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Spinach Soup

010The fridge has been cleaned out and restocked, and I’m on my way back up the ladder after a dismal week of culinary mishaps.  It happens to everyone, I suppose, but for some reason I seem to take the hit harder than most.  I screwed up egg salad for the love of criminy.  That is just soooooo JV.  Anyhow, tonight I went with an old stand by.  I figure when you’re having a rough patch, go back to your roots.

This soup has always been a big hit at my annual soup swap, as well as a great course for a Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner – the color just works well.  My parents are probably laughing at me that I could even consider something called Spinach Soup an old stand by.  I was a pretty picky eater as a kiddo, not as phenomenally so as my older sister, but still, fairly anti-vegetable, etc.  The culmination of said pickiness came at age six, resulting in me vomiting out of sheer protest after being forced one bite of a spinach souffle, then immediately declaring a spinach “allergy”.  Did I ever mention I don’t like to be told what to do?  I also tried to convince my best friend’s mother I had an egg allergy around that time, but I’m pretty sure Margee saw right through that.  In any case, Margee pretty much let us do whatever we wanted to anyway.  But, hey, we all grow up some day right?

There are two keys to this dish.  Immutable food laws, in my opinion, regarding spinach.  One – Only cook the spinach for an extremely short period of time to protect the color, flavor, and prevent the bittering flavors from attacking you.  Two – don’t season until you’ve reheated your soup after pureeing and adding the cream and Madeira, salt has a way of changing the flavor during the heating process.  A third rule, not necessarily immutable, but in the quest for food excellence, I’d encourage is, use real cream.  Real heavy cream.  Generally, I’m apt to sub half and half cause we have it on hand, or if a recipe calls for whole milk, I run with skim or 1 %.  In fact, usually if it calls for half and half, I half the amount and make up the difference with 1% milk.  But that one’s largely due to my sheer panic that my coffee might not be perfect the next morning if I use all my half and half.  I’ve made this with half and half and it’s just not the same.  Opt for real cream.  This recipe was adapted over time from the Williams Sonoma Entertaining cookbook.  I know I added more potato, much more stock, knowing me – probably more liquor and generally changed things around a bit – but that’s originally where it came from.  I tried to find the original recipe, but I can’t find my cookbook at the moment, and it’s long out of print.

I find children to enjoy this more if you call it Green Soup instead of spinach.  My kids are aliens, but they both gobbled up a bowl and were thrilled.  I’ve served it to a couple other children with good results.  And just in case you’re a grown up who feels ill at the idea of cooked spinach, give it a shot.  It’s seriously one of my most requested recipes. This recipe makes a bucket load – probably at least 10 bowl size servings – so feel free to half it or to split it with a friend.  As always, food is love and your friend with thank you, unless they throw up on your table out of protest anyway.

Spinach Soup with Madeira

1/4 c. butter
2 1/2 c. diced yellow (or white) onion – just not sweet onions!
2 baking (Russet) potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
5 c chicken stock
2 pkg prewashed baby spinach (at least 9 oz size each, the kind in the ready to make salad section)
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c. Madeira wine
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper (lots of both to taste) probably at least 3 tsps of salt

In a 6qt saucepan over med heat, melt butter.  Add the onion and saute, stirring, until tender and translucent 10-12 minutes.  Add the potato and the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the potato is soft, 8-10 min.

Raise heat to high and start adding spinach by the handful, pushing them down in the hot stock with a spoon.  When all of the spinach has been immersed in the stock, cook until barely wilted no more than 1 min.

Working in batches using a slotted spoon, transfer soup solids to a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade.  If you put it all in at once, it’s liable to make a big mess and won’t get evenly chopped.  The resulting mixture will be very thick.  At this point you can STOP, if you’re preparing in advance.

Pour the puree back into the stock.  Stir.  Add the cream and Madeira and reheat gently, thinning with additional stock to your liking.  Do not allow to boil.  Season with the nutmeg and generously with salt and pepper to taste.