Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thai Basil and Purple Potato Crème Soup

     A Different Potato Soup For A Chilly Day!
     A bowl of warm soup has a way of putting a smile on a face when the winter weather is miserable.  Today's Thai Basil and Purple Potato Crème Soup is great for a chilly day and it actually is not too heavy to serve when warmer arrives.  The Thai Basil flavor is thoroughly infused in this soup and it creates a gentle warming effect.
     There are many Basil varietals.  All Basil and Perilla varietals are in the Mint family of plants.  For some strains of Basil, it is a fine line as to whether the plant should be called Basil, Perilla or Mint. Some types of basil have a sharp strong flavor profile.  Round leaf basil (Italian Basil) is much too strong for potatoes.  Thai Basil has a mellow flavor that compliments the flavor of potatoes.  Thai Basil is not the same as Thai Holy Basil.  Thai Holy Basil almost looks like small rounded Perilla leaves and the flavor profile is very complex.  Once Thai Holy Basil is seen and tasted, the memory will last forever and there will be no mistaking it for regular Thai Basil.
     Peruvian Purple Potatoes taste like Bliss Potatoes and they add a nice color to today's soup.  I posted a Purple Potato classic Vichyssoise recipe a few months ago that had a pretty lavender color.
     Puree soups may be refined looking, but they are often criticized as being geriatric food.  In the old days, making a puree soup in a restaurant was labor intensive, therefore a puree soup commanded a higher price.
     Modern electric kitchen appliances, like emersion blenders (blending wands), have made making puree soup easy to make.  In fact, making a puree soup in modern times is just far too easy to do.  Many modern chefs puree every soup that they serve, even if the original version of a classic soup requires some texture.  Many gourmands criticize the extensive use of puree soups, because they lack character.
     Soups with precision cut vegetables do have more character.  Many restaurant customers find satisfaction in tasting small pieces of featured ingredients in a soup, especially when it comes to potatoes.  On a cold day, small bite size pieces of potato in a soup add to the hearty appeal.  For today's soup, pieces of purple potato look nice with the green tint of minced Thai Basil in a crème broth.      
     Par boiling the purple potatoes with the skin on will give the potatoes a more pronounced deep purple color.  Removing the skin before boiling causes fading.  The skin is also easier to scrape off after boiling.
     Fading is a problem with Thai Basil too.  If the minced Thai Basil is added about 10 minutes before the soup is served, the green color will be retained and there will be enough time for the flavor to infuse.

     Thai Basil and Purple Potato Crème Soup:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups.  (1 large portion)
     Thai Basil is available in Asian food markets.
     After the Thai Basil is added the soup should be served shortly after, so the green color does not fade.  
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces of whole small purple potatoes in a sauce pot of water.  (6 ounces of potato = 3/4 cup in volume)
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil the purple potatoes till they are tender, but not mushy.
     Step 2:  Cool the potatoes under cold running water.
     Use the back of a paring knife to scrape the skin off of the potatoes.
     Cut the potatoes into small bite size diced pieces.
     Set the purple potatoes aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Stir constantly till the roux is a white color with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Stir for a few seconds, so the vegetables cook in the hot roux.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/3 cups of light chicken stock while stirring.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Stir occasionally as the soup heats and thickens.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/3 cups of milk.
     Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Return the soup to a gentle boil.
     Stir occasionally as the soup heats and thickens to a very thin consistency.  
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 of a bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Add the reserved diced purple potatoes.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Thai Basil.
     Simmer the soup for 5 to 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Garnish with a Thai Basil sprig.

     This simple unique potato soup definitely has some character!

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