So. These are strange days—trying to balance outrage and action and also the joy in resistance, in daily life, without which what even is the point?
|We marched in DC, and it was magic. I can hardly even talk about it. It's like a beloved's photograph in the locket of my heart.|
Our congresspeople’s numbers are all in my phone, and I am calling their DC and local offices to express concern about whatever feels most pressing on any given day. I am following the alternative Twitter accounts of our country’s custodians of science. Less nobly, I am hoping that this half an onion in a bag gets more Twitter followers than Trump.
|I have never loved Michael more.|
Also, we are laughing at every opportunity. We are sleeping with cats. I am putting down my phone to greet the children when they get home from school. We are eating warmly and well. Like this soup, which is extremely delicious. If butterfat troubles you, don’t make it, okay? I mean, if you’re vegan, feel free to swap in alternative products—you could definitely do something great with cashew cream at the end here. But if the fat itself is a worry, make something else, because the fat is necessary. We need to store up fat for the long winter of our coming discontents. This is the plan.
Birdy and I recently ate this soup at Duckfat in Portland, ME, and it blew us away. You can be confident that Duckfat is a wonderful place because, despite the fact that there is almost nothing on the menu our vegetarian girl can eat—there is duck fat in the French fries, in the doughnuts, in the caramel that goes into most of the milkshakes—Birdy always wants to go there. This soup would be reason enough. When we got home, I Googled around, and found the recipe online! I scaled it down a little, but it still makes a lot.
|Prettier garnishes. But go with the grilled-cheese croutons, if you can.|
Creamy Tomato-Fennel Soup with Grilled-Cheese Croutons
This recipe is adapted from Rob Evans, the chef of Duckfat in Portland, ME. The truth is that I’ve made it with his recommended amount of cream—which, in the scaled-down recipe below, is a full quart—and it’s fantastic that way, if a tad rich. Half that amount of cream is good too, but then the acidity of the tomatoes breaks through a little more, and I’ve found you need to add significantly more sugar to balance it—up to a tablespoon or two or more. Three cups of cream is pretty much the happy medium here. This is not a light soup. But oh, it is so comforting and good. (There are some process shots of soup-making, including quartered and cored fennel, below.)
1 large fennel bulb
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole fennel seed
½ cup white wine
2 (28-ounce cans) peeled whole or crushed tomatoes (I use San Marzano whenever I can)
1 teaspoon (plus) sugar
2-4 cups heavy cream (Try 3 cups. See headnote)
Kosher salt and black pepper
A grilled cheese sandwich, cut into small squares, for garnish
1. Deal with the fennel: trim off the green tops (save some of the feathery fronds for garnish, if you like), then cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise and trim out the core. Now slice the fennel thin (crosswise or lengthwise—it’s all going in the blender later so it doesn’t really matter) by hand, mandolin, or food processor.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy soup pot and add the fennel, onion, salt, and fennel seeds. Sauté for a minute our two, then cover the pot and “sweat” the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they have given up a lot of liquid and that liquid has largely cooked off—about 10 minutes.
3. Add the wine and cook, uncovered, until the wine is mostly gone (another few minutes), then stir in the tomatoes and the sugar, bring to a simmer, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
4. Stir in the cream, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until the fennel is very tender. Add a big grinding of pepper.
5. Now puree the soup in a blender, in batches. You know how to do this safely, right? Fill the blender jar only half full, remove the center of the lid and use a dish towel over the hole (this prevents steam building up and blowing the lid off).
6. Strain the soup if you like. This is kind of a fussy step, and it’s not strictly necessary, but it’s quite lovely to have a perfectly smooth puree without little fennely strings and bits of fennel-seed husk.
7. Return the soup to the pot, reheat gently, and taste. You are going to need to add more salt, maybe more sugar, and maybe more cream. You want the soup to taste balanced and delicious. Keep adding and stirring and tasting, even if it feels like it’s taking a long time to get it exactly right.
8. Serve the soup with the grilled-cheese croutons or with a drizzle of cream (or sour cream) and a sprinkle of chopped fennel fronds.