I’m really enjoying a) rendering animal fat that would have otherwise been wasted and finding interesting things to do with it and b) roasting things in cast-iron skillets. ‘Tis the season! And by that I mean (sigh) winter. No, we don’t typically rack up snow here in Seattle, though it’s been known to wreak havoc for several weeks a year, but we have this endless-feeling stretch of gray drizzle and dark mornings that can really get you down. And make you think about moving to Hawai’i. Sigh.
Tactics to employ for gloom prevention: a) brandy b) soup in jars c) cookies d) dancing alone in the kitchen to “Gangnam Style.”
I don’t expect you to have chicken fat lying around, though it is a traditional Jewish food staple (also known as schmaltz) as an alternative to pork fat or lard. Useful in creating authentic chopped liver spread and other ground meat/pate type dishes. No, don’t wrinkle your nose—have you ever tried chopped liver? Trust me, if you make it right, it’s to die for.
So yes, you can toast your croutons in butter or oil (butter is recommended), but I encourage you to think about cross-utilizing your products and never wasting a thing. In this case, I made fried chicken thighs, and trimmed a good deal of fat from the meat. Threw them in a saucepan with a little water on low heat and voila! Wound up with a couple tablespoons of chicken-flavored fat and a few delicious chicken cracklings, which were so flavorful that I did not feel the need to salt them.
About the soup: it’s basic. You can add whatever else you’d like. Spices, vegetables, toppings. You could conceivably use it as the base for a curry, or add it to mashed potatoes. Don’t skip the buttermilk, it adds a richness that you couldn’t achieve without. Cream of course is an option, but I personally like the idea of buttermilk in more diverse applications, and it’s slightly lighter than cream.
Tool recommendations: a cast-iron skillet and a blender or food processer, and perhaps some jars.
Roasted Garlic and Carrot Soup with Buttermilk and Chicken Fat Croutons
A wintery sweet and earthy soup with a little crunch and a little kick.
- 1 head garlic (you will only use half but it’s easiest to roast it whole)
- 2 c. halved or quartered carrots (4-5 medium)
- 2 3/4 c. water
- 3 T. buttermilk
- 1/4 small lemon’s juice
- 2 t. chile sauce, Tabasco, or similar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 c. 1/2″ diced stale bread
- 1-2 t. chicken fat
- Chop the top of your head of garlic. This will make it easier later to squeeze out the cooked garlic.
- Chop your carrots and lightly toss with oil and roast at 325 degrees F in a cast iron skillet or sheet tray until soft and slightly caramelized, between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. Toss the carrots around periodically to make sure they don’t stick.
- Remove and slightly cool, then blend all carrots and half the garlic until smooth in blender or food processor, adding 1 1/2 cups of the water.
- Pour into a pot and add the remaining water (more or less if you like it thinner or thicker), buttermilk, seasoning (I used almost 2 teaspoons salt with mine but my carrots were extremely sweet), lemon, and chile sauce. Bring up to temperature but don’t let go beyond a tiny simmer. Taste, adjust, and decided how you like it.
- Meanwhile, toss your stale bread with the chicken fat and more salt and pepper and roast in same 325 oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should be crisp but not rock-like. Let cool, then add to top of soup along with a finishing salt or oil if desired.