Sweet Potato SoupCook’s Illustrated recipes, as we all know by now, tend to be challenging exercises that reward with their delicious perfection. HOWEVER, the “Sweet Potato Soup,” from the November/ December 2015 issue (recipe below), is so easy … for Cook’s Illustrated. Read on…

Sweet Potato Soup
Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2015
Serves 4 to 6
To highlight the earthiness of the sweet potatoes, we incorporate a quarter of the skins into the soup. In addition to the chives, serve the soup with one of our suggested garnishes (recipes follow). The garnishes can be prepared during step 1 while the sweet potatoes stand in the water.

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, sliced thin
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4¼ cups water
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced ¼-inch thick, ¼ of peels reserved
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ tsp. cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
Minced fresh chives

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallot and thyme and cook until shallot is softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add water, increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Remove pot from heat, add sweet potatoes and reserved peels, and let stand uncovered for 20 minutes.
2. Add sugar, vinegar, 1½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Discard thyme sprigs. Working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth, 45 to 60 seconds. Return soup to clean pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistency if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topping each portion with sprinkle of chives.

Candied Bacon Bits (garnish)
Makes about ¼ cup

4 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
½ tsp. cider vinegar

Cook bacon in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and well rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove bacon from skillet and discard fat. Return bacon to skillet and add brown sugar and vinegar. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until bacon is evenly coated. Transfer to plate in single layer. Let bacon cool completely.

Maple Sour Cream (garnish)
Makes 1/3 cup

1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Combine ingredients in bowl.

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I gravitate toward “creamy” soups only when they’re not too heavy and creamy. Does this make sense? The only dairy here is the 4 Tbsp. butter in which you sauté the shallot and thyme. I’m always pleased to use my immersion blender to purée vegetables into a soup. Indeed, I did not process batches of my potatoes in a blender, as the recipe instructs. No thanks. No need for that, here.

How about the trick of sitting the potatoes in the pot with “1/4 reserved peels?” Brilliant!

My final pureed soup was so smooth. The color was so vibrant -- all potato. I added 1 1/2 tsp. salt at the end.

The garnishes were a kick and easy to prepare, too. The bacon was meaty and the sour cream was creamy. You’ll win all bets with this soup. Try it.

Shallot (1) = .14¢
Sweet Potatoes (2 lbs.) = $3.04

PREP TIME: enjoy soup after an hour of effort
smooth sweet potatoes with their deepened potato-peel flavor, plus kisses of meaty sweet bacon and creamy sweet sour cream

Next time, I’ll cook the “Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants,” from the December/January 2016 issue of Fine Cooking. Come back to my site next week to enjoy these with me.