I confess that when it rains like this we do not spend a ton of time wandering the booths at the Old Town Temecula Farmer’s Market. We don’t need it to we warm and sunny . . . cool, crisp and clear works nicely as well, haha. Even this crazy amount of rain cannot deter us from dashing in to pick up our CSA box of fresh, organic, locally grown produce from the Sage Mountain Farm booth. The Inland Empire CSA is a consumer supported agriculture program that has changed the way we cook and eat. We are supporting local farmers while eating some of the most delicious and unique fruits and veggies we’ve ever had.
Once again, the weather puts us in the mood for soup and the holidays are a perfect time to make something special. Chef Andrea from Ava James Catering decided that Sweet Potato Soup would highlight the flavors of the season quite nicely and provide a hearty “day after” meal using leftovers from the holiday table.
Sweet Potato Soup with Sage & Pancetta
1/2 LB pancetta
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage, plus 16 leaves set aside for garnish
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Now we put bacon in just about everything, but you could easily make this a vegetarian dish by eliminating the pancetta and substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
With that said:
Cut pancetta in to 1/2 inch pieces and cook in a pan over medium high heat until crispy. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
In a clean sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. When oil is quite hot, add sage leaves. Make sure the leaves are very dry as water will cause the oil to pop. Fry for 30 seconds or so until just crisp. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
In a heavy sauce pot over medium low heat, melt butter and add flour, stirring constantly until roux is a carmel color.
Add the broth and brown sugar, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add mashed sweet potatoes, sage and other spices, return to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes more. Allow the soup to cool slightly and puree in batches using a blender or food processor and return to the sauce pot. Add the milk and reheat the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls and top with fried sage and pancetta.
This soup is quite rich and creamy, so I prefer it as a second course rather than serving it as a main meal. It would pair nicely with Keyways 2009 Roussanne which is slightly sweet with a balanced acidity to counter the richness of the soup. We also like to invite a group of friends to each bring a pot their favorite soup or chili and serve it all up buffet-style with some salad and bread. We love to do this on New Year’s Day as it is an easy way for a large crowd to get together and eat whenever the mood strikes.
Again the Inland Empire CSA has given us the raw materials we need to create great food and lasting memories. We wish you all happy holidays and a New Year filled with good health and time to share many meals with the ones you love.