The other way to make January feel a little brighter, I mean beyond marshmallows plump with peppermint, should really come as no surprise. Cold days call for one thing, and it’s the kind of thing you probably wouldn’t mind eating on not-so-cold days, either: hot homemade soup.
Now, if this were any other food group, you might be tempted to point out that, hey, you just wrote about another soup, that potato and onion one, last week, didn’t you? You could legitimately ask, what, is this going to be like the cookies now, where you all get on a kick with something and make them over and over again? So I’m very glad it is soup—hot, comforting, perfectly seasoned soup—that’s in question. Or else I’d have very little to say in my defense.
So first things first, this is a spinach soup. Spinach is one of those things—along with tomatoes, asparagus, parmesan cheese and pecans—that I had to grow to enjoy. I liked Popeye as much as the next kid (although maybe not as much as my mom, who calls the real-life movie version her favorite), but even he didn’t make me want to eat leafy vegetables.
Instead, spinach and I grew together slowly, beginning in my late teens or early twenties with dishes that almost hid the spinach content, such as spinach-artichoke dip, which is filled with enough cream cheese and other things to make your forget your name, let alone what you’re eating. Then I think I moved towards fresh spinach in salads, sometime after I learned iceberg lettuce has basically no nutritional value and back when I tried to eat strictly “healthy” things for a while. Somewhere along the line, spinach kind of sneaked up on me as a faithful friend. It was almost as if one day, I realized I actually thought spinach was delicious, that most things I’d tried it in were things I liked eating. And now, I’ll be darned if I don’t like it steamed or boiled or cooked up into some sort of quiche or frittata. In fact, you could say, if it’s got spinach, I’m in.
Also, as a quick nutritional plug: Not only is spinach seriously worth letting grow on you for the taste factor, but also it is good for you like Popeye said. When steamed or, like in this soup, quickly boiled, it is a source of all kinds of vitamins, like A, C, K, magnesium and B9 (folic acid). I don’t know about you, but at the start of a new year, something comforting, delicious and healthy? I don’t think it could get much better. And, a few sips of this soup in your belly and the smell of it wafting through your kitchen, savory and strong, I bet you’ll be saying the same thing.
Potage Crème d’epinards or, Cream of Spinach Soup
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by the brilliant Julia Child
When making soup, it’s tempting to be a little heavy-handed with the salt, I know. But watch yourself: with this variety, the chicken stock adds enough saltiness, I promise, and you’ll be surprised at how beautifully seasoned everything turns out, just as it is.
1/3 cup minced yellow onions (or green onions)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 to 4 packed cups of fresh spinach leaves and tender stems, washed and chopped into thin slices
l/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups boiling chicken broth or white stock (I combined one can of stock with about 2 cups of water and a chicken bouillon cube, boiled until cube dissolved)
2 egg yolks
l/2 cup whipping cream (I substituted coffee creamer)
1 to 2 Tablespoons softened butter
Cook the onions slowly in the butter in a covered 2.5-quart saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and transluscent but not browned.
Stir in the chopped spinach and salt, cover, and cook slowly for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted.
Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.
Off heat, beat in the boiling stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. (Optional: you may puree slightly with a food mill, a food processor or a stick blender, which is what I used; do not overmix). Return to saucepan and correct seasoning.
(*) If not to be served immediately, set aside uncovered. Reheat to simmer before proceeding.
Blend the yolks and cream in a mixing bowl. Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by driblets. Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thin stream. Return entire soup mixture to saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the egg yolks, but do not bring the soup to the simmer. Off heat, stir in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.
Pour the soup into a tureen or soup cups and serve.