I'm totally divorcing the tomato confit and running away with this soup. Seriously, I am. You can't stop me. We're registered at Bloomingdales.
This is a dessert soup, although I'm a big advocate of making it whenever the hell you feel like it because it is now my favorite item in the whole cookbook (so far, of course). It was really easy to make, even though there were multiple steps involved over the course of about 45 minutes. Here's the mise en place:
The first thing I did was toast the walnuts and rub off any excess skin. Next, I chopped the nuts and added them to a saucepan with the cream, milk and vanilla pod and seeds. I brought the mixture up to a simmer, then cut the heat a bit and let it cook ("low and slow" for all you TWoPers - ha!) for about 45 minutes.
While the walnut mixture was cooking, I made the poaching liquid for the pears:
It was so easy -- boil a bottle of white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc), then add water and sugar, bringing it up to a boil again. Then, I removed it from the heat and added the juice of one lemon (which I strained twice to remove all the pulp and seed particles).
Next, I peeled, cored and sliced a pear into eight segments, which I then poached in some of the poaching liquid for about 20 minutes. I even made the parchment lid Keller recommends, but I wasn't that impressed with its performance:
I ended up having to use my regular pot lid to get these to soften the way they were supposed to. When the pears were soft enough to get a knife through, I put them in the blender with one-third cup of the poaching liquid, and pureed it:
By then, the walnut cream mixture was done cooking and needed to be strained. I strained it through a fine-mesh sieve (throwing away the walnuts and vanilla pod) into a different saucepan. Next, I fired up the blender again and while the pears continued to puree, I added the hot walnut cream mixture to it.
When it was finished blending, I poured it through yet another fine-mesh sieve into yet another saucepan so that I could keep it warm until some friends came over to sample it. The French Laundry serves their Cream of Walnut Soup in demitasse, but mine are in the attic and I didn't feel like getting them out, so I used my grandmother's green shot glasses again (they made their first appearance on this blog in the Parmagiano-Reggiano Crisps with Whipped Goat Cheese):
This was incredible. My friends and I just stood in the kitchen, shot glasses under our nostrils, enjoying the warmth and delicious pear-vanilla-walnut-scented goodness. I love pears, and haven't eaten one ever since I developed an allergy to them, but I didn't have any weird allergic reaction from them when trying this soup. Maybe the poaching helped eliminate whatever it is in a pear that gives me the metallic-mouth, scratchy skin feel.
After slowly sipping the first shotglass of the soup, we each had seconds... and then thirds. How awesome to have two recipes in a row that I not only want to marry and/or bathe in, but that I would make again and again. This one took no time at all -- seriously, I did it all in an hour. Maybe a little less. But, even if this took six hours to make, I'd do it -- it's that good. So, if you have the French Laundry Cookbook at home, and you feel like trying one of the recipes, next to the Gazpacho, I'd say this is the second-easiest. And, so far, the tastiest. It makes you close your eyes and smile. And, it really does reinforce the notion that we taste with our noses.
The book says this recipe started out as a sauce for bread pudding, which completely makes sense once you taste it. It certainly rivals the best bread pudding I've ever had (Multnomah Falls Lodge; which also had an AWESOME gift shop, and by awesome, I mean that it was full of wacky Christian crafty items that had absolutely NOTHING to do with Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Washington, or the Columbia River. Whatever.). Anyhoo, sipping this soup is a combination of how you feel when you eat really good bread pudding accompanied by a glass of crisp, cold, white wine, sitting next to a crackling fireplace while the snow falls outside. And, you're wearing a cashmere rollneck sweater. And probably some pants, because otherwise you'd get cold. Maybe. Unless you enjoy not wearing pants. Hey, I'm not judgy. Much. But seriously, put your pants on, sicko. Sheesh.
Up Next: Pecorino Toscano with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Arugula Coulis
Walnuts, vanilla, lemon and pear from Whole Foods
Milk and cream by Organic Valley
Les Fumees Blanches Sauvignon Blanc; 2005 Jacques & Francois Lurton (thanks to whomever brought this to my last dinner party as a hostess gift!)
Hamilton Beach blender
Music to Cook By: Joe Jackson, Steppin' Out (Best of)
Sunday, February 25, 2007