Sunday's Velouté Fumé d'Automne
This morning the shades were closed and I was dreaming strange dreams. After some tossing and turning, I got out of bed with a start. I thought it was Monday. I had agreed to meet a friend, and we hadn't exchanged rendez-vous details, so I started looking for her phone number. Loic had the coffee going, and he asked me if I knew what time it was, because today the clocks got turned back.
I stood there squinting in the uncommonly bright salon, ready for breakfast. Since it was actually an hour earlier than I thought it was, I wondered if it was too early to call my friend. It's amazing how much the light differs from one hour in the morning to the next. At the breakfast table, Loic seemed to be taking his time and yawned in a relaxed kind of way, uncommon for a Monday morning. He told me we were getting low on fruit: "Do you want to go to the market this morning?" It suddenly dawned on me that I had just gained an hour and a day. What a great way to begin a Sunday.
We indeed went for a bike ride and talked to the neighbors on the way back in. It looks as if the pretty little ladies' place where I used to have a cup of tea and a boiled egg from the bowl on the bar from time to time has been sold and the new owners have painted the entire place matte black. Oh well.
At the market we got salad greens, a wedge of pumpkin, pears and apples, olives, and fennel seeds. We completely replenished the cheese plate with Brie, Reblochon, Comte, a sechon from a local farmer, and Rocamador, which I plan to cook with. We purchased Diots de Savoie from two different vendors to compare them, sheep merguez, and thick slice of lightly smoked pork poitrine from my friend who grows the black free range pigs in the Bugey.
Today's soup was a recipe I have had in my kitchen notebook for the past couple of years. About 4 years ago, Hélène Darroze prepared a soup on Joel Robuchon's cooking show in which she simmered pureed chunks of smoked bacon along with beans to a smooth velouté. She did not mention where the recipe came from, but a couple of years after that I saw a collection of Fernand Point's cooking notes. One of the 9 soups in the collection is an excrutiatingly simple 35 word recipe for a velouté of smoked bacon and feves. It gives the soup a light smoky taste which is just the thing on autumn days. My soup evolved as I experimented with various pureed soups, a kind of soup I love to serve when the weather begins to cool down.
Velouté Fumé d'Automne
500g. or about a pound of pumpkin or autumn squash
2 leaves of dried sage
2 French bay leaves
3 sprigs of parsley
250 grams or 1/2 pound lightly smoked pork poitrine (bacon)
3 cups mixed poultry stock
salt and pepper
leftoever duck neck, sliced thin
seasonings: juniper berries, spice mix maison, szchwan pepper corns, etc.
salt and pepper
optional butter, creme fraiche, creme liquide, and or egg yolks.
lemon juice for brightening
Note on the seasonings: Since this veloute can take on many personalities depending on what meats and leftovers you have on hand for the garnish, keep an open mind about the seasonings. Today I ended up not using the leek or the garlic. I had initially considered them, but changed my mind. I was wavering between two ways to garnish it and decided to use the secret stash of duck necks, so I left the heavy seasonings out. I did decide to dust the soup with two juniper berries and szechuan peppercorns, which I do not regret at all.
Mince the shallots and onions, and cut the pumpkin, carrot, and potatoes into a pieces that will cook through quickly, thin slices, rough julienne, big matchsticks. Cut the bacon into small pieces. Melt the butter and saute the onions and shallots for a couple of minutes, and add the potates, carrot, pumkin, and bacon, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the whole herb leaves and pour in enough mixed poultry stock to cover, bring to a boil, and lower the heat to medium low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, leaving the sage and parsley in the soup. Puree the soup in a blender or with a mixer until it is smooth. At this point, if you are serving guests, you might consider sending it through the chinois, to strain out any fibers and make it velvety smooth. Once you've done this, you can also enrich the veloute with butter or cream, egg yolks, or any combination therein, off heat to take it just exactly to where you want it to be in terms of smoothness and richness. I did not enrich the soup today for dietary reasons, although when guests come I do think the enrichment adds enough oomph to really be worth it. Season the soup carefully with salt and pepper, and add lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
There are several ways to serve this soup. One way is to saute bacon chunks or sausage and place them in the bottom of the a flat bowl before ladling the soup over the meat. The other is to use leftover meats, mushrooms, etc. as a garnish to the soup. Throughout the week, I always reserve small bits and pieces of the dishes I prepare during the week to use in Sunday's soup. Today I pulled the secret stash of stuffed duck neck and browned and crispened some thin slices in a hot pan to garnish the soup. Oh la la.
Leftover stuffed duck necks are sliced thin and crispened in a hot pan before the soup is served.
Crush the szechuan peppercorns and the juniper berries (Note: sublime with the crispy browned duck gratons) with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle over the top of the soup. Serve into hot bowls and enjoy with a local red wine.
The star of the plate today for me was the locally produced sechon.