Try as I might, I could not find a gorgeous picture of Italian parsley, or of parsley soup, the recipe I'm offering up here. A friend of mine is embarking on a vegan adventure and she, and now I, feel compelled to make it exciting. Well, ok, when there's no braised short ribs or lobster tacos or marinated skirt steak, it's tough to be exciting. But this soup is hauntingly magical, and that has to count for something.
I found it in Jean-George Vongerichten's book, cleverly titled Jean-Georges. Like Shakira, he doesn't really need a last name. He's a preternaturally ambitious French superstar chef who initially made his name in New York, where they all do, but then unleashed a vast cooking empire across the globe. His restaurants, Vong, Jean-Georges, and Jojo, have been cloned and sent to Las Vegas and elsewhere, and he now has many others, too. His cuisine could be described as adventurous French with lots of southeast Asian influences.
From this very eclectic chef, I give you a really simple French potage. I normally only make it in the winter, but it's so freaking cold where I live, soup seems appropriate now. Plus, my friend loves soup, so this a great addition to her repertoire. Enjoy!
Parsley soup with mixed mushrooms
From Jean-Georges by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
4 - 5 servings
1 bunch of parsley (I use Italian)
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 medium leek, trimmed of hard green parts, split in half, washed and roughly chopped
1 medium-to-large parsnip, chopped (you may substitute potato, but it's not as good)
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water (or chicken stock if you still welcome animals on your plate)
4 oz. mixed mushrooms, trimmed of tough stems and roughly chopped
1 Tbs. minced shallot
Wash the parsley in a bowl. Separate the leaves from the stems (yes, this is laborious but it must be done). Tie the stems in a bundle with kitchen twine.
In a large saucepan or soup pot, melt 1 1/2 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, leek and parsnip. Add a healthy pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables become translucent. If they start to brown, lower the heat.
Add the parsley stems and a good grind of pepper, and stir again.
Add the 2 1/2 cups of water plus the vegetable stock (or use all water). Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables are very tender, 30 - 45 minutes.
When the vegetables are soft, remove the parsley stems, add the remaining parsley leaves, and cook for another minute. Let the soup cool slightly, and then place the soup, in batches to avoid a parsley explosion, in a blender or food processor, and blend as smooth as possible. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. If you're looking for a finely textured soup, pass it through a food mill. I have never bothered doing this.
As soon as the soup is done, heat a skillet with the remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. oil. Saute the shallots for a minute or two and then add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.
Divide the mushrooms between the soup bowls and ladle the soup over the mushrooms.
This makes an amazing start to a Thanksgiving meal. As long as you add the parsley leaves at the last minute, the soup stays bright green. Sometimes I'll make the base of it, through cooking the stems in the stock, and put that in the fridge overnight. Then I bring it back up to a simmer right before serving, and add the parsley leaves, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
If you're looking for a more substantial soup, the addition of cooked white beans (yes, you can use the canned ones) is darn near magical.