Creamy Parsnip Soup with Tarragon & Pancetta Crisps

Parsnip soup with creme fraiche, tarragon and truffle salt topped with a pancetta crisp.

Very close to the top of the list of my favourite kitchen gadgets is my immersion blender. I would be very torn if someone told me that I had to give away my immersion blender, food processor or my KitchenAid mixer. Generally I call my immersion blender my stick blender and it has made making pureed soups ridiculously simple.

This parsnip soup has a very simple base: leeks and garlic (onion would be a fine substitute for the leeks). When I was trying to think of something that would pair well with the unique flavour of parsnips I went sniffing around my spice cupboard and opened up a jar of Dijon tarragon dip mix and thought that tarragon was a great match for parsnips. The first time I made this I had to use the dip mix because I didn’t have fresh or dried tarragon. To me tarragon has a very strong flavour and if there is too much of it all I can taste is licorice – which I hate. Use dried tarragon is if that is all you have but reduce the amount as it is a more concentrated flavour.

I also added a half teaspoon of truffle salt which is definitely one of those foodie ingredients not part of the regular pantry.  I bought truffle salt because I heard Oprah raving about it. I wouldn’t call myself a devoted Oprah acolyte who does everything that she says to do.  For example I have never used the word journal as a verb when referring to myself, but when I heard about a funky pantry item that is a reasonable price I headed to Vincenzo’s to get it. When I opened the jar and took a whiff of it I nearly collapsed from the smell. Frankly, it stinks. The smell is indescribable. I want to say that it smells like ass which isn’t quite right and as a mother of a toddler… never mind, some things need not be said. My mother-in-law said it smelled like a barnyard but I disagree. I have been to many farms and it doesn’t smell like that either. It is a smell unto itself.

Now that I have you chomping at the bit to go out and source yourself some truffle salt, let me just tell you that a little bit goes a long way and it will give your dish a delicious, flavourful depth. If you use a tiny amount people will love whatever you use it in and be perplexed at what it is that make them love it so much.  If you are too heavy handed with this decadent and powerful ingredient then people will be trying to describe your dish in unpleasant ways (see above). I used a half teaspoon because my truffle salt is about a year old. If you have fresh stuff then just use a 1/4 teaspoon. Trust me, it will be plenty.

Creamy Parsnip Soup with Tarragon & Pancetta Crisps

Recipe Type: Soup
Author: Christina Austin
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Parsnip soup with creme fraiche, tarragon and truffle salt topped with a pancetta crisp.
Ingredients
  • 3 leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp (or more to taste) fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp truffle salt (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche (more for garnish is desired)**
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 thin slices of pancetta
Instructions
  1. Cut the green part off of the leeks and the root end. Slice it lengthwise and wash to get rid of any sand that is stuck between the layers. Chop each half of the leeks into thin half moons and chop the garlic.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and add the leeks and garlic. Cook them over a medium heat until they begin to soften but not brown. Add a pinch of (regular) salt and pepper.
  3. Peel and chop the parsnips and add them to the leeks and garlic. Let them cook for a minute or two and then add the white wine. Stir to scrape any brown bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Chop the tarragon and add it to the pot. Stir for a moment and then add the chicken broth and, if using, the truffle salt.
  5. Cover and let it simmer until the parsnips are very soft, about 25 minutes. You will need to reduce the heat to a medium low so that the soup simmers rather boil furiously.
  6. When the parsnips are very soft, puree with an immersion blender until smooth (or use a regular blender). Taste for seasoning and add sea salt if needed.
  7. On a low heat, stir in the creme fraiche.
  8. Serve with a pancetta crisp on top and an extra dollop of creme fraiche with some chopped tarragon mixed in. You can also garnish with little swirl of olive oil.[br]
Pancetta Crisps
  1. Place thin slices of pancetta in one layer on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet (cookie sheet).
  2. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. As they cool they will become very crispy.
  3. Use one or more for each bowl of soup.
Notes

*Feel free to leave it out all together. If you have recently purchased truffle salt just start with a pinch as it quickly becomes an overbearing flavour.
**If you don’t have creme fraiche, use 1/3 cup whipping cream and a couple tablespoons of sour cream.

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