Oven-Roasted Beet Soup with Watercress
I love beets, but I don't think there is any vegetable that is more maligned. Beets don't deserve it! I think it comes from all those mothers in the 1950s who boiled beets and threw the flavor out with the water. After being boiled in water, the only flavor left in the beets is like the dirt they are grown in. Instead, my favorite way to cook them is to roast them in the oven, which accentuates their sweetness. Honestly, I promise you'll like them.
Wine Suggestion: Chardonnay
2 1/2 pounds beets, greens removed and washed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, minced
5 cups chicken stock
1 bunch watercress, stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the beets in a shallow baking pan and drizzle with the oil and 1 tablespoon water. Roll the beets to coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until the beets are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork, 60 to 80 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. When the beets are tender, remove from the oven and let cool. This can be done a day in advance.
In the meantime, pour the oil from the baking pan into a soup pot. Warm the oil over medium heat, add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and chop them coarsely. Add them to the onions along with the chicken stock and 1 cup water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
In batches, puree the soup in a blender on high speed, 3 minutes per batch, until very smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean soup pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the watercress for a garnish. In the blender, puree half of the watercress with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche until very smooth. Add the remaining watercress and pulse 2 to 3 times. Add lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.