Flipping through this month's issue of Everyday Food, I noticed a great feature: soups based on the caramelizing power of roasting. It's quite a brilliant move, actually, to invigorate the soup repertoire by adding all kinds of flavor to an otherwise boiled dinner. So when I realized I had the basic ingredients sitting in my fridge — two parts beets to one part potatoes, some sprigs of thyme, and good chicken stock — I had a good dinner on the table in under an hour. That cold snap of Autumn had arrived, and warm soup sounded perfect.
The brilliance of this soup, besides the shocking color, is how deeply flavored it is with very little fat (just a few tablespoons needed to coat the chunks of roasted beet and potato). That's all thanks to a hot oven and the complex sweetness of roasted beets (If you're stuck on childhood memories of the pickled stuff, this might change your mind). That, and the roasted vegetables are roughly mashed instead of pureed, leaving the soup rustic and chunky, with a clean-tasting broth unclouded by starch that might be released by pureeing.
- 2 pound red beets (about 5 medium), scrubbed, peeled, and cut into medium dice
- 1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into medium dice
- 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
- 3 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 cups homemade chicken broth or low-sodium canned broth
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Sour cream
- 4 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Meanwhile, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet and tuck the sprigs of thyme in amongst the vegetables. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes, discarding the thyme once they are finished cooking.
Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a large saucepot and add the cooked vegetables. Mash roughly with a potato masher or wooden spoon, add the vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper and more vinegar if needed. Serve in bowls topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley.