watercress soup

My mother made this soup often, and always raved about how delicious it was. So I finally had to make it for myself to see—and she was right! The slightly peppery taste of the watercress is mellowed by the potatoes and brightened by the lemons. This smooth, tasty soup is a perfect starter; or for a quieter, less ambitious evening, it is wonderful served as a meal in itself with a loaf of heated bread and butter.

Serves 10

Ingredients:

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds tangy watercress
3  tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small yellow onion, chopped
13 cups chicken broth
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/3 cup minced chives

Directions:

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water.   

2. Plunge the watercress into the boiling water and cook for about? 2 minutes, or until wilted and bright green. Drain and immediately submerge in the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again thoroughly. Chop coarsely and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes. raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. remove from the heat.

4. Add the chopped watercress to the soup. Using a hand-held blender, process the soup in the pan to a smooth purée. (Alternatively, purée in batches in a countertop blender, transferring each batch as it is finished to a bowl. Wipe the saucepan clean and return all of the puréed soup to the pan.) Stir in the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If preparing ahead of time, cover and refrigerate.)

5. Just before serving, gently reheat the soup, if necessary. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cream and a pinch of salt and whisk or beat using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold in about half of the chives.

6. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and top each with a dollop of the chive whipped cream. Garnish with the remaining chives and serve immediately.

Recipe from Small Gatherings by Jessica Strand (Egg & Dart Press, May 2013).
Image by Sheri Giblin.