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Thanksgiving is drawing near in the United States. Turkeys are running scared, school children are learning about the Pilgrims and the Indians, and I am standing in the middle of the grocery store, wondering what the heck the difference is between a sweet potato and a yam. More on that later. While perusing Elise Bauer’s inspiring site, Simply Recipes, I came across a recipe for sweet potato soup. I was attracted to the soup because of the beautiful color and the addition of maple syrup. Perhaps it is my Canadian blood talking, but I have a tendency to infuse Thanksgiving dishes, such as my Maple & Brown Sugar Cranberry Sauce Recipe, with the rich, sweet taste of maple syrup. To my palate, however, sweet is always best when paired with a little salt and a hit of tang. To achieve this, I sautéed a chopped Granny Smith apple, along with the vegetables, in bacon drippings and crumbled crisp bacon over each serving. Each time I took a bite of this flavorful soup, I knew I had hit the mark.
Back to the sweet potato and yam dilemma. In an effort to put my uncertainty on this topic to rest forever, I did a little research. It turns out that yams and sweet potatoes are not even related. Yams, which come in a variety of colors, are grown in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania, and when they make the long journey to North America, are primarily sold in international food markets. The tubers typically found in the produce section of your local grocery store are a variety of sweet potato, despite the sign that boldly claims, “Yams”. Darn those grocery store scoundrels.
Sweet potato, not yam.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, cook 3 strips of bacon until crisp.
Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain. When cool, crumble the bacon and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons butter to the bacon drippings in the saucepan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add 1 cup chopped onion and 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add 2 celery stalks, chopped, and 1 large leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only). Sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add 2 garlic cloves, chopped, and sauté for 1 minute.
Peel and chop 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes and add to the onion mixture, along with 5 cups chicken broth, 1 cinnamon stick, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.
Remove and discard cinnamon stick. Working in batches, purée the sweet potato mixture in a blender until smooth.
Return the soup to the saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups half and half and 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup and heat, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowl and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon of half and half, and crumbled bacon.
Sweet Potato Soup with Maple & Bacon
3 strips bacon
2 tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large leek, sliced (white & pale green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 cups chicken broth
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups half and half, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp maple syrup
Add butter to the bacon drippings in the saucepan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add onion and apple, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add celery and leek and 1 large leek. Sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add sweet potatoes and add to the onion mixture, along with chicken broth, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.