Caramelized Fennel Soup with Crispy Shallots / by Anthony Michael Contrino

Now that it's officially fall, it's time to throw on a hoodie and make some soup.  It just so happens that fennel is now in season.  If you're not typically a fan of the anise-flavored vegetable, I dare you to try this soup.  The caramelization process mellows the anise flavor and adds a subtle sweetness.  Get all cheffy and garnish the soup with some crispy shallots, fennel fronds and smoked sea salt - it's sure to impress!

Caramelized Fennel Soup with Crispy Shallots

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil

2 large fennel bulbs, sliced thinly

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 large yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crispy shallots, for garnish, recipe follows

Fennel fronds, for garnish

Smoked flake sea salt, for garnish

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter in the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the fennel and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is caramelized, about 20 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the wine and continue to cook until reduced by half.  Add the potatoes, and broth.  Add some water, but just enough to make sure the potatoes are submerged.  Cook, covered, over medium heat, until the potatoes are extremely tender.  Remove from the heat.

Using an emersion blender, puree the vegetables until smooth, adding more water, as necessary to achieve the desired consistency.  The soup should be smooth and velvety, but not runny.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve in small bowls.  Garnish with crispy shallots, fennel fronds, and smoked flake sea salt.

Crispy Shallots

Vegetable oil, for frying

2 large shallots, sliced into thin rounds

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the oil to 365 degrees.  Meanwhile, dredge the shallots in the flour.  Shake any excess flour off.  Fry until crispy and golden brown, about 1 minute.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towel. 



*If you do not have an emersion blender, you can puree the soup, in batches, using a standard blender.

*The soup can be made up to 5 days in advance.  Add water to thin it out after refrigeration.