Everything tastes better with bacon, so goes the cliché. I went to Richmond, Virginia last week and had a non-bacon “bacon” experience with a certain parsnip soup. The soup, which I will attempt to replicate sometime, seemed to be a simple puree of parsnips and pears poached in vanilla cream. It was served over so-called red shrimp, salty little nuggets of battered and fried crustaceans. An unexpected bite that made a perfect foil for the soup’s richness. So it’s really not the bacon, but the combination of crunchy texture and intense salt that creates the sensation.
Back home, I had bacon. And slivered red apples that I added to a pureed rutabaga cooked with onions and chicken stock, both adding textural and flavor dimension to this spunky soup. I picked these rutabagas during the gleaning of our CSA fields in November so I knew they would be sweet rather than bitter like the waxed examples that populate the grocery store. They’re simply too old. If you are suspicious that your rutabaga’s over the hill, add a white potato or a carrot to mellow it out and finish with milk or cream.
Rutabaga Soup with Bacon and Apples
2 lbs rutabaga (about 3 small-medium roots)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
Optional: cubed carrots and/or white potatoes
4 c chicken stock
Water if needed
Salt and pepper
Optional: a tablespoonful or two of heavy cream or ¼ c milk
Garnish: cooked and crumbled bacon, slivered red apples
Peel and cube the rutabaga. In a large saucepan over medium heat, slowly sauté the onion in the butter or oil until it softens. Add the rutabaga (and optional carrots and/or potatoes) and stir to coat all surfaces. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the rutabaga is soft, about 20 minutes. Puree until smooth in a food processor or use an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cream or milk if desired. Serve hot garnished with bacon and slivered apple. Makes about 6 servings.