Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One of the Best Soups in the World - Fava Bean Soup

This soupe de fèves is one that Odette Cocula, a neighbor of my father’s when he lived in his adopted village of Frayssinet near Cahors in the Lot department of France, would prepare for him occasionally in the springtime. It’s a hearty soup typical of the region. You’ll need about four pounds of fava bean pods to yield three cups of double-peeled beans. The recipe is in my book THE BEST SOUPS IN THE WORLD.
3 tablespoons rendered duck fat (preferably), chicken fat, or unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves (2 whole, 1 cut in half)
2 leeks, white part only, split lengthwise, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 1 ripe plum tomato, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium russet potatoes (about 3/4 pound), peeled and diced
10 cups chicken broth
3 cups double-peeled fresh fava beans (see Note)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 slices French or Italian country bread
1. In a large pot or flame-proof casserole, melt the duck fat over medium-high heat, then cook, stirring frequently, the onion, 2 whole garlic cloves, and the leeks until soft, about 15 minutes.
2. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and chicken broth and simmer 1 hour. Use a potato masher to slightly crush the vegetables. Add the fava beans and cook for 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
3. Toast the slices of bread in a preheated broiler or a counter top oven. Rub the bread on both sides with the cut side of the remaining garlic clove. Place a slice of bread in a soup bowl and ladle the soup on top. Serve hot.
Makes 8 servings
Note: Double-peeled beans means that the bean is taken out of its pod and its skin is pinched off after being dropped in boiling water for a couple of minutes to loosen it.