I’m writing this post from the snow-covered Methow Valley, where I snuck away with friends for some snowy antics and birthday celebrations. It’s shocking to be reminded of how gorgeous Washington is, and even more shocking to realize that I went cross-country skiing my first winter in Seattle, six years ago, and am only just now returning. I guess I got busy? Back at the Pantry things are humming along at a new rhythm. Our second kitchen is finally completed, and we’re all rolling around in the luxury of more space. We’ve finally got HVAC, a fully functioning dishwashing station, and, most importantly, shelves in all the places that needed them, so things have a place to reside. That might not seem like much, but for obsessive organizers like us, it is soooo exciting.
January is a lovely month at the Pantry. Everyone returns from their holiday break bright-eyed and full of ideas for 2016. Somehow the craziness of December has been forgotten, and there’s this brief moment, before everything speeds up again, when I’m reminded of how proud I am of this little community we’ve built. We’ve grown so much in the past four and a half years, but I still manage to recognize a handful of familiar faces at every event. And there’s no event that brings in the regular crowd quite like our annual New England Crab Supper. It’s a meal with all the markers of being one of my favorites: it’s casual (translation: MESSY!), with piles of crab and potatoes being dipped in melted butter; it has an element of theatre, when we roll up the newspaper to reveal our wooden table underneath; and it’s friendly — every year, without fail, this dinner inspires people to get chatty with their neighbors, leaving us all beaming with pride. It’s always one of our more straightforward menus, letting the crab course do the heavy lifting:
Johnny cakes with maple-braised kale
Old Bay crackers with smoked trout salad and green apple
Brown butter-baked clams with linguisa and herbed breadcrumbs
Celery root soup
Black pepper popover, bacon, and tarragon oil
Cracked Dungeness crab
Roasted ozette potatoes with sea salt and cider vinegar
Drawn butter, salsa verde, and spicy aioli for dipping
Seared Savoy cabbage
Apple-cranberry relish, jalapeno, mustard, and cheddar crisps
Maple walnut trifle
Toasted walnut cake with maple mousse and candied walnuts
Since January kicks off the winter season (at least in my mind), soup is always a huge part of the crab supper. We’ve had some spectacular ones in the past: tomato-horseradish soup with cheddar biscuits and celery leaves, spicy pumpkin soup with caramelized brussels sprouts and apples, and watercress soup with a lemony crouton, almond and herb jumble. This year our new chef Darin was in charge of the soup, and I dare say he knocked it right out of the park. Celery root soup might seem like a tough sell (I hear there are people out there who don’t love celery root?), but once I saw the words written down as an idea, I was in. I love the fresh, slightly licorice flavor of celery root — raw in a salad, roasted in a gratin, or sautéed into a breakfast hash. It’s true that I’m an across-the-board root vegetable lover, but that celery root is special.
Since we knew some folks would need some coaxing to get excited about celery root soup, we sexed it up with some fun components: crispy bacon lardons, a bright green tarragon oil, and some mini black pepper popovers. And while you certainly don’t need all the bells and whistles to enjoy this soup, I overheard more than one person exclaim that “all soup should have a popover floating in it” — and I couldn’t agree more.
- Celery Root Soup:
- 1 tablespoon high heat oil
- 1 each medium leek, white and light green parts only
- 1 large green apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
- 1 medium celery root, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 each garlic cloves
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 each bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
- Salt & white pepper, to taste
- Bacon Lardons:
- 3 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons water
- Tarragon Oil:
- 2 cups ice
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1/4 ounce tarragon
- 1/8 ounce chives
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons high heat oil
- Black Pepper Mini Popovers:
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons milk, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
- reserved bacon grease from lardons
Celery Root Soup:
Wash the outside of the leeks and then slice them into 1/2 inch rings, and then give them a second wash to ensure no dirt remains.
Heat a stockpot over medium heat and add in the oil. Once the oil is fragrant, but not smoking, add in the leeks and apples. Let them cook down for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, then add in the celery root and potatoes. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and let the vegetables cook for 2 more minutes. A very light browning is okay, but you are not seeking deep caramelization.
Add the white wine and turn the heat up to medium-high. Let the wine reduce by half, and add the vegetable stock, bay leaf, lemon juice and zest, cream, and vinegar. Add some salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Once the vegetables are soft (20-25 minutes), turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup with a blender or food processor. Adjust the seasoning as necessary to your tastes. If the soup seems a little thick, simply add in a little extra vegetable stock or a combination of water and cream.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the bacon and water in a small oven-safe saute pan and cook over medium heat until the water is gone and the bacon has rendered most of its fat, about 5 minutes.
Move the pan to the oven and bake, stirring every five minutes, until crisp (10-15 minutes). Strain the bacon grease and reserve it for the popovers. Place the bacon on paper towels and set aside.
Bring a small stockpot of water to a boil, and prepare a large bowl with ice water. Once the water is boiling, add in the parsley, tarragon, and chives, and let them blanch for 20 seconds in the still simmering water. Immediately remove the herbs from the hot water and plunge them into the ice water. Let them cool for 5 minutes in the ice water.
Remove the herbs from the water and shake them dry, then use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the outside. Chop the herbs finely, then add them into a blender. Pour the oils over the herbs and turn the blender to low. Gradually turn the motor to high speed and thoroughly pulverize the herbs for about 10 seconds.
Strain the herbs, pressing them with a rubber spatula against the strainer and set the oil aside at room temperature in a see-through container or glass for 30 minutes. The oil will separate from the water left in the herbs. The oil will be floating, simply spoon it off and reserve, and discard the water.
Black Pepper Mini Popovers:
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl briefly until well combined. Measure out 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of scrambled egg for use in this recipe, and reserve the extra for another use.
Place all of the ingredients together in a food processor until well combined and smooth. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 45 minutes before using.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously grease the cups of the mini muffin tin with the bacon fat and place it in the oven for 10 minutes before cooking the popovers. Carefully pull the preheated muffin tin out of the oven and pour the batter into the cups, leaving 1/4 inch from the top of the cup. Place the tin back in the oven and let it cook undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and let the popovers cook until browned, an additional 8-10 minutes. Remove the popovers from the oven and pan and use immediately.
Assemble the Soup:
Give the soup one last taste for seasoning. Pour 6 to 8 ounces of the soup into a bowl and place a popover in the center. Sprinkle some of the bacon lardons over the top of the popover and soup. Drizzle a teaspoon of the tarragon oil around the bowl. Serve hot and enjoy!