I think celery is like the Cinderella of the vegetable world; she’s doing important work behind the scenes and getting no respect and fewer accolades.  Celery has always been associated with a supporting role in cookery.  You add a stalk of celery to the soup pot, chop it up and add it to salad, for crunch, stuff it with peanut butter or cheese, for a snack.  Yes, there is that persistent diet-food association too.  And to add to celery’s woes, the iconic chef Thomas Keller banished celery from the stock pot.  Apparently he thinks it adds a little “bitter” note to stock.  Seldom does celery take a starring role in a dish and that’s unfortunate.  This creamy, light soup is a prime example of how celery can take the spotlight with ease and grace.  As a child I walked home from school for lunch and Campbell’s soups were often a feature of those lunches.  This celery cream soup bears no resemblance to the canned version of our childhood.  This soup is full of gentle celery flavor, smooth and comforting, but not heavy.  The garnish provides texture and color to an otherwise plain-looking dish.  And for me, the green freshness of celery adds a spring-like note to the menu as we look forward to the end of this seemingly never-ending winter.

          
Celery Cream Soup
(makes 4 servings)
In a medium, heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt:
2 tablespoons butter
Add to the saucepan:
12 medium celery stalks, peeled and thinly sliced
A heaping tablespoon chopped celery leaves
A generous pinch of kosher salt
Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add to the soup pot:
3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2 cups chicken stock
A sprig of fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
A pinch more salt, and several grinds pepper
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes and celery are very tender.  This will take 20 to 30 minutes.  When the vegetables are cooked, remove the thyme sprig and the bay leaf.  Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot and add:
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
A small pinch celery seed
Bring the soup up to a simmer and cook until the consistency is as you like it.  Season the soup with:
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Additional salt and pepper, if needed
Pour the soup through a fine sieve and strain, pressing on the solids with a ladle or large spoon.  You can store the soup in the refrigerator for up to 2 days at this point.  When ready to serve, reheat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring often.  In a small skillet melt:
1 tablespoon butter
Add to the skillet:
1 large celery stalk, peeled and thinly sliced
A pinch of kosher salt
Saute the celery in the butter over medium-low heat just until it is tender-crisp and bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Roughly chop:
A handful of celery leaves
Chop finely:
A small handful of fresh chives
Plate the soup in warm bowls and top with the sauteed celery, chopped celery leaves, and chopped chives. Drizzle a little butter from the skillet over each serving.  Enjoy.
(inspired by “Cream Soups and Veloutes”, Bon Appetit magazine)

 

3 Responses to "Celery Cream Soup"
  1. Jackie Patti says:

    This sounds like real comfort food.

  2. renee says:

    Celery is totally the behind the scenes workhorse – glad it gets to shine in your soup! My mom would make a delicious potato celery soup I just adored – with saltine crackers dunked in it was the best school lunch.

  3. Thank you Jackie! It is a comfort on a chilly “almost spring” day.

    Renee, I feel like the advocate for maligned and under appreciated vegetables and fruits this week. I’ve been baking with prunes, with a terrific result :)

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