Cooking with Thyme: Roasted Shallot, Garlic and New Potato Soup

| April/May 1997

Roasting with thyme gives these vegetables a wonderful flavor. In fact, they are delicious as a side dish as well as in this soup. The soup, however, is worth the effort to make it, especially when served with brown bread and cheese, a plate of new radishes, steamed asparagus spears, pickled beets and cold beer—a veritable spring feast. SERVES 6

• 3/4 pound shallots
• 1 large head of garlic
• 2 pounds new potatoes
• 12 three-inch sprigs thyme
• 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 cups milk
• 3 cups vegetable stock
• 1 tablespoon minced thyme
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Dash cayenne pepper
• 3 to 4 dashes Angostura bitters
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Oil a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel off any loose skins from the shallots, but leave the rest intact. Trim off the root and tip ends. Peel most of the outer skin from the garlic bulb and trim about 1/2 inch off the tops of the cloves. Place the garlic bulb in the center of the baking dish and surround it with the shallots placed on their root ends.

2. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into large pieces. Place them in the baking dish surrounding the shallots. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the vegetables. Season them generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle them with the olive oil. Cover the dish with foil and place it in the center of the hot oven. Roast for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and roast for 40 minutes longer.

3. Take the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil. Carefully transfer the shallots and garlic to another plate to cool. Mash the potatoes in the baking dish with a potato masher, adding a little milk if necessary. Transfer them to a nonreactive soup pot. Add the milk, 2 cups of the stock, and the minced thyme, and place the pot over low heat.

4. When the shallots and garlic are cool enough to handle, squeeze them from their skins and put them in a blender or food processor. Add about 1/2 cup of the remaining stock and blend or process until they are minced. Add this mixture to the pot with the remaining stock and stir well. Stir in the cayenne pepper and bitters and let the soup cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally; do not simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot, garnished with Parmesan cheese if desired.

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