Let’s Lunch: Carrot Soup & Chicharonnes

carrot soup and chicharonnes

Last Friday, I encountered a dish so revelationary that I’m still thinking about it, a week later. The setting: Foodbuzz’s Second Annual Blogger Festival. The offender: 4505 Meats’ cornmeal-crusted pork sandwich. The perpetrator: Chef Ryan Farr.

You see, he didn’t just make your typical Iowa pork sandwich whose claim to fame is its cutlet many times bigger than your face. Instead, he brined a chunk of pork loin in jalapeno pickling liquid, sashimi-sliced the meat, keeping the fat on, rolled each slice in cornmeal and fried it up into a crisp. Then he grabs a bunch of these pork nuggets and sandwiches them between two sesame-topped brioche slices, dousing them with a coriander aioli that envelops a bunch of pickled string beans. All served with a side of his famous, airy, melty, crunchy, spicy, salty Chicharonnes.

In the words of my friend Elaine, “Honestly, once you eat these, you’re ruined for life. Nothing will ever compare and I can say that with confidence.”

My friends, the lily has never been gilded as finely and as badass as this.

carrot soup

As if the ride of satiety from each bite of that sandwich wasn’t enough, we were handed a bag of Chicharonnes to take home, as a souvenir of the evening. But unlike the kitsch tchotkes found at over-crowded tourist traps, you can be sure that these souvenirs aren’t going to be sitting on my mantelpiece, collecting dust, five years from now.

Instead, I put it to work. With Fall Soups as the theme for my monthly Twitter lunch date, the Chicharonnes couldn’t have arrived at a better time. They were the perfect accompaniment for this Carrot Soup.. Each cube of porcine air was the devil to the angels of Vitamin A and beta-carotene in a bowl, it was the yin to a nutritious yang, the gastronomic equivalent of Dr Jekyll to….you get the idea.

Carrot soup and chicharonnes

With the Chicharonnes as my muse, I spiced up the soup with a squeeze of lime and popped in a dried red chili for good measure. Garnished with chopped cilantro, the result is a comforting bowl of sweet pureed carrots ending on a subtly spicy note, perfect for coming home to on a cold Fall evening. And when eaten with Chicharonne ‘spoons’? Immediate amnesia from shorter days, scarves and coats.

Carrot Soup (inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon)

The proportion of liquid in this soup makes for a thick, almost puree-style concoction. If you prefer your soups a little more liquid and less thick, gradually add another half to one cup of stock (to the two cups stated in the recipe) after blending the carrots until you achieve your desired consistency. To make your own Chicharonnes, check out this great post and video from Arnold at Inuyaki.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 bunches fresh carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 dried chilli, sliced
2 cups vegetable stock, heated and kept warm
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of half a lime
2-3 stalks cilantro, roughly chopped

Melt the butter over medium heat in a deep heavy-bottomed pot, then add the onions and cook until they soften but do not brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots and chili, give it a quick stir to distribute the ingredients evenly, then add the stock and cream. Bring to a simmer, and leave the pot, half-covered for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, then using an immersion blender, puree the carrots into a thick and smooth consistency. Turn the heat back on, season to taste with salt and pepper and add the lime. If you’d like your soup to be more liquid, slowly add another half to one cup of stock now, stirring as you go.

Garnish with cilantro and serve hot, with a side of crunchy Chicharonnes and/or warm toasty bread.

fresh carrots

Want to join us on our monthly lunch dates? Just tweet a message with the hashtag #Letslunch, or comment below. As usual, don’t forget to check out my fellow lunchers’ fall soups:

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