The first time I tasted or even heard of a pureed white bean soup, I was sitting in the kitchen of a very upscale Tea Room in Louisville. Debbie Wheat, chef in residence was showing me the ropes of the the place in hopes that I would be a substitute chef. The situation didn’t work out, but the soup was a brilliant success. This was a year ago and the memory has haunted me since.
Call me slow, but I put off trying to make a batch of the soup – don’t ask me why. Lately, I’d been having recurring thoughts and then, two signs appeared. One while searching for recipes online and one on TV. The TV segment cinched it. Burt Wolf was working with a French Chef who added potatoes to the simple soup. Whether it was the French accent or the beautiful presentation that brought me to finally taking action, I don’t know. All I know is that the soup is worth it.
The least expensive way to make this dish a reality is to pick up a pound of dry cannellini beans, soak them, cook them and use them in this soup. The price, about $1.50. Using canned beans will save lots of time, but the soup will end up costing about 4 times the price. Cannellini beans are about $1.50 a can. Next time, I’ll plan ahead and save some dough.
While you can use either vegetable or chicken broth, the chicken broth will keep the soup lighter in color. Once the cream is added, the puree is nearly the same color as cream, the perfect foil for a cluster of sage leaves and a parmesan crouton.
A word about blenders. I have an immersion blender which I love. It’s great for lots of things and is very convenient. It doesn’t do nearly the job that the standard upright blender does. The soup is made velvety smooth by the upright blender – I highly recommend taking the extra time, effort and clean up that a standard blender brings.
Last night for a New Year’s Eve soup course, we paired this soup with a White Bordeaux, Bellechasse, 2007. The soup and the wine played out perfectly together.
Creamy White Bean and Potato Soup
1 small onion, finely minced
2 Tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced and smashed
3 fist sized potatoes, about 1# total, peeled and diced
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 small sprigs fresh sage leaves
pinch cayenne pepper
4 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed or 1 # dry beans, soaked and cooked.
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a 3 quart or larger sauce pan, saute the onion in the olive oil until carmelized, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and diced potato, stirring just until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and sage and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft enough to smash against the side of the pan when pressed with a spoon. Add the drained beans and turn off the heat. Allow to cool slightly. Remove the sage leaves and stems. Puree in batches in an upright blender. Add cayenne pepper to taste and just enough cream to make a smooth puree.
Return the soup to the pot and heat thoroughly. Serve in bowls, garnishing with sage leaves or a sprinkle of finely minced sage and parmesan croutons.
Parmesan Croutons: Thinly sliced French bread slices, lightly brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Broil until golden brown.