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: 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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.