Rutabagas might not look like much — a discolored turnip, a rounded daikon — but they have a fierce flavor that certainly sets them apart from the rest of the root vegetable pack. Pungently bitter when raw, their tight-walled, yellow flesh dissolves after long simmering, releasing earthy aromas and a subtly sweet taste. It pairs perfectly with cream, butter and leeks, I think, and your kitchen will never have smelled better from the combination.
The plain sight of leeks at a winter’s farmers’ market makes me hungry for soup. This weekend, I was grappling with blustering winds, dogs fiercely pulling at their leashes (attached to my thankfully gloved hands), and a bitter, dry cold that kept my skin as dry as that alligator in the body lotion ad. But I managed to grab a bunch of large leeks from Phillips’ Farm, and the less-common rutabagas from an unfortunately sparse stand for Ray Bradley Farm (hit hard by the hurricane last summer).
- separating the light-green and dark-green parts of leeks
- If you know how to make the classic potato leek soup in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, then you know how to make this. It’s easy as soup (that’s much easier than pie, right?). I may have used more leeks than rutabagas in the end, just because mine were so gargantuan, but that suited me just fine in the end (and my surprise houseguests who got a taste of the freshly made soup as well).
- Leeks sweat in butter, diced rutabaga are added. A simple stock (can be made right there from carrot, celery, and the dark green leek tips too tough to use in the soup) is added, and the whole thing simmers about an hour. I removed a few spoonfuls of the chopped leeks from the bath before transferring everything over to a blender to puree it. Once added back, they lend slippery touches of texture to the silken base. A touch of whole milk, and seasonings to taste, and it’s done.
- after an hour of simmering
- The fun part of cooking with rutabaga is that nobody ever knows what the heck it is. This could be, on first guess, a cream of cauliflower, or potato leek soup made with yukon gold? Whatever it is, they concede, it smells interesting, and tastes even better.
- Creamy Rutabaga Leek Soup
- (makes about 4 servings)
- 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only
- 2 medium rutabagas
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (reserve the dark green parts of leeks to make some)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste