Today I want to share a simple carrot soup that my son really loves. It has a bright sweetness and is richly satisfying without being heavy. In a way it is a kind of soup version of the classic French dish called Carottes Vichy, which are carrots cooked in a small amount of buttered, slightly sweetened liquid until the liquid evaporates and becomes a golden glaze. If we’re being honest, to my husband’s mind, very little worth mentioning has ever come out of Vichy, and their carrots are no exception. (The city of Vichy was the seat of the French collaborationist government during WWII.) Admittedly, Vichy carrots have had their reputation sullied not only by fascists, but also by lunch ladies who have a tendency to serve them as a slightly nauseating side vegetable in cafeterias across France. Yet I think they have great potential when done well, and I have fond memories of eating glazed carrots as a child. I think this soup shows how great cooked carrots can be!
The technique for this soup is slightly different from the Vichy one in that the caramelization takes place in the oven instead of the stovetop. It is not hard, but it requires a few steps and is perhaps not something to do when you’re trying to keep mess and time to an absolute minimum. First, you roast the carrots (and I also found the addition of a sweet potato to be a good one); next you purée them; and finally you simmer the purée with added liquid over a low flame. I found that the final result was worth the effort, and the whole family enjoyed it, husband included!!
Roasting vegetables concentrates flavor and develops sweetness more than other method of cooking, and I encourage you to do it whenever you’re looking to achieve the most intense vegetable flavor. A nice way to speed up clean-up is to lay down a sheet of aluminum foil (or non-stick treated foil) before you put in the vegetables. When you’re done, you can simply throw away the foil.
The one problem I have sometimes encountered when it comes to roasting root vegetables is getting them cooked all the way through. I have found a trick that really helps, and that is adding just a few tablespoons of water to the pan along with the oil or butter. This really helps soften them before browning begins and, just like with Vichy carrots, you get vegetables that are both cooked through and glazed on the outside. If you decide to use foil, be sure to roll it up a bit on the edges so that the water doesn’t seep below the foil, making it stick.
Carrot Sweet Potato Soup à la Vichy (but in a good way)
- 6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tbsp loosely packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth, plus water needed (a bouillon cube and water are fine)
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss the carrots, sweet potatoes, sugar, butter and water together on a cookie sheet and coat vegetables evenly. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. (You will be adding salted broth later, so plan accordingly) Roast, turning once or twice with a spatula, until vegetables are cooked through with some areas turning deep brown, about 30-40 minutes.
Transfer the carrot mix to a food processor and purée, adding a bit of chicken broth to loosen. Pour purée into a saucepan and continue adding broth and then water until the desired consistency is reached. (Alternatively, you could put carrots and broth into saucepan directly, simmer, and then purée with a hand blender. This will yield a chunkier final result.) Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream and/or a drizzle of olive oil on top if desired.