Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Stopping by Portland on a snowy evening
Got to love Portland. In this town, Halloween decorations start going up around September 1, and in many households, don’t go away for months. They just coexist with the Christmas trappings. So that now, in mid-December, with snow straight out of central casting falling all over the town, you walk past porches festooned with fir garlands….and pumpkins still holding down the front steps. Many windows still have construction paper witches taped to them – but now the witches share the honor with cut-out snowflakes.
It’s an apt macaronicism, since St Nicholas was originally the Catholic Church’s recuperation of an old folk figure that seemed a tad too Satanic for post-medieval tastes.
Anyway, here in Portlandia, autumn has definitely given way to winter; it’s beginning to look a lot like the Solstice, everywhere you go. In fact today I’m staying indoors and working at home, partly thanks to night-long migraine episode, but partly because the weather outside is frightful. And in between script reports, press announcements and responding to email, my favorite way to heat the house is cooking.
Lunch was a velvety carrot soup, perfect for cleaning out your fridge and also for watching those dire weather forecasts on streaming video. If you want to make it yourself, you’ll need:
· 1-2 tablespoons butter
· 1-pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
· 1/2 cup chopped onion
· ¼ cup (or more) shallots
· 3 cups chicken broth
· 1/2 cup orange juice
· 1 tablespoon orange zest
· 1 tablespoon brandy
· 2 teaspoons of bonnes herbes and/or herbes de Provence, crushed
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add carrots and onion; sauté until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add broth; cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat, uncover, and simmer until carrots are tender, 10 minutes or so.
Puree soup in blender (I used an immersion blender) until smooth. If you used a conventional blender, return soup to pot now. Stir in orange juice, brandy, and crushed herbs. Simmer 5 minutes for flavors to blend, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
This made just enough for James and I, but we eat supersized portions, alas. For friends or normal people (quick! what’s the literary reference there?), or as a first course, you could probably serve four.
We had garlic bread with this – with impunity, since no theatergoing is possible tonight.
If by some miracle you still have fresh tarragon, I bet that that would make a terrific replacement for the dried herbs. Would make a good garnish, too.
BTW: haul in one of those leftover pumpkins from the porch, roast is and substitute it for the carrots in the recipe, and you'll be ready for New Year's Eve in no time.