What in the wor(l)d? This is a simplified version of a classic French soup known as “Potage Untel” as Julia Child referred to a similar concoction. In today’s world, to find the origin of “Untel,” we go to Google. And guess what, we find out more information than we ever wanted to know about Intel and the various “soups” it’s immersed in. But no explanation of Potage Untel. Is “untel” a person, place or thing? Our digital world should allow us to broaden our words, but just as the industrialization of food led to fewer varieties, is our language going the same way? Hmmm.
Upon further investigation, it appears that in French “untel” or the feminine “untelle” means “so-and-so.” As in whathisname? Or as in that scoundrel so-and-so? This particular soup is a mystery of flavor and everyone is surprised when told what it contains. Could that be the origin of the name?
I will make it soon with young turnips and their greens, or now with the last (thank heavens) of wintered-over turnips plus spinach. Julia Child thickened her version with farina (Cream of Wheat) and added cream. Since I was serving this to a gluten-free dairy-free audience, I braised the turnips in a vegan spread instead of butter and omitted the cream and the farina. To introduce body and creamy texture, as well as mellow the turnip, I added a yellow potato. Versatile, quick and tasty, this is a great recipe to have on hand.
Turnip and Greens Soup
5 medium (2 ½-inch) turnips, peeled and cubed
1 medium yellow potato, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp butter or substitute
2 c (or more) chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 small bunch spinach leaves, stripped of stems and washed well (or use turnips greens)
Optional: 1 tbsp farina
Optional: 2 tbsp cream
Braise the turnip and potato in butter (or substitute) and lightly salted water to come about 1/3 of the way up the depth of the vegetables. When the turnip is tender, add the stock or broth and the spinach and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes. If using farina, add it with the spinach. Puree in a food processor. Add the cream if using and serve hot. Makes 3-4 servings.