Fennel and leeks are plentiful and inexpensive in the markets these days, especially here in BC where both are grown locally. Caramelizing the fennel adds a deep, rich tone to this perfectly balanced flavour combination. The perfect compliment to a winter’s lunch or a light mid-week supper ( I enjoy it with slices of lightly grilled sour touch bread!), this sophisticated soup is so outrageously velvety it can even head up your next dinner party.
- 4 Tbsp. (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- 6 stalks of celery, sliced into 1/2 inch (1.2cm) pieces
- 4 large leeks, white parts only, rinsed and coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 4 bulbs fennel, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
- 4 Tbsp. (60 mL) unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) sugar
- 10 cups (2.4 L) chicken stock
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) cream
- juice of 1 lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a 4 – 6 quart (4 – 6 L) stock pot. Sauté the celery, leeks and garlic over medium-low heat until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside.
Cut the fennel into 1/4 inch (.6 cm) slices. Melt half the butter in a heavy sauté pan and add the fennel. Cook over medium-high heat until the fennel starts to brown. Turn to brown all sides. Sprinkle with sugar to encourage the fennel to caramelize to a deep golden colour.
Turn up the heat sand add the chicken stock. Whisk to scrape the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the celery, leek, garlic and potatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool until room temperature. Purée the soup in 2 cup (475 mL) batches in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve. Return to the pot and stir in cream and lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
*note: this soup will freeze well if you wait to add the cream until you’ve defrosted and are reheating.