When we were in New Hampshire a few weeks ago we ate dinner out only one night. There were a bunch of restaurants in the area, and many of them looked appealing. We ended up choosing Margarita Grill in Glen, NH.
The interior is low-ceilinged and cozy, with rough exposed wood and rustic tables and chairs. We were led to a table to one side of the small room and handed Margarita Grill’s rather extensive menu.
I had a smoked turkey quesadilla, which tasted like a fine way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers, complete with a cranberry salsa. The kids had tacos, or maybe Julia had her usual – macaroni and cheese – and Bill had enormous fish tacos so big we brought one of them and half my quesadilla back to our condo and had them the following night.
And for appetizers, I don’t remember what everyone else had. All I know is I had their Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque, and it was fabulous.
I also knew I had to try to make it at home some time soon.
So I did.
But I figured since it was going to be MY version, I let my mind wander a bit through various flavors I like and come up with something a bit different.
So here’s what I did.
First, I took a large onion, peeled it, and sliced it thinly, lengthwise. The goal? Thin strands of caramelized onion. I melted some butter in a large pot and tossed in the onion. I lowered the heat, stirred them around a bit, sprinkled on some salt, and went back to the drawing board.
Next up – the spices. I didn’t necessarily want this to be a really spicy soup, but I wanted to keep the southwestern flavor profile. So I thought a bit, and decided to combine cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and chipotle chile powder.
I also added some salt and black pepper, but that was after I took the above picture.
Anyway, next up, the all-important sweet potatoes. I used five of them, medium-large.
I peeled these and cut them into roughly inch-sized chunks.
While the onions were caramelizing, I decided a little garlic couldn’t hurt, so I chopped up 3 cloves.
Once the onions were starting to turn brown along the edges, I removed some for garnish and tossed the garlic in with the rest of them.
I stirred the onions and garlic together and let them cook on medium low for a few minutes, just to soften the garlic.
Then I sprinkled in my spice blend and stirred everything together for another minute or so.
Then I poured in one quart of (homemade, she said modestly) chicken stock.
And I added the sweet potatoes. The stock didn’t completely cover them, so I added in a little water – maybe a cup. Then I increased the heat, brought the whole thing to a boil and then dropped it to a simmer.
Now, while I was making the soup, I was also making veggie burgers and cheese biscuits (which I’ll post over the next few days, I expect) so I was busy. Julia came in and volunteered to do the dishes.
She washed all the plastic storage containers in the sink and decided her shift was over.
I simmered the soup until the sweet potatoes were cooked through. Then I shut off the heat and let it sit while I worked on other parts of the meal.
Closer to dinner time, I took out my immersion blender and pureed the heck out of everything.
The result? A thick, lush, flavorful dark orange bisque. All it needed was a little more salt. (Well, I also could have added more chipotle chili powder, but we wanted the kids to try it and didn’t think burning their little mouths was the right way to go about it. Turned out they didn’t like it anyway, so next time – fire!)
And – voila! My sweet potato bisque. I ladled some in a pretty coffee cup and piled my reserved caramelized onions on top for the picture.
Next time maybe I’ll up the heat factor, but it’s not necessary. I also wanted to be able to taste the sweet potato and not bury it under a lot of spices. It’s funny – when Bill first tasted it, he asked if I’d added sugar. Nope – it’s the natural sweetness of the sweet potato, the cinnamon, and probably some sweetness from the caramelized onions, too.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with it!
My recipe is below, in case you’d like to try it yourself.
Sweet Potato Bisque
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and sliced end to end (the long way)
pinch of salt
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 grinds of black pepper or to taste
1 qt chicken stock
5 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in roughly 1” chunks
Water, if needed, to cover sweet potatoes in the pot
Salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
Melt butter in a large pot and add sliced onion. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion softens. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook and occasionally stir until the onions are golden and turning brown along the edges. Remove a dozen or so strands of caramelized onion to use as garnish and set aside.
Add the chopped garlic, stir and cook a few minutes, until the garlic is softened.
Combine cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, salt and pepper, and add to the onion mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.
Pour in the chicken stock and add the sweet potatoes and water to cover, if necessary. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through (easily pierced with a sharp knife).
Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly before pureeing in either a blender or food processor. You could also use an immersion blender if you have one – less clean-up that way.
Once the soup is pureed, taste it and add more salt to taste (or whatever else you think it might need). Reheat, ladle into bowls, garnish with come caramelized onion stands, and serve.
Some cornbread would go nicely alongside this hearty and healthy bisque.