Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cream of Walnut Soup


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

Brands Used:
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
All-Clad cookware

Music to Cook By: Joe Jackson, Steppin' Out (Best of)


Anonymous said...

Dang, girl. Two in one weekend? Wish I was there.

Anonymous said...

I made this once and I think the walnuts were baaaaad, because the end result was grainy and bitter. I'm glad yours worked out, and I think I'll try it again.

I love your blog, by the way. I like the way you write, and that you make it about the food. It's cool.

Anonymous said...

Oooo, now you've made me hungry for bread pudding. You're eeevill... eeeeeviiillll.....

Anonymous said...

That sounds seriously delicious.

I like your blog and your project really rocks. Will check back often.

pdxblogmommy said...

Doll, the lodge beckons. Maybe another October visit (preferably sooner, but I think it's my turn to come to you.)?

Anyhow...this sounds truly glorious. Perhaps when the chillens are a tad bit older, I'll start to REALLY cook again. For now, though, I'll live vicariously through you and wish I was there.

Oh, and Jesus loves you thiiiiis much.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so glad you tried this one. It's on my to-do list, too. Maybe this weekend.

Your blog continues to rock, BTW!

Anonymous said...

we were the first takers of this yoummy soup and my 10 yr old daughter and i LOVED it!
like drinking velvet
thanks so much!

Kitt said...

Oh, yum! That sounds fabulous. Thanks for blazing the trail.

(And how strange ... you're the first person I've encountered who has a "metallic mouth" allergic reaction besides me. But mine's to kiwi, alas.)

Anonymous said...

making parchment paper lids is one of the major annoyances in my life since i started culinary school.

Sara said...

uh oh. I'd been thinking about getting this cookbook for a while, and I think you just converted me. Nicely done!

Meg said...

Hi! I'm going to pretend I didn't just discover your blog. *g* I thought I was being so clever by deciding to cook every recipe in TFL Cookbook (which I adore, BTW), and here I've found, as usual, I have not an original thought in my head. :)

But, I'm gonna do it anyway and come back here when I'm done and compare notes. I'll be documenting while people point and laugh at me over at livejournal. Good luck!! It's definitely ambitious and naturally, I love the idea!

Albertitto said...

That sounds so yummy, a much more elegant and sophisticated walnut soup than the traditional Chinese walnut soup often served in Hong Kong restaurants. (variations of which include black sesame soup, lotus seed soup, etc.)

I don't understand how that parchment lid is supposed to work on top of the pot. (I don't have the French Laundry book) Wouldn't it make more sense to press the paper onto the poach liquid surface? Or you just put it on top of the pot for photography reasons...

Very nice blog by the way...I wish I was as diligent at updating mine.

Carol Blymire said...

Alex and Albertitto -- re: the parchment lid. I did have it down in the pan close to the poaching liquid, but it kept rolling up into a parchment cigar, so I just decided to rest it on top. I'll try it again with another dish, but it's kind of a pain in the ass.

Sara: Get the book. Geettttt the boooook.... it's awesome.

Meg: Glad to hear you want to try this, too. It's been so much fun already and I haven't even gotten into the really tough stuff yet. I'm craving foie gras, so I may have to do that sooner rather than later.

Rickie said...

The metallic mouth thing sounds like oral allergy syndrome -- I get it from melons and bananas. It's apparently an enzyme thing, and cooking the fruit breaks down the enzymes, so yes, poaching the pears stops the reaction!

BTW, I don't think I've commented here before -- Your adventures in cooking are fascinating and I have you saved in my RSS reader. Can't wait to see what comes next!

Meg said...

Are you going from the beginning of the book forward? I totally told everyone about your blog over on my Livejournal, so you may be getting more readers. :)

I was thinking of trying to do it more seasonally, but then I never liked doing things the easy way.

If you're interested at all, my Lj is

I'm headed back to read your archives now.

Carol Blymire said...

Hey, Meg -- glad to see you're going to jump in and do the same thing. I'll be curious to see if you have some of the same experiences I do! I'm trying to get a friend of mine to do this with the Bouchon cookbook, but she won't. :(

Anonymous said...

A tip on the parchment lid...

Start with a square piece of parchment. Fold it in half, than fold it in half again, so you have a square 1/4 the area of the original sheet.

Fold in half diagonally so you have a triangle. Fold in half again and again in the same direction, making skinnier and skinnier triangles until you can't fold anymore. It will be a long skinny triangle with one solid pointy end...

Cut a tiny piece off the pointy end (1/8 inch) - when unfolded this will be the hole in the center. Cut the other side to be 1/2 the diameter of the liquid surface.

The folds will prevent the lid from curling in hot liquid...

Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

This recipe is also in Rhulman's Soul of a Chef and I made it with pecans instead of walnuts (which I don't care for, plus I like to buy local and that means pee-cans).

I found the end result to be only okay. Well no... it was delicious, but it wasn't knee-buckling or life-changing by any means. It tasted exactly like the sum of its ingredients - pecans, pear, cream, vanilla, sugar. num num, and easy as pie to make, but no revelations here.

Anonymous said...

I just made this today. Wow, it is fantastic!

Unknown said...

I found your blog after the Washington Post article. I'm hooked. And since any recipe that makes you want to bathe in it has to be pretty good, I tried the soup. So fabulous. Thank you, and you've inspired me to try more of the FL recipes which had intimidated me before.