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
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!