Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dinner Tonight: Chico's Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I'd say that nearly 90% of what I cook for dinner can be made in 45 minutes or less, and I would venture to guess that the same is true for many of you. I put a lot of effort into planning and making good meals for my family, but I generally avoid recipes that require a lot of time; I'd rather spend that time with aforementioned family, after all. There are, however, a handful of super special recipes in my stash that take a lot of time and effort but that are so worth the time and effort. This recipe is one of those.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana, do. It is an incredibly special place with a rich history, year-round geothermally heated pools, and an amazing gourmet restaurant. It also happens to be up the road from Yellowstone National Park and in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains. I have been fortunate enough to spend some time at Chico, and on my first visit, I picked up their cookbook, A Montana Table by Seabring Davis. Of all the recipes I've made from this book, this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Soup is the one I go back to again and again.  

The recipe as transcribed below includes several tweaks I have made over the years. Additionally, here are a few tips:

- The original recipe calls for 2 quarts of homemade chicken stock. I have always used vegetarian Better than Bouillon to keep the recipe meatless.

- I typically take two days to make this recipe - one to roast, peel, and seed the peppers and a second to throw the soup together. I have always used fresh bell peppers (this is my go-to recipe when red peppers are really cheap at the farmer's market) but I suppose you could use jarred. Eight peeled and seeded roasted peppers yields about 3 cups.

- The recipe calls for 1 cup of sherry. I typically use super cheap cooking sherry with great results. You can also use red wine if that is what you have around.

- Because the soup gets pureed in the end, don't waste your time with precision cutting on the veggies. Just give them a rough chop.

- The original recipe has 1/2 tsp saffron whisked in with the cream. I have always skipped this since I generally don't have saffron around, but if you do, by all means use it.

- As noted in the cookbook, you can add steamed mussels, clams, or other shellfish as a last-minute topping. You can also add a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.


Image courtesy of A Montana Table

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Adapted from A Montana Table


6 to 8 large red bell peppers
2 quarts soup stock
canola oil
2 large yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
4 large shallots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup sherry, divided
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp of hot sauce (optional but oh-so-good)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Roast whole red bell peppers over an open flame on a gas burning stovetop or grill; remove from flame when skin is mostly blackened and immerse in an ice bath to remove skin easily. Seed and dice. ALTERNATE METHOD: Roast peppers in a 450 degree oven, turning occasionally, until blackened. Put peppers in a paper bag and close the top for 10-15 minutes to loosen the skin. Peel, seed, and dice. Set aside. (Can be done one day ahead - store in fridge).

2. In a large soup pot, warm stock on medium-high heat until boiling. Add roasted red peppers and let simmer.

3. Heat a large saute pan with canola oil and saute onion, carrot, shallots, celery, and garlic until browned (about ten minutes). Add tomatoes and heat through. Transfer vegetables to soup pot. Use 1/2 cup sherry to deglaze the saute pan and add to soup pot. Cook over medium-high heat, allowing mixture to reduce to half, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. The next step is to puree the soup. I have found that this is both difficult and dangerous to do while the soup is hot unless you have an immersion blender. If you don't, let it cool a bit before transferring it to a blender or food processor and pureeing until smooth.

5. Return to soup pot on low heat. Whisk in cream, lemon juice, remaining 1/2 cup sherry, and the optional hot sauce. Add salt and pepper to your taste, simmer for ten minutes, and serve!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds delicious, and I just have to say I really love your blog, Hope. It inspires me.