I opened the latest Saveur magazine which was featuring 101 classic dishes. The very first recipe was salmorejo, a chilled, blended tomato soup topped with chopped, hard-boiled egg and serrano or ibérico ham. I knew immediately I would be making a version with sweet potatoes to go with that night’s brined, grilled chicken. I did not even read the ingredients, but went straight downstairs and began peeling sweet potatoes.
As I was peeling, and then chopping them into large chunks, I was remembering a few other memorable sweet potato soups. The first was a sweet potato, chipotle soup I had in L.A. with my half-sister’s mom who tended to spoil me like a rich aunt whenever I saw her. I was just out of college and had been greatly expanding my cooking repertoire, but that soup rocked my world. It was velvety, sweet, earthy and had a lingering tickle of heat mellowed just enough by a drizzle of tart buttermilk.
The second was a roasted sweet potato and kabocha soup I made for Thansgiving a few years ago. Nothing beats kabocha for sweetness and texture and the roasting of the squash with onions, shallots and garlic intensified that flavor. We served it with tiny, chorizo, cornbread croutons, a chive oil and chipotle crema. I believe people licked their bowls.
As I strolled down soup memory lane, I peeled and chopped an onion, some shallots and tossed it with some unpeeled garlic in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted the lot in the oven. Meanwhile, I set about making the hard boiled eggs and bacon lardons. Once I had fished the bacon from the pan, I threw in a handfull of sage leaves from the garden for garnish. Once the veggies were done I blended them with chicken stock and threw in a chunk of chipotle and adobo from the freezer.
I had been pondering an herby oil drizzle for the soup but the heat was surprisingly intense so I settled instead for some sour cream that I thinned a bit with cream. I would have used buttermilk if I had it but I didn’t so that was that. Once the eggs were done and peeled, I pushed them through a sieve and packed all the accoutrements into a tiffin to be transported to our friend’s house where we’d be dining.
The day before a friend had brought us a giant chicken she had slaughtered and plucked. We had brined it overnight using Thomas Keller’s lemony, garlic brine and decided to slather it in herbs and grill it over some hardwood charcoal. The sweet heat of the soup was an excellent match for the smokey, intensely crisped-skin chicken. And a simple, crunchy salad on the side was a pleasant palette cleanser. Our friends finished us off with a luscious peach cobbler topped with whipped cream.
All in all a great meal with wonderful friends to kick off Fall feasting season.
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 large onion
3 small shallots
4 garlic cloves
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 chipotle and 1 T adobo sauce
1 T thyme
1/2 cup sour cream
4 pieces bacon
Preheat oven to 450°.
Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Peel onions and shallots and cut onion into 8 pieces and shallots in half. Leave skins on garlic. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Roast about 40 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown.
Meanwhile, place eggs in small pot and cover with water to an inch over eggs. Heat to boiling, cover, turn off heat and let sit 18 minutes. Place in ice water for 2 minutes, then peel. Gently pull eggs apart to separate white and yolk. Press each through a sieve to make very tiny pieces.
Cook bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cook sage leaves in bacon fat for about 20 seconds and drain on paper towels.
Thin sour cream with cream or milk until drizzle-able.
Remove garlic skins and blend until very smooth in batches with sweet potatoes, onions, broth, thyme and chipotle and adobo. Return to pot. Heat, then ladle into bowls garnishing with bacon, eggs, sage and a drizzle of cream.