To those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that before writing this post I spent a considerable amount of time pondering whether I could call this soup a velouté. In classical French cooking, a velouté sauce is a combination of a blond roux (equal parts butter and flour) and a white stock (i.e., a stock made from bones that have not been roasted), and finished with cream. A velouté soup, at least back when the French were doctrinaire about such things, had to be made using this same base. My soup doesn’t contain flour; it is thickened by the vegetable purée.
I made this soup because my dad is visiting me and he loves soups. It is a lovely soup: the fennel and shallots are slowly caramelized and the parsnips are cooked in milk for added richness. I garnished it with fried sage but you can garnish it with anything you like: minced chives or finely chopped lardons, for example, or you can leave the garnish off altogether. The soup doesn’t need it. If you think I shouldn’t call it a velouté you can write and tell me “Non!”
Two bulbs fennel, cored and thinly sliced
3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
5 parsnips, peeled and cored (the tough cores add a starchiness, and shouldn’t be used)
50 grams butter
1 cup milk
1 cup water
850 grams white chicken stock or vegetable stock (about 22 ounces, or roughly 2 and 2/3 cups)
200 grams cream (about five ounces, or roughly half a cup)
2-3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, melt the butter until the foam subsides and add the fennel and shallots. Stir to coat, reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to caramelize for one hour, stirring occasionally. (I like to weigh the vegetables down with something, but this is just because my gut tells me the vegetables caramelize better that way.) By the end of the cooking, the fennel and shallots should be reduced to about ¼ their size, and pale golden.
In a large saucepan, simmer the parsnips in the water and milk until tender. Drain, reserving liquid. Add the caramelized fennel, shallots, the stock, and about ½ cup of the reserved cooking liquid from the parsnips and simmer for five to ten minutes. Using an immersion blender (or blender), purée until completely smooth. Strain the soup through a wire mesh sieve or drum sieve to remove any fibers, being sure to scrape off any goodness from the back of the sieve.
Return to clean saucepan over low heat, and stir in cream, salt, and, if necessary, additional reserved cooking liquid from the parsnips to achieve desired consistency. Serve hot.
Makes 6-8 servings.