One of my favorite Spring treats is parsnips that have been left to winter in the ground. During the Winter, the cold converts starches in the parsnip into sugars, and sugars don’t like to freeze. The sugary parsnips stay alive throughout the cold season, get harvested in the spring and sold for a premium.
You can always roast them, gratinee, or whatever you like, but the last time I got a batch I was on a strict budget, and in order to make it possible to get some spring-dug parsnips, I had to get a small amount and make soup, since I can get a higher return off the parnsips if they’re pureed with broth and a bit of cream.
After I had the soup made, I just needed to figure out a garnish. Something crunchy would be nice since the soup is pureed, and with a white soup I like to float some sort of aromatic oil on top to give a little contrast in color and flavor.
Pumpkinseed, hazelnut, or walnut oil would be fine, but I’d been trying to find a way to use the Acorn oil I got from Sam Thayer, which is really amazing. the Acorn oil is in the same family of flavors as other nut oils, but it’s very delicate, and needs the right sort of partner. Putting it on a dish that’s aggressive (like something spicy with tomatoes onions and peppers for example) would mean you lose it and won’t even know it’s there.
I tasted a spoonful of the soup with the acorn oil and knew they were born to be together. You can taste each of the flavors by themselves and together at the same time, in fact the flavors are even stronger, exactly what I was looking for.
Spring Dug Parsnip Soup, with Rye Croutons and Acorn Oil
Yield: 1.5 gallons
- 5 lbs spring dug parsnips, peeled and trimmed to yield 7 lbs
- 2 cups diced leek
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 1/4 cup chopped ginger
- 1 cups brandy
- 1 gallons chicken stock
- ¼ nutmeg, grated
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- Sea salt and fresh ground white pepper, to taste
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 5 scrapings of cinnamon
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter
- Acorn oil, to garnish, optional
- Croutons, preferably made from rye, lightly toasted to garnish, optional
Sweat the onion and leek with the butter, then add the brandy and cook off the alcohol. Add the parsnips and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook the mixture for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are very tender, then puree the mixture in a high-speed blender and pass through a chinois strainer. Add the maple syrup, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg, then season to taste with salt and white pepper. Transfer to a labeled container and refrigerate until needed.