Winter is about attitude. If Minnesota has taught me anything, it’s that. I was showering to Sheryl Crow this morning (not routine), and she sang a truth that prompted me to visit my refrigerator with fresh eyes, and with a towel, of course. See, I had been under the impression we had nothing to eat. Then Sheryl reminds me (with a cliché no less) that “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got,” and suddenly, my fridge full of misfits, of sweet potatoes and green onions and garlic—my fridge of spare parts—starts to look like a tasty soup that indeed I have been wanting very badly. Very much the Dorothy in Kansas phenomenon. All bleak Midwest winters have a yellow-bricked road. All ill-stocked fridges have a soup somewhere inside them waiting to boil.
Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon and Chives
Adapted from Cook’s Country March 2013
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
dash (or more, if you’re me) cayenne pepper
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 pounds sweet potatoes (2-3 large), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced thin
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
garnish: fresh or dried chives
1. Cut bacon into 1/4-inch slices and place in a cold soup pot. Heat the pot over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until it’s crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with paper towels and set aside to drain and crisp.
2. Keep 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan and discard the rest. Re-heat the fat over medium-high heat, then add the onions, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Toss in the garlic and stir, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the sweet potatoes, broth, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
4. Working in batches, purée the soup in a food processor or blender until it’s smooth. Return to the pot, taste, and adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls, then sprinkle with a little bacon and chives. Both the bacon and soup hold up well in the fridge for a few days.
This soup is incredible—especially with Parmesan cheese and slices of toast with cheddar cheese (other random things that happened to be in the fridge). For the record, I actually hate that Sheryl Crow song, especially this time of year when I am impossibly far from any beach. The only song I hate more is the Drummer Boy (Pah rump pump um pum? Worst ever.) If that song comes on while I am driving, I will pull over. I was getting out of the shower to turn it off when I had my soup epiphany. One never knows when inspiration will strike.