There are some things in life that you just have to do.
I recently spent five days at the Culinary Institute of America for a cooking boot camp in upstate New York. When I was planning the trip, I noticed the campus was only about 45 minutes north of Stone Barns, a large farm and research center in Tarrytown, N.Y. It also serves as the home of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant opened in 2004 by Dan Barber, a James Beard-nominated chef who was the subject of an episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
I had to know what it was like to eat there. I am a big believer in YOLO (that’s “you only live once”) meals, meals that transcend the typical dining scenario to become a true experience.
Five hours and 27 courses later, I learned almost as much about food at Blue Hill as I did at cooking school, things like how to use every part of an animal or plant, which flavors pair well with others (duck liver and chocolate! grape and celery!) and a lot more. You can read about that experience here.
After my visit to Stone Barns, a vegetable-focused dish felt right for dinner at home.
Chef Barber is a farm-to-table pioneer — the restaurant utilizes the bounty from the large farm surrounding it to create different dishes each night. You can see fields of kale and tomatoes from the dining room window. And at least half the menu showcased plates composed almost entirely of vegetables.
So when I was flipping through cookbook author and celeb Chrissy Teigen’s new book Cravings: Hungry for More this past week, I was drawn to a bright carrot soup. (This is a follow-up to her 2016 book Cravings: Recipes For All the Food You Want to Eat, and it’s a delightful mashup of indulgent comfort food and elevated fare — sometimes within the same recipe.)
This is a vegetable soup that takes a luscious turn with the addition of coconut milk. As with many soups, the best part is the toppings, and these are solid: Teigen has an ingenious way of making crispy shallots, and I added some almonds for even more crunch. Add some fresh cilantro and red pepper flake-infused oil just before serving, and it’s a satisfying main course.
Carrot Coconut Soup with Crispy Shallots
For the soup:
1 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, or 1 teaspoon lemongrass paste
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Slivered almonds, for garnish
For the Crispy Shallots:
1 cup canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
Add canola oil to a small saucepan and heat until warm. Add red pepper flakes and cook on very low heat for about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from burner, transfer oil to a bowl, and set aside.
In a medium-large pot set over medium-high heat, melt the butter until foamy and a slightly deeper golden color. Add onion, 1 teaspoon salt, a couple grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes, until onion begins to soften.
Add carrots and cook, stirring, until carrots are softened and onions are lightly browned. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Trim the outer layer of the lemongrass stalk, if using. Add the broth, coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger. Bring to a boil then reduce immediately to a low simmer. Cover, and let soup simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Stir in the sweet chili sauce, remove from heat, and let cool slightly. Remove lemongrass stalk if using. Blend the soup using a stick (immersion) blender, or transfer it carefully to a stand blender and puree until smooth. Taste it, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Return to burner and heat through again while you prepare the shallots.
Make the Crispy Shallots: Place shallots in an 8- by 8-inch glass baking dish. Cover with the canola oil, and microwave until crispy. Start by microwaving for 6 minutes, then check them. If they’re not brown, microwave for 2 more minutes. They should be brown now. Drain shallots over a strainer, give them a shake, then transfer to paper towel. Season generously with salt.
Ladle soup into serving bowls, then top with the shallots, slivered almonds, the red pepper oil you made earlier, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.
Serves 2 to 3.
Source: Adapted from Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen