More often than not, what we cook is inspired as much by the weather as what’s in the garden. We’ve plenty of leeks and celeriac on hand, and the damp, cold evenings had me thinking of something warming like soup. This riff on a chowder from Vegetable Soups by Deborah Madison, replaces the rutabaga with celeriac, and is given a bit of heft and substance with the addition of jowl bacon, bringing it back to its New England roots.
Celeriac & Leek Chowder
6 slices jowl bacon, cut into 1/4 inch wide pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, chopped
1 1/2 pounds celeriac (1 to 2 bulbs), peeled, and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 to 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or hefty pinch of dried
1 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 to 6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
Celeriac leaves, minced, for garnish
– Choose a heavy soup pot, and saute the jowl bacon with the butter, until the bacon has given up some of its fat. Add the leeks, and continue sauteeing until tender and fragrant.
– Stir in the celeriac, potato, thyme, and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Saute together briefly, about 5 minutes, to start the vegetables cooking. Add 4 cups of stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Add the cream or half-and-half, and continue simmering until vegetables are tender.
– Remove bay leaf. Puree 1 to 2 cups of the chowder, and return to pot. Adjust the thickness of the chowder by adding more stock. Taste for seasoning, and garnish with minced celeriac leaves.
Note: I usually make chowders ahead of time, an overnight rest lets the flavors develop. If you want to use less cream or skip it altogether, pureeing a cup or two adds enough creamy texture. By pureeing it all, this chowder can be transformed into a silky bisque-like soup. For instructions on how to peel celeriac, see here.
Recipe adapted from “Vegetable Soups” by Deborah Madison.