground, very common in So Cal supermarkets, but I know now to hunt for versions with the texture of standard Italian sausage. Just posted my notes, with full kudos to you, here/a>

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook October 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I do like fennel and I do like chorizo. I also like owl candleholders. And the cookbook sounds check out worthy if I ever give back the books that are overdue. Thanks, Shannon. I’m going to try this!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:39 am

      if you like all those things, then i’d recommend checking this cookbook out if you can: it’s a great book for simple meals that are heart-warming; lots of good stuff for all seasons, but his recipes for fall and winter are particularly lovely.

  • Reply movita beaucoup October 8, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Awwww, yah! Fennel has its day! I love, love, love fennel! And chorizo? COME ON. This sounds like the perfect autumn meal. It also sounds like something I could eat over a long weekend – one of which we have coming up. We celebrate Thanksgiving in a few days. We do it early so we can eat more, have a break, and then eat again over the holidays. It’s why Canada one of the coolest countries on the planet. (Just sayin’.)

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:41 am

      If there’s one thing i’ve learned since meeting you and all the other fine Canadians who visit this blog, is that canada may be the ACTUAL COOLEST COUNTRY on the planet. I want to visit all of its things and people so badly.

  • Reply Brianne October 8, 2013 at 6:40 am

    I. Must. Make this! I love, love fennel. And who would have thought to pair it with chorizo? Chorizo is hard to come by these parts, but there’s a Maine food blogger who has a pretty good recipe for adding the right spices to ground pork as a cheat. I love the weather these days. We’re having such a beautiful autumn here–so much sun and temps in the 60s every day. Also, I love that dudes were into this soup. Way to go!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Oh i hope you make this! I know it gets lovely and crisp and cold up there in Maine, so save it for one of those gloriously chilly nights; it’ll warm you right up. Certainly diy chorizo is perfect in this: any spicy sausage will do, especially one with a good amount of fennel seed in it to complement the flavors.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog October 8, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I like soup in all forms during the chilly months. I think fennel soup sounds delicious, especially spiked with cream.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Soup is great when it’s chilly, right? So easy to make, and your house always ends up smelling delicious, and the extra heat from the stove is a bonus, at least for this girl, who lives in a perpetual state of cold all winter long. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Buck Weber October 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

    It’s the soup season again and I have found a new one to try!

    • Reply shannon October 10, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Wonderful! You gotta love soup season; i look forward to it every year. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Monet October 8, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    I’m not sure what sounds better…the fennel soup or the meatballs. I guess the beauty with this dish is that I don’t have to choose! I’ll take both please! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Your photographs are just stunning!

    • Reply shannon October 10, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Thank you so much, Monet! I’m not sure what’s better either: both the soup and the meatballs are pretty great on their own as well! best not to have to choose, though. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Emma October 9, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I ate a lot of fennel when I lived in France, because it seemed very French to buy inconveniently-sized items laden with large leafy fronds. But I haven’t had too much since, not sure why not….. this looks and sounds so so so delicious, I’m feeling incredibly hungered all of a sudden. To the jar of Biscoff!

    • Reply Emma October 11, 2013 at 6:32 am

      Going to make this tonight! so pumped already.

  • Reply elizabeth October 9, 2013 at 7:48 am

    It’s funny that you mention that it’s a GR recipe–I have a similar one (I want to say for leek and chorizo soup) from his Fast Food cookbook, and it’s one of my favorites too! I’m definitely saving this for a particularly cold and chilly day when I want something substantial but not too heavy. (In my book, a little extra fat from chorizo is no big deal if it’s being paired with a bunch of vegetables, so bring on the meatballs!)

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

      I love his Fast Food cookbook! I have that one in my library as well, and although i haven’t gotten ’round to making much from it, i plan to this year. This soup is definitely hearty, but not in that overly heavy way, which is nice. I think you can vary how filling it is nicely by how many meatballs you throw in there, so it works for all sorts of hunger. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ashley October 9, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Just…..get this soup into my belly immediately!!! I strongly suspect it will rock my tastebuds’ world and make me very happy/cozy/satisfied.

    I’m constantly amazed by how caramelized fennel is so thoroughly different in taste from raw fennel….and you’re right, it’s addictive and perfectly reminiscent of Italian cooking. And chorizo – that’s another food I adore, whether it’s the fresh sausage of Mexican style chorizo (LOTS of paprika, please!) or the dried meat of Spanish chorizo (atop crusty bread with some vino!). Lady, you never cease to woo me and my hungry belly.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:48 am

      If i lived near you, i would have totally come over amidst all your wedding plans to make you this soup. You could use it! it’s very calming. πŸ™‚

      isn’t fennel so interesting that way! it’s like a chameleon that way; it can become whatever you want it to be in terms of flavor, which is one of the things i love most about it. Chorizo is wonderful: i don’t treat myself to it often (simply b/c i don’t eat a ton of meat), but i do love it, the spicier the better.

      I love wooing you with food. πŸ™‚

  • Reply john@kitchenriffs October 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve done a lot with fennel (such a great veggie!) but have only made a few soups. And nothing as hearty as this! Looks terrific. Super idea – thanks so much.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

      SUCH a great vegetable, i agree! it’s sad when people dismiss it thinking it just tastes like licorice, because they’re really missing out on all it can do. I’m happy you like this!

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} October 9, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Fennel is one of my favorite things in the universe. I even like munching on it raw. So I’m thrilled for this soup!

    I need new pandora station suggestions. Lately I’ve been stuck on the Patty Griffin station and I think it’s making me depressed.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:52 am

      I’m late to the fennel party, but i’ve discovered i’m also one who can enjoy it both raw and cooked: and i never thought that would be possible. It’s a great snack raw; i like it with a little hummus.

      ha! patty griffin is what i like to call “happily depressed” music: not terrifyingly sad, but with a very melancholy tone that sneaks up on you and makes you woe it out a little bit. πŸ™‚ let’s talk. I’ve got Julianna Barwick playing on my iPod right now, so i fear i may be in the same zone.

  • Reply Isabelle @ Crumb October 9, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    I came for the fennel soup, but I stayed for the chorizo meatballs. Hello gorgeousness! πŸ™‚ I have a feeling this will be appearing on my dinner table just as soon as I can pick up some fresh chorizo!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:53 am

      I’m just happy you’re here, Isabelle! πŸ™‚ This soup is like a gimme for the cold months: so easy. you get that fresh chorizo and get to it.

  • Reply Katherine November 16, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    We have SO MUCH left-over chorizo at the wine shop and I was wondering what to do with it! Score!
    Unfortunately, no owl candelabras over here, which strikes me as an extreme oversight. Must acquire.

    • Reply shannon November 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      yes, do it! the soup can be made sans the chorizo meatballs, certainly, but they make a lovely addition, and i would hate to see any chorizo go to waste.
      no owl candelabras?!? seriously, a must for restaurants and the home.

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