Rutabaga and Leek Chowder With crisp smoky croutons
From "Vegetable Soups"
If you've never tasted rutabagas or think you don't like them, the flavor of this soup will surprise and please you.
1 1/2 pound rutabagas
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
Hefty pinch of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 medium leeks, chopped (1 to 2 cups)
1/2 pound potato peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup 1 inch bread chunks
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1. Thickly peel the rutabagas, getting under the epidermis, quarter them lengthwise and then slice crosswise about 1/8 inch thick.
2. Melt the butter in a wide soup pot with the thyme and the bay leaf. Let it brown a little, and then add the leeks. Give it a stir and cook over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the rutabagas and potato. Toss in a teaspoon of salt and cook, partially covered, until everything has wilted down, 5 minutes or so. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the rutabagas are tender but not mushy--you'll want some texture--20 to 25 minutes.
3. Puree half the vegetables and return them to the pot. Or puree the whole batch for a completely smooth soup. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
4. Melt the remaining butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread chunks, toss them in butter, then reduce the heat and cook until crisp and golden, after 5 to 8 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, toss the croutons and then turn off heat. Serve the soup with croutons in each bowl and a delicate sprinkling of extra paprika over the top. Makes 6 to 7 cups.