The following recipe is included in Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine. This beautiful cookbook features the food served at Virginia’s renowned restaurant, The Inn at Little Washington. O’Connell’s watercress soup is a favorite of mine for all the reasons cited in the author’s note: “This is a simple but luxurious soup that can be quickly assembled. Searing the watercress briefly in hot oil and quickly pureeing it into the soup base helps retain a desirable, vibrant green color. Straining the soup gives it an airy and elegant texture. If you don’t have chicken stock or want to make a vegetarian soup, water can be substituted with surprisingly good results.” Watercress is easy to find at several local markets. I especially like the large-leaved hydroponic watercress found at Integral Yoga. Treat yourself to a soup that isn’t often offered on restaurant menus here, but delivers robust flavor on a summer’s evening. Enjoy.
2 Quarts / 6-8 Servings
5 Tbl unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions
1 medium Idaho potato, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock
4 Tbl vegetable oil
4 bunches watercress, large stems removed
½ cup heavy cream
Salt, freshly ground white pepper, sugar to taste
2 Tbl watercress leaves
2 strips bacon, diced, fried until crisp, and drained
- In a 4 qt. saucepan, melt 3 Tbl of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, but not browned.
- Add the potato and continue cooking for 3 minutes.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- In a 10-inch sauté pan, heat 1 Tbl oil until almost smoking. Add a handful of watercress to the pan, tossing and turning rapidly with tongs. After a few seconds, when the watercress is just wilted and has turned a vibrant green color, add it to the soup. Repeat this process with the remaining watercress.
- Puree the soup in a blender or food processor and, if desired, strain.
- Just before serving, return the soup to the stove over medium heat, and whisk in the cream and the remaining 2 Tbl of butter. Season with salt, white pepper, sugar.
- Serve the soup in individual bowls garnished with watercress leaves and crispy bacon.
Copyright 2004, Patrick O’Connell
Time Warner Book Group
The Inn at Little Washington