- 1⁄4 pound shallots, peeled
- 3⁄4 cup sunflower oil
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 11⁄2 pounds), unpeeled
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 11⁄2 cups)
- 1 celery stalk, chopped medium fine
- 1 large carrot, chopped medium fine
- 1⁄2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1⁄2 tsp saffron threads
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika, preferably smoked
- Juice of 5 squeezed oranges, enough to make 1 cup
- 1 cup cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice the shallots very fine, crosswise, to make a pile of little rings.
- Heat the sunflower oil in your smallest skillet or saucepan until it’s just beginning to be fragrant, and then drop in the shallots. This is best done in batches, with the heat low enough to brown the shallots evenly and to keep the oil from foaming up too much from their moisture.
- When they’re golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. They’ll crisp up a bit while you’re making the soup. Retain the oil and set aside.
- Set the sweet potatoes, whole and unpeeled, on a baking sheet, pricking them a few times first with a knife to let steam escape during cooking. Bake for 1 hour or until the flesh is very soft. Let them cool, then peel.
- While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, pour 1⁄4 cup of the reserved shallot-flavored sunflower oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat. (Save the remaining oil for a future use.)
- Add the onions, celery, carrot, and salt.
- Cover and sweat the vegetables over low heat for 20 minutes or until very soft, stirring from time to time with a spatula to make sure they don’t burn.
- Add the chicken broth, Tabasco sauce, saffron, paprika, and orange juice.
- Add the sweet potatoes and chop them a bit with your spatula to break up the fibers.
- Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn heat to low and simmer, partly covered, for 15 minutes.
- Purée the soup in a blender or food processor and return it to the saucepan.
- Add the cream and taste for seasoning. Reheat if needed, over low heat, and serve hot, with the fried shallots afloat on top. Try these healthy sweet potato recipes with shallots and learn more about cooking sweet potatoes: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Whole Shallots Sweet Potatoes and Shallots to Savor in Winter Sweet Potato Pudding
A touch of tropical heat in this soup tempers the sweetness of the tubers, which might otherwise be cloying. Winter is not normally a season for tropical tastes; your garden might still have some cilantro if your climate is mild, but hot peppers? No. A little Tabasco (or Sriracha or hot pepper flakes) does the trick, though, along with the warm, cheering colors of carrot, saffron, and paprika — and the flesh of the sweet potatoes themselves if you’ve grown a bright-orange variety. Baking the sweet potatoes with their skins on concentrates and intensifies their flavor in a way that boiling would not. Shallots, fried until a bit crispy, are a tasty garnish. If you have a bumper crop of shallots, you could substitute them for the onions in the recipe as well.
I make the whole recipe even if I’m only feeding a couple of people because the soup is just as good reheated the next day, with any leftover fried shallots stirred in.