Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Carrot Soup Car Wreck...One in Which The Car Actually Turns Out Okay

I love carrots.  I always have...

oooh, wait.  Raw carrots.  I have always loved raw carrots.  From birth, practically.  Even now, almost forty years later, I rarely pass up the carrot sticks on a relish tray in my vicinity.  I love the vibrancy, the color, and the health value (something I was unaware in my early, early years, alas).

Cooked carrots, though, I feel very differently about.  I have young-person memories of pot roast with potatoes and carrots, and I distinctly remember eating with a 1:2 carrot-potato ratio mindest.  One carrot piece for every potato piece.  It helped me cope with what I felt was a great loss in taste and texture during the cooking process..

While I'm confessing my neuroses, I'm the exact same way about cooked green peppers, peas, and green beans.  Raw, definitely...cooked, uh, only if I have to.

To present day. I have an excess of carrots these days around Chez Nelson.  And there are only so many sticks I can chop up for snacking, so I turned to Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food for help.  Carrot soup is a pretty simple thing: One sliced onion, two pounds of peeled and chopped carrots, salt and pepper, thyme, and chicken or vegetable broth.  Sweat onions in butter or olive oil until tender, add carrots and seasonings, add broth.  Simmer until carrots are soft.  Puree and serve, heated through.  So easy.

Naturally, I was dubious.  After all, I am well-aware of my aversion to cooked carrots...which is probably why I opted for I did one of her "variations" that she lists after nearly every recipe.  I added a jalapeño in with the onion-carrot mix, and I tossed in a handful of cilantro just before pureeing.  In the end, I got this freshly flavored soup that had a hint of heat (should have added more jalapeño).  Waters didn't include straining the soup, and I wish wish wish I would have.

Because this carrot soup here is roughly the consistency of Gerber's baby food.  Not what I was shooting for. I'd prefer something a little more velvety here, and that wouldn't happen unless I ran it through a strainer or tamis or whathaveyou.  And maybe a little more heat in the form of cayenne, maybe some lime juice, I think would have really made this soup spectacular.

So now I have this soup that I'm pretty lukewarm about eating by itself, but I really don't want to throw it out.  So...what do I do in the particular predicament?

Well, since you asked...

This was breakfast this morning.  Scrambled eggs with a nice generous dollop of the carrot soup thrown in.  Obviously, the texture I disliked so much was lost in the fluff of the egg, so, yay.  And, the color change was nice.  But, I lost most of the flavor.  This soup was pretty subtle anyway, so it's no surprising I couldn't taste them in the eggs.

Then, for dinner tonight, I did a chicken noodle soup, and guess what I added to the broth base?  Carrot soup.  Again, loss of texture (good), but no discernible color or flavor of carrots (bad).  I should have added more, maybe.

And for dessert tonight...

Haha!  Carrot cake! A favorite here at home, but I figured the herby spice of the soup would alter the cake's sweet profile in an undesirable way.  Why?  Because I'd tasted the batter, and there was a definite weirdness to it...not the usual nutmeg-cinnamon-carrot culprits.  However, some kind of strange magic happened in my oven during the baking, because that unusual flavor was NOT present in the final product.  Or maybe it was the cream cheese frosting and almond side-masking that distracted my family from the weird flavor.  Sugar does that sometimes.

What started as a mediocre-ish vegetable puree actually turned into a fun kitchen game of Hide The Carrot Soup.  I think I will try straining it tomorrow and reheating it for a straight up bowl of soup to see if I like it better.  After all, I really did spend too much time chopping and sweating and simmering and pureeing to be throwing it into a cake where it loses much of its integrity. No matter HOW much fun that is.

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