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~ Slightly-Spicy and Creamy-Rich Sweet Potato Soup ~

IMG_5297As a gal who eats sweet potatoes all year long, I pay particular homage to them at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I present them as a cup of sweet potato soup as the starter to the meal, sometimes they arrive in the form of a side-dish sweet potato and caramelized apple casserole, other times they're the sweet potato, apple and sausage stuffing/dressing side-kick to my turkey, and, always but always, my traditional Turkey Day feast includes a sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato soup is a savory starter.  Season it accordingly.

When it comes to sweet potato soup, think "savory soup" not "sweet dessert" and season accordingly.  Sweet potato soup does not need sugar, brown sugar or honey added to it -- sweet potatoes are full of flavor, texture and they're naturally sweet.  When served as a savory starter to a meal it's my opinion they shouldn't contain commonly used pie spices -- no cinnamon or nutmeg please.  Herbes de Provence, cracked black pepper and a kiss of fresh rosemary do it for me.

An inconvenient truth:  A sweet potato is not a yam.

IMG_8026A bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root (which belongs to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet, and, after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato. The darker variety (pictured above) has a thicker, dark-orange skin and vivid-orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture. The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

IMG_5635When buying sweet potatoes, choose plump, firm even-sized ones with no cracks. Like regular potatoes they should never be stored in the refrigerator, but do need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. If the temperature is above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shriveled.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator, last about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potates are always eaten cooked, never raw.

My silky-smooth, creamy-rich herbes de Provence, cracked black pepper & rosemary-kissed sweet potato soup:

IMG_52583  cups smashed sweet potatoes, removed from 3 pounds sweet potatoes after baking or microwave-baking the potatoes

1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion (8 ounces)

1  cup diced celery (4 ounces)

2  tablespoons butter

1 1/2  teaspoons herbes de Provence (a blend of dried rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

2 1/2  cups high-quality, unsalted vegetable stock

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream 

3-4  3"-4"-long fresh rosemary sprigs 

crème fraîche (sour cream or Greek-style yogurt may be substituted), for garnish 

small fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

IMG_5257Step 1.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, pierce tops of sweet potatoes in 4-5 spots.  Microwave-bake them until soft -- in my microwave this takes about 18 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, 15-20 minutes.  Using the paring knife and an ordinary tablespoon slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork.  Set aside.  This task can be done several hours or a day or two in advance.

IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260~Step 2.  In a 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed chef's pan melt the butter over low heat.  Add the diced onion and celery to the pan.  Season the vegetables with the herbes de Provence, salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softening and celery is crunch tender, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_5273 IMG_5274 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279~Step 3.  Add the sweet potatoes and stir them into the vegetables.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  Add and stir in the cream.  Place the rosemary sprigs on the surface of the soup and reduce heat to simmer gently, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove from heat, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and serve immediately, garnishing each portion with a dollop of crème fraîche and a rosemary sprig.

Serve garnished w/crème fraîche & a sprig of rosemary:

IMG_5290Can be made 3-5 days ahead -- reheat gently to steaming:

IMG_5308Silky-Smooth and Creamy-Rich Sweet Potato Soup:  Recipe yields 2 quarts/8 cups/8 servings. Can be made 3-5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Does not freeze well.

Special Equipment List:  paring knife; spoon; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed chef's pan; large spoon; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b25c14970bCook's Note:  While butternut squash and sweet potatoes are not directly related to each other, culinarily, almost anything you can do with any Winter squash you can do with a sweet potato (and vice versa).  One more point: when it comes to the butternut squash, I prefer it to its blander cousin, the pumpkin.   That said, if you're a person who prefers the butternut squash to the sweet potato, try my ~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photographs courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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