Oh, the things for which we lust.
I’ve had a thing for carrot soup ever since I tried Crescent Dragonwagon’s Carrot-Orange Soup with a Toasted Cashew Garnish in her beautiful cookbook, Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread. My version was a tad lighter than hers—I omitted the heavy cream, the brandy, and the cashews—but oh, how I loved that soup. It was voluptuously thick with the rich, clear flavors of carrot, onion, orange, and butter. I made it over and over again, delighting in the way it brightened every meal with its gorgeous orange color. And then I just stopped making it. Period. I don’t know why. Prior to this past weekend, I cannot remember the last time I had carrot soup. I’ve had soups with carrots in them, but a pureed carrot soup is a different creature altogether.
Every time I thought about carrot soup, I felt a pang of longing—I missed it so much! Finally, while reading Amanda Hesser’s very entertaining courtship memoir Cooking for Mr. Latte, I had had enough. After a chapter about Sunday night dinner with friends and carrot-and-fennel soup, I drew up a grocery list and knew that soon enough, I would be reunited with my long-lost love.
It might be obvious from the recipe index, but I am a devoted soup-maker. For all the reasons that Anne describes and more, I am crazy about soups. I make almost all of my soups in a hand-me-down black pot covered in white speckles. I inherited this piece of cookware from my sister-in-law, who happily passed along to me a giant box of assorted kitchen supplies. The contents of the box were culled from various kitchens as “un-needed” and had been languishing in her garage for some time. My pot, Speckled, came from this box and we’ve been together ever since.
Speckled has one tiny flaw: it is almost impossible to sautee things inside this pot. Speckled is made of a thin metal which, for whatever reason, does not conduct heat to fat very kindly. The fat, be it oil or butter, starts to smoke even at extremely low temperatures, and my vegetables burn. It’s not pretty. Long ago, I had given up on sauteeing things in Speckled. Instead, I would sautee in a skillet and transfer things to Speckled for simmering. This system works, but I miss the pleasure and efficiency of making soup in just one pot.
Back to the carrot soup. Intrigued by a carrot-orange soup that includes fennel, I let Amanda Hesser sweet-talk me into trying her soup. I decided to do something courageous: I sauteed the fennel, garlic, and carrots in Speckled, reasoning that if things looked grim, I could quickly transfer things to a skillet. Not surprisingly, the butter smoked a bit, but I managed to complete the soup, from start to finish, in Speckled and was rewarded with a gorgeous carrot and fennel soup laced with fresh orange juice and a generous dab of sour cream. It was smooth, rich, savory, and just a tiny bit sweet. It was different from my tried-and-true recipe, but a good different. A delicious different.
Despite this happy ending, I now know what I must do. When the United States government announced its Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, I knew for sure that I’d be using that economic stimulus check to stimulate my belly. I just wasn’t sure how. Now I am confident that what is needed here is a high-quality soup pot, one that is sautee-friendly, sturdy, and beautiful. It should be a soup pot in which it is fun and easy to cook. I’m not throwing out Speckled; I’m just buying a companion pot.
Please advise me: which pot should I buy? One brand that swiftly comes to mind is Le Creuset. Heaven knows their goods are gorgeous, and two trusted cooks have sung their praises to my ears. I’m very tempted…but what other brands should I be considering? What pots do you love, dear reader? What pots have served you well over the years? Remember: the health of the economy, and my belly, rests on this very important decision!