We’ve wanted to try this recipe for a long time. Why haven’t we? Well, we really don’t know. Perhaps it’s that it calls for carrot juice. Or, perhaps it because it’s mainly a carrot soup without much in the way of other flavors. But, we think that the most likely reason is that it’s a soup served chilled. We don’t know about you, but our soups are hot and that’s the way we like them. Can we change?
Since this soup recipe is one from Thomas Keller — we think it might be in The French Laundry Cookbook, but aren’t sure — we figured that, if any soup would make us like cold soup, this would be the one. It also had the advantage of being pretty simple, and, it made only a few small bowls of soup, which is a real plus when trying a new recipe. Imaging making a gallon of soup you didn’t like.
If you’re like us, and a little worried about eating soup that isn’t hot, well, just screw your courage to the sticking place and scratch up a batch right along with us. What’s the worst that can happen?
We weren’t sure if we wanted to juice carrots ourselves, especially since this is the first time we’re trying it; after all, we have no idea how many carrots will be needed to make 2 1/2 cups of juice. What if we juiced a bunch and still didn’t have enough juice? A trip back to the store at a time we could be scratchin’. We went with carrot juice from the store. Now, the Chilled Carrot Soup called for a variety of herbs: just a bit of chive, thyme, chervil, and tarragon — all fresh, of course. While we would’ve loved to do a nice mix, we would’ve ended up buying four packs of fresh herbs and using a single sprig from each one. We debated about using some dried herbs, too. But, then, we thought, what would chef Keller do? We figured that he would choose fresh over dried, and a single herb growing in his back yard over a variety that had been in the store for who knows how long. Hence, fresh sage.
Procedure in detail:
Simmer carrots. Place the carrot pieces and 1 1/4 cup of carrot juice, along with the butter, honey, and curry powder in a saucepan over medium heat. The idea is to concentrate the carrot flavor by cooking down the carrot juice, pretty much all the way, so you have super-flavorful carrots. Once the carrot juice starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, or to a point to keep it simmering nicely. Let the mixture simmer, shaking or stirring once in a while, until the liquid is almost gone. This can take an hour, but, for the most part, you can do other things during the cooking period, and just check back from time to time.
Add cream. Once the carrot juice is nearly gone and the carrots are very soft, add the cream and increase the heat to medium. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, stirring often, and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
Blend. Once the simmering is over, pour the carrot mixture, along with the remaining 1 1/4 cups of carrot juice, into a blender and blend until smooth. Since you have a hot liquid in the blender, remember to vent the lid a bit to let the hot air escape; this can be done by opening the lid just a trifle and covering it with a clean towel.
Season. Taste the soup — just dip in a spoon and taste it — and season with salt and pepper. Blend to incorporate and taste again. Continue adding salt and pepper, blending and tasting either until it’s all gone or you’ve seasoned the soup appropriately.
Strain and chill. We did go to the trouble of straining our soup through a small tea strainer that we have on hand. It’s not that much soup, so it only took a minute or two; small time in comparison to the hour of simmering. Once you’ve strained the soup through a fine mesh strainer and into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
Make mousse. First place a small bowl and your whisk in the freezer. Whenever we whip any sort of cream, we like to ensure the bowl is super-cold. It helps to keep the cream from churning into butter. You may think this is overkill, but the first time you make a sweet, vanilla-flavored butter that doesn’t go with anything, you’ll change your mind. At the same time, place your soup bowls in the refrigerator to chill, too. After the bowl has chilled for 15 to 30 minutes, scoop in the crème fraîche and whisk it until it forms firm peaks. Now fold in the minced sage.
Serve. Ladle the soup into your chilled bowls, scoop a spoonful of mousse into the middle of each, and enjoy.
We always feel a certain sense of accomplishment when we succeed in making a recipe from Thomas Keller. It’s not that they’re difficult — most are fairly straightforward; just pay attention to the details — it’s that they’re so good we can hardly believe we made them. The same is true for this soup. We knew at the tasting and seasoning stage that this was an extraordinary soup — super carroty, nice and creamy, sweet but not overpowering — and well worth the effort required, so five stars. And, who knows? It might start us down the road to making other chilled soups (although this one tastes good warm, too).