3 Steps to a Great Soup + Celery and Parsnip Soup Recipe
I did not intend this soup to be as good as it is. In fact, I was just trying to use up all the celery in our fridge and to be honest – I don’t even like celery that much. I’ll snack on the occasional peanut butter and celery sticks; I’ll toss some slices in my stir fry or salad too, but beyond that I’m not really into it.
My wife on the other hand loves celery. She’ll chop it up and mix it into just about anything. So I figured at the least she would like the soup and I could tolerate it for a bowl, but what I found was pure celery gold. Mixing it with parsnips was a good first step. Using fresh bay leaves was a good idea and that dash of Ghost Chile pepper … genius (if I do say so myself).
So the recipe that follows is what I did, ingredients approximated and cooking times rounded to the nearest remembrance. Truthfully I always make soups the same way Chef Hash taught me back when I was but a young, cocky and pretty untrained cook working lunch prep. In fact, here are the main tips to a great soup (besides a good soup pot or Dutch oven, which is a given):
3 Steps to a Great Soup –
Step 1: Mise en place
Literally translated from French to English as “putting in place”, it means getting everything you need to cook a specific recipe ready – diced, chopped, sliced, heated or otherwise. In kitchens you’ll hear somebody yell – “Mind you mise!” Meaning they need to get everything ready before starting, because you should never be chopping ingredients whilst cooking other ingredients. Come on nube!
Step 2: Mirepoix
A mirepoix is a mixture of chopped celery, onions, and carrots. There are many variants (like the one above with peppers), which may include just one of these ingredients, or varieties of these ingredients, or include additional herbs, but they are the bass to your beat. When sauteed properly and with intent they make the richness – the depth to any good soup.
Your mirepoix should be cooked slowly over medium-low heat in a heavy bottomed pan until at least soft, sometimes even until caramelization occurs. And that brown stuff that is steadily adhering to the bottom of your pan? That is called fond, and it is a magical ingredient. No, don’t touch it, not yet. Wait until you deglaze with wine or other liquid and then scrape it up with your spoon. That’s where the good stuff comes from. Especially when searing meats.
Use the best you have. Make your own. If all you have is bouillon at least boil some veggies, the leftovers from your mirepoix will do in a pinch, for a few minutes before adding it in. This is the skeleton of your soup, everything is held up or fails according to your stock. Bad stock will make bad soup (but beware, good stock can also be used to make bad soup).
Now, go forth and make this soup. If this turns out good, you can make any soup a great soup using the above steps.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large leek, washed and chopped
- 1 small white onion, finely diced
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 medium parsnip, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh Thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup white wine for deglazing
- 6 cups stock
- 2 parsnips roughly chopped
- 1 Carrot, roughly chopped
- 8 stalks of celery and tops, washed and chopped
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Ghost chile pepper powder or cayenne
- 2 cups cubed bread, preferably whole loaf (not sliced) rustic bread
- In a large, heavy bottom pot heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
- When hot, add finely chopped leeks, onions, carrots and celery.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and brown fond begins to collect on the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes.
- Add thyme and garlic and cook stirring for another 3 minutes.
- Deglaze with wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen fond.
- Add stock, roughly chopped parsnips, carrot and celery; and bay leaves.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Once simmering, remove two of the bay leaves.
- Add a dash of Ghost Chile pepper or cayenne.
- Cook until ingredients are soft and easily smashed with a fork, about 20 minutes.
- Add bread and cook until soft, one or two minutes.
- Blend in batches or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Serve hot.