Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cheesy spinach soup

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Raise your hand if you've heard of Homestar Runner.  If you're not familiar, check it out for yourself.  Be warned that this was a freshman year of college discovery and isn't exactly high brow (read: it's utter nonsense, but really really funny).

So, now that we're all on the same immature page, let me tell you that it was this particular bit that I was thinking of, particularly the 3:20 mark.

Since the time friends and I first watched that or any of the other cartoons, we have regularly quoted Homestar and company.  "Thanks for breaking my cow lamp," and "I brought back your fondue pot," are particular favorites.  But the phrase "witches' brew" also ranks very high.  Oh, and you've gotta say it the right way, pronounced brew like bwew.  Classy, I know.

From this admittedly childish cartoon comes my instant attraction to this soup, so aptly named witches' brew.  Or, as more mature folks might want to refer to it, cheesy spinach soup.

Just because we're 28 (no lie, I first typed 27...) and no longer accepted on neighborhood doorsteps requesting candy as innocent trick-or-treaters doesn't mean we can't enjoy an incredibly festive and sweet Halloween.

This soup was the perfect first course for my spooky dinner.  Creamy and cozy and a bright ghastly shade of green.  I could make a joke about the secret ingredient being frog's breath, but that would reveal how many times I've watched The Nightmare Before Christmas in the past week.  Cough two and a half cough.

Oh, and just in case you were worried this was some thin and bland soup, let me be the first to correct you.  This is one thick and creamy dreamy soup!  The garlic and onion, savory saviors they are, and the vegetable broth give such depth and flavor... the kind of smells that draws you into the kitchen wherever you may be in the house.  Plus, the blended potato and spinach really make this soup so satisfying.

And the cheese?  Gruyere.  That's serious cheese.  Not your average cheddar or mozzarella.  Gruyere might be my most favorite cheese because it's got such great nutty flavor but also melts like buttah.  And it's just as rich.

You better believe seconds were served.

The only thing that could've made this soup more festive were the bat and pumpkin-shaped toasts created with the help of cookie cutters and everyday bread.  Because if you can't play with your food on Halloween, when can you?

Any damn time you want to.  Because, as adults, who will stop you?

P.S. For those of you who are curious, the complete menu looked like this:
  • Witches' brew (cheesy spinach soup)
  • Vampire repellent (garlic and herb pork tenderloin)
  • Witches' fingers (roasted green beans)
  • Boo cups (individual ghost in the graveyard desserts)

One year ago: Chili lime chicken with black bean corn salad
Two years ago: Red velvet cake
Three years ago: Pumpkin bisque

Cheesy Spinach Soup a.k.a. Witches' Brew
(adapted from Annie's Eats)
-yields 4-6 servings as a side, closer to 4 as a main course

A few notes: Regarding the blending, I highly recommend using an immersion blender a.k.a. the little wand that could.  Read all about it here.  If you don't have one, a regular stand blender will do the job, too, just be sure to remove the top and let steam escape periodically and make sure to do it while the blender is OFF!  Just saying.

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups vegetable broth
Ground black pepper
8-10 ounces baby spinach leaves
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add garlic and potato, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Stir in spinach leaves and cover for 1 to 2 minutes until leaves are completely wilted.  Use an immersion blender, blender, or food processor to blend the soup (in batches, if necessary) until smooth.  Stir in the grated cheese until completely melted.  Enjoy with a slice of crusty (and haunted!) bread.

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