Creamy Artichoke Soup

Yes, it’s fall, and yes, we love that iconic chill in the air, and of course, our thoughts are turning to soup and warm, comforting foods, but all of that goes without saying this time of year, so I’m not going to waste your time boring you with another fall food cliché.

Instead I’m going to tell you how I’ve been looking for a new soup recipe, because, of course, it’s fall and that’s what I’m craving, and how this soup recipe came to me at just the right moment, with the just the right amount of nostalgia attached, and how incredibly wonderful a steaming bowl of creamy artichoke soup is on a chilly fall day.  I must also admit to having a bit of an issue writing run-on sentences at the moment.

But this artichoke soup recipe comes courtesy of the Hogs Breath Inn in Carmel, Calif., just a stone’s throw away from our hometown of Santa Cruz.  Well, I couldn’t throw a stone that far, but you get the idea. It was just a pretty drive down the coast from our place, and in the early years of our residency there, we spent many evenings and weekends in pre-Clint Eastwood Carmel.  The Hogs Breath Inn is an institution in that quaint little burg, and being another stone’s throw away from Castroville, the artichoke capital of the world, the Inn became quite famous for their artichoke soup.

But it wasn’t until recently, when the L.A. Times printed the Inn’s recipe for this soup, that those of us who have moved halfway across the continent could again savor its deliciousness.

And delicious it is, my friends…warming, comforting, creamy, yet spiked with just enough pepper to make it fun and interesting.  And did I mention easy?  If not, excuse me, but this a very easy soup to throw together and would serve beautifully as a first course, but was perfect as a meal unto itself.  I served it with these biscuits and we were warmed and comforted and pretty darn happy about the whole thing.  Fall clichés just may have some merit.  Here’s the recipe…

CREAMY ARTICHOKE SOUP

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from the Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel by the Sea, California, via the L.A. Times. 

The L.A. Times tested this recipe using artichoke hearts canned in water.  I used Trader Joe’s frozen artichoke hearts, so either works fine.  I used my kitchen scale to weigh the artichoke hearts in order to get exactly 2 lbs.  If you have a scale and want to use the canned hearts, I would suggest weighing them after you drain them.  If you don't have a scale, then I think 3 cans would probably be close to 2 lbs.

Instead of cream, I used a combination of Greek yogurt and half and half, and I didn’t need to thicken the soup in step 6 with the roux.  It was plenty thick, and in fact, I thinned it a bit with more chicken broth.   We loved the peppery flavors in this soup, but if you’re not a pepper person, you might want to cut back a little on the pepper.  

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter, divided
1/2 onion, diced (about 1¼ cups diced)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons sherry
2 pounds drained, canned artichoke hearts (3 cans or not quite 3 12-oz pkgs. frozen artichokes)
1 1/3 cups chicken broth, more as desired
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 -2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup flour
1 cup cream (I used ½ cup Greek yogurt (fat free) and ½ cup half and half)

1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot heated over medium-high heat until hot, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and peppers, and continue to cook until the garlic is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add the sherry and stir, scraping any bits of flavoring from the base of the pot. Stir in the artichoke hearts, chicken broth and sugar. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, loosely covered, for 30 minutes.

4. While the soup is simmering, make a roux: In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly rain in the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the roux turns a light brown color, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. This makes about one-fourth cup roux, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The roux will keep, up to 2 weeks, covered and refrigerated.

5. When the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, uncover and slowly whisk in the cream. Thicken as desired with roux, whisking in 1 tablespoon at a time; you may not use all the roux.

6. Blend the soup using a stand or immersion blender, and strain if desired. Return the soupto the pot, adjust the thickness with additional roux (to thicken) or broth (to thin), and taste once more for seasoning. This makes a scant quart of soup.

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