Friday, December 4, 2009

Potato-Fennel Soup

You say potato, I say po-tah-to and fennel.
This low-fat, rich-tasting meal in a bowl is peasant fare at its finest. I don’t actually know what constitutes peasant fare, but I'd venture to say any peasant would give his last potato and fennel bulb for this.

I’ve been making this enchanting soup from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook for years, and it just keeps getting better with age (that makes one of us). Browned onions, potatoes, minced fennel, and caraway seeds are a truly inspired combination.

I’ve made a few tiny tweaks, but nothing major. Since caraway seeds play a large part in the soup’s complex character, I double what the original Mollie Katzen recipe calls for. I also like to maximize the delicious, aromatic fennel flavor as a counterpoint to the caraway, so I up the ante there too, with 1 to 2 cups. (One can never have too much boiled fennel. Am I wrong?) I usually just get the largest bulb I can find and don’t fuss with the measuring. I'm telling you—this soup has so much flavor from so few ingredients, you’ll be peasantly surprised.


1 TBSP butter or olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced onions

2 tsp salt

4 medium potatoes (average fist-size), not necessarily peeled, and sliced into thin pieces 1 to 2 inches long

1 - 2 cups freshly minced fennel bulb (the largest bulb you can find)

1 tsp caraway seeds

4 cups water

white or black pepper, to taste

Makes 4 - 5 servings

Heat the butter or oil in a kettle or Dutch oven. Add the onions and 1 tsp salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are very soft and lightly browned.

Add the potatoes, the rest of the salt, the minced fennel bulb, and the caraway seeds. Sauté over medium heat for another 5 minutes, then add the water. Bring to a boil, then partially cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes (the potatoes should be tender and almost falling out of their skins).

Taste to adjust salt; add pepper. Serve hot, topped with a decorative swirl of thinned sour cream and/or minced feathery fennel tops.

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