Cream of Leek and Parsnip Soup with Sherry and Thyme

IMG_2664I am sure feeling the love today, I tell you.  So much so that I’m going to defy my own rules and add a little heart symbol thingie to this post ♥   Who knew that parsnips and leeks could bring such joy to one’s soul and yet here they are, simmered gently with a splash of sherry and infused with fresh thyme.  All pureed into a velvety, silken soup.

Here’s how much I love this soup: If Julia Child, James Beard, Thomas Keller, the President and the Pope (past or future one) were all coming over to dinner, I would serve them this soup as a first course!  Yes, it is that good.

I am also overjoyed that I remembered I have a set of these very lovely soup bowls.  Such an elegant soup deserves an equally elegant bowl, don’t you think?  Finally I am loving the fact I was able to use my real-deal Canon 35mm camera to take this photo.  One of these days, I will share with you my food photography frustrations, which are many.

But not today, because today is all about love and joy and this heavenly soup, my bowls and my halfway decent photograph and of course little heart symbols ♥

Cream of Leek and Parsnip Soup with Sherry and Thyme

For the croutons:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 or 4 slices of  dense, white sandwich bread (such as Pepperidge Farm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the soup:
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (from 2 to 3 large leeks), rinsed and drained
1 tsp. coarse salt; more to taste
1 lb. parsnips, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup dry sherry (fino) or dry white wine
6 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 small bay leaves, broken in half
1/2 tsp. white peppercorns, lightly crushed (or a pinch of ground white pepper)
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
1 – 2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme, for garnish

Make the croutons: Heat the 1/3 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and fry, tossing and stirring, until crisp and golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels, and do not start nibbling on them because you won’t be able to stop and then you’ll have none left for the soup!

Make the soup: Heat the 2 Tbs. oil in a wide soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, season lightly with salt, and cook gently until the leeks have softened and just begin to turn golden, 8 to 10 min. Add the parsnips and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the parsnips are fragrant, about 2 min. Add the sherry, increase the heat to medium high, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the broth. Tie the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and peppercorns together in a cheesecloth sachet and toss it into the pot. Partially cover the pot, bring to a boil, immediately lower the heat, and simmer partially covered until the parsnips are soft enough to mash against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon, about 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 min. Discard the sachet. Using a stand or hand blender, purée the soup in batches, being sure to combine a mix of broth and solids in each batch. If you’re using a stand blender, fill it no more than two-thirds full and be sure to vent the blender so the top doesn’t pop off (either remove the lid’s pop-out center or lift one edge of the lid and drape with a clean towel). Rinse the soup pot, return the blended soup to the pot, taste, and adjust the seasonings. If you’re using the cream, add it now (if you’re making the soup ahead, wait to add the cream until you reheat the soup just before serving). Garnish each bowl with croutons and a pinch of fresh thyme.

Serves 3-4 as a main course or 6 as a first course

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