Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Spiced Carrot Soup...Six Months Later

I know, it's been awhile.

Six months since I last wrote anything, really. Unless you count e-mails. As an English major in college, I'm quite ashamed.

I don't have a good excuse. Sure, I was in cooking school the last six months. Sure, I spent my nights cooking too. I guess with all that cooking, the last thing I wanted to talk about was...well, cooking.

But sometimes an unexpected event changes all that.

The event? A bowl of carrot soup.

Okay, maybe four bowls of what was carrot soup. All gone. Not a speck of orange left.

To give you some context, about once a month I cook for friends. The deal is I provide each of them a three course meal, and in return they cover the cost of ingredients. It allows me to experiment with recipes I may not be able to afford otherwise. Plus the satisfied faces afterward makes it all worth it.

So this past weekend, the featured meal was as follows:

Spiced Carrot Soup with Shrimp
Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Sauce
Honey-Glazed Banana Fritters with Peanut Ice Cream

The resounding favorite was the soup. I was surprised. The soup was so easy to make that I wondered if I had screwed up the pork and bananas badly somehow. Something so easy should never win.

But then I remember Spike and Andrew won a Top Chef episode with their squash soup.

And it all makes sense.

When you take something simple and can manage to make it memorable, then the recipe is a keeper. This particular carrot soup came from that of Cafe Boulud in New York. It combines the earthiness of carrots with the exoticism of coconut milk and the spiciness of curry and ginger. The poached shrimp adds an extra dimension to the color and flavor. Since shrimp is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, and the recipe was already using coconut, curry and ginger, it made since to include shrimp as well (plus it gives the soup some protein).

Spiced Carrot Soup with Shrimp

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 pound carrots, trimmed and peeled, sliced thin
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced thin
1 t curry powder
2 1/2 c chicken stock
3/4 c canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 T lemon juice
16 XL shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 c carrot juice

1) Heat olive oil and cook onions until tender, 6 min.
2) Add carrots, ginger, garlic, curry, and 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t white pepper.
3) Cook a couple of minutes until the curry is fragrant.
4) Add stock, coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to med-low, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender (20 min).
5) Puree carrot mixture in a blender until smooth.
6) Transfer soup to a clean saucepan (I poured the soup over a sieve to make the texture really fine).

1) Bring 2 c water, the lemon juice, and 1 t salt to a boil over med-high heat.
2) Add shrimp, cover, and remove the pan from the heat. Let stand for 6 min.
3) Remove shrimp, halve lengthwise if desired and set aside.

Before serving:
1) Add the carrot juice to the soup, mix to combine. Heat through and adjust flavor with more salt/pepper.
2) Arrange the shrimp in the center of four soup bowls. Pour the soup around the shrimp (I did this by ladling the soup into a measuring cup with a spout, which made it easier to pour).

Serve immediately, and watch your guests rave.