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Endive Chowder

Endive Chowder
This soup is similar to the French potage bonne femme, but the endive's bitterness gives the chowder's flavor a slight edge. The soup can be dressed up or down: Puree the vegetables for a sophisticated first course, or leave them chunky for a casual supper.

Ingredients:

  • 4 endives, 3/4 to 1 lb. total
  • 2 Tbs. butter, plus softened butter for bread
  • 2 leeks, white portion only, rinsed well and
      chopped
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, including leaves, diced
  • 1/2 lb. yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut
      into small dice
  • 1/2 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 slices country-style bread

Directions:

Reserve 8 outer leaves from the endives, then quarter and coarsely chop the remainder.

In a soup pot over medium-high heat, melt the 2 Tbs. butter. Add the chopped endive, the leeks, shallots, celery, potatoes, turnips, carrots, thyme and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are fragrant and the bottom of the pot is lightly glazed, about 7 minutes.

Add the broth and the 1 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Mash a few of the vegetables against the side of the pot, or transfer 1 to 2 cups to a blender and puree, then return to the pot. Add the cream and season with white pepper. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Stir in half the parsley, chives and tarragon.

Finely sliver the reserved endive leaves.

Toast the bread, butter it and cut into cubes to form small croutons. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and top with the croutons, the remaining herbs and the slivered endive. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma TASTE Magazine, Shades of Pale, by Deborah Madison (Fall 2001).