Let’s just talk about this for a minute.
I had a moment the other day. My man and I had finally made it, after many, many months, to our downtown Saturday Farmer’s Market. As we were wandering up and down the aisles I started getting a little depressed about what little variety they had to offer. Kale, Brussels sprouts and persimmons seemed to be the stars of the show. But then, two things happened:
(1) I realized, as the rain was drizzling down on us and I looked down at my getting-more-soaked-by-the-minute Uggs, that we are SOOOO lucky to live in a place that has Farmer’s Markets year-round. This California girl was not in such dire straights as those of my fellow bloggers surviving (and making amazing dishes) in sub-freezing temperatures on the other side of the country.
(2) I came across a GINORMOUS leek. I wish I had been smart enough to take a picture before I cut it (sorry, new food blogger faux pas) but, guys, I’m not kidding. It had to be at least a yard long. My cooking wheels immediately started turning. I had to scoop it up.
With the combination of the weather and the (fairly) slim pickings at the market, I tried to think of another winter vegetable that could work with this leek in becoming an amazing, creamy, homey tasting soup. Well, hello parsnip!
Small moment of confession, I still only like parsnips prepared one way, and that’s pureed with some sort of creamy, rich vehicle that somewhat covers the “root-y” (I know, not a word) taste. Butter, cream, milk, any of these do the trick.
Then I started thinking of ways to make the soup even more rainy-day appropriate. I wanted everything roasted or caramelized. To me there is nothing better than using these two cooking methods to impart some deep, serious flavor into just about anything.
Okay, enough of me going on about being homey and making comfort food while I’m sitting here and it’s at least 70 degrees outside. I’m such a baby and now I’m sure I’m making all of you guys hate me.
Let’s get started!
Our first roasting victims (haha, see what I did there) are going to be loads of garlic and the parsnip. If you have never roasted garlic before please do it now and spread it on anything you can find. Vampires beware.
Into the oven they go with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. They’ll be done when you can easily poke a fork through the parsnip pieces and can easily squeeze out a garlic clove from the bulb with your fingers.
In the meantime, we want to start caramelizing our leeks. Low and slow is the key here folks. Low and slow.
Now, if you’re really good at juggling you’ll LOVE this recipe. The trick is to juggle as many of these prepping steps as you can at once. You don’t have to follow this order, prep everything as you can and set each one aside once they are done. Everything will get reheated/incorporated at some point.
Care to start working on the mushrooms? We want these to start softening a little, but not too soft because they’re still going to cook a little more in the soup.
And if we can toss one more ball up into the air, let’s get our crispy prosciutto on. I like to chop my prosciutto into little pieces (all the easier to get some in each bite of soup at the end!) and fry it in a small pan until JUST crispy. It always crisps up a little more once you remove it from the heat and let it drain over a paper towel, so be sure not to go too far.
Now it’s time to let the leeks, parsnips and roasted garlic start getting acquainted with some chicken broth. We want them all to be the best of friends.
Once they’ve simmered together for a while, into our trusty Vitamix they go. At this point we either add some heavy cream (my choice!) or a little more chicken broth until we have the desired consistency of our creamy soup.
Back into the saucepan, now it’s time to let the mushrooms get in on the action. Let’s give them a good stir so they don’t feel left out. Let these guys all mellow out together for a few minutes, but you won’t be able to hold out for too long before digging in.
Caramelized Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms & Crispy Prosciutto
- 2 whole bulbs of garlic
- 1 large parsnip peeled and cubed
- 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 large leek sliced
- 4 tablespoons high-quality butter divided (I prefer Kerrygold)
- 12 ounces assorted mushrooms sliced (I used shiitake and cremini)
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 4 slices prosciutto chopped
- 2-3 cups chicken broth depending on how thick you want your soup to be
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, set aside. Cut the tops off of each garlic bulb, about 1/3 of the way down. Do not cut the side with the root. Place garlic bulbs and cubed parsnip on jelly roll pan. Drizzle heavily with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, or until parsnip can be easily pierced with a fork and cloves of garlic easily popped out of their skins.
- Meanwhile, begin prepping your leeks. Place a large skillet over low heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter. Once butter is melted, add leeks. Cook, stirring every so often, on low heat for 20-30 minutes or until leeks look (and smell) nicely caramelized. If leeks begin to look dry during the caramelization process, simply drizzle on a little olive oil to get them moist again.
- If you would like to cut down on dishes, you can wait until the leeks are done to start cooking the mushrooms. Simply remove the leeks from the skillet and set them aside. No need to keep them warm because they will get reheated later. Add another 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan, increase heat to medium, and wait until butter is melted before adding mushrooms. At this time also add the dried tarragon. Stir fairly continuously until mushrooms have begun to soften and let out their juices, but not so long that they become completely cooked and mushy. Set aside.
- Begin heating your saucepan that you will use to make the soup. Drizzle another tablespoon or so of olive oil in the bottom of the pan for some moisture as it is warming up. Once oil is warm, add the roasted parsnips and garlic. I ended up adding about a bulb’s worth of roasted garlic, and saved the other bulb for other uses, but feel free to add as much as you’d like. Next, add the caramelized leeks and then the chicken broth. Start with just 2 cups at this point. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
- While soup is simmering, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto. Cook, stirring frequently, until prosciutto JUST becomes crispy. Be careful not to overdo it. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and prosciutto will continue to crisp slightly. Set aside.
- Pour the saucepan items into your blender. Blend on high until soup looks smooth and creamy, adding in either the cream or additional chicken broth as you go along until you reach your desired consistency.
- Pour back into the saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in the sauteed mushrooms. Stir and let simmer for just a few minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld.
- Serve topped with crispy prosciutto and with some delicious flax seed focaccia bread on the side.
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