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Roasted Yam Soup Recipe

My roasted yam soup uses carmelization in two forms to create a huge flavor. There is no starchy vegetable that I know of that matches yams for the complex, sweet flavor that arises from roasting, with the possible exception of sweet potato. This is likely because they are already fairly sweet before the roasting takes place, giving them a sort of head start on flavor.

Since they are so sweet, I like to add an extra dimension with carmelized onions and garlic. Since these are savory to begin with, the type of sweetness that carmelization extracts from them is quite different. Together they make for a more complete flavor experience than either one could create alone.

At the end there is one more ingredient that completes the spectrum from savory to sweet, making the roasted yam soup one of my all-time favorites.

INGREDIENTS:

2 large yams
1 large onion, sliced thinly (not chopped!)
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
Butter or olive oil for sauteeing
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken stock or broth
Half cup heavy cream
Nutmeg to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1. Poke several holes in the yams. Place on a cookie sheet and roast in oven at about 400 degrees for an hour or so.

2. When the yams are ready (they should be oozing a reddish liquid from the holes you poked in them), allow them to cool and then strip the peels off. They should come off very easily.

3. Heat the butter or oil in soup pot on medium low heat. Add onions, and sprinkle with salt. Add garlic a few minutes later.

4. Continue to cook the onions on medium-low to medium head, stirring occasionally. You want to get them golden brown to medium brown. Once this color has been reached, the onions are at maximum flavor.

5. Chop the yams roughly and add them to the soup pot. Use a potato masher or fork to break the yams down.

6. Add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 or 10 minutes.

7. Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the soup to a creamy texture.

8. Add the cream, nutmeg and pepper, and cook until the desired thickness is reached.

Notes

Nutmeg is the ingredient that completes this roasted yam soup. Nutmeg is what I call a “bridge” spice, since it matches flavors in both the savory and sweet ranges. The soup would be tasty enough without it, but it seems to add a dimension that no other ingredient does. This effect is quite noticeable in roasted yam soup, since it has both sweet and savory elements in it.

If you ever want to make an ordinary recipe a little more exotic, consider nutmeg or cinnamon, as they are commonly used in middle eastern and Asian recipes.

If you don’t have any nutmeg on hand, you can use all spice, cloves or cinnamon as a reasonable replacement.

Tips and Techniques

When carmelizing onions on the stove, there are some tips you can use to both speed up the process, and to prevent burning. Burning can make the roasted yam soup taste bitter.

First, adding a bit of water at the beginning, and raising the temperature a bit will help remove the extra moisture in the onions themselves. This is an important step since the temperature inside the onions cannot reach the carmelization point until the water is mostly gone. The sooner the water is gone, the sooner the onions will start to carmelize. By adding water you can increase the heat without fear of burning, and you let the heat penetrate further into the onions to heat up the water inside them.

The second tip is that when the onions start turning brown, reduce the heat. The darker the onions, the lower the heat. This goes for anything being carmelized on the stove. This is for the opposite reason as the above tip: when the onions are browning it means that there is less water in them. With less water, there is less evaporation. Less evaporation means less cooling effect, leading to higher temperatures that can potentially burn the onions.

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