February is when I miss the summer months, the time of year filled with produce we can eat raw: tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce and sweet peppers. The time of year when fresh herbs are abundant, ready to season any dinner.
February is the darkest month of winter. Not literally, I know; the days have technically been getting longer since December. But now that the holidays are past and even the festive cranberries and winter squash are largely gone, the farmer’s market selection feels pale and weak. I’m growing tired of roasted carrots and braised parsnips and baked potatoes, delicious as they are. I need something new, something hearty and filling that gets in my daily vegetable servings in a new form. What better than a stew, a thick puree of vegetables and stock, studded with chunks of root vegetables and crumbles of bacon?
The vinegar is optional, but I highly recommend you add it. You won't actually taste it, but the vinegar helps "brighten" and bring out the flavors of the roasted vegetables. But you only need a few drops for each large bowl; a little goes a long way!
- 4 Yukon gold potatoes
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 large leek (white and light green parts only)
- 2 medium parsnips
- 1 small celery root
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices bacon
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock (or even water)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Grease a cookie sheet.
- Chop the potatoes, carrots, leek, parsnips, celery root and garlic into bite sized pieces, then toss the vegetables with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You'll want just a few sprinkles of salt and a few grinds of black pepper -- not too much. Remember, you can always add more later, but you can't take it away.
- Spread the vegetables out on the cookie sheet in an even layer. Roast at 425F for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat. Use tongs to flip it occasionally, so that it gets dark and crispy on both sides. Even if you typically prefer chewy bacon, crispy is best for crumbling over this soup later.
- Remove the bacon from the pot and add the stock. Cover the pot and bring the stock to a simmer, then uncover.
- Add half the vegetables to the pot and puree with an immersion blender until mostly smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, move half the vegetables to a food processor with 1 1/2 cups of warm stock and puree until mostly smooth, then return the puree to the pot.
- Add the rest of the vegetables, left in chunks, to the soup. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
- While the soup simmers, crumble the bacon into little pieces.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, topping each with a sprinkling of bacon and a few drops of vinegar (see headnote).