Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Steve Jobs and Potato and Maui Onion Soup

I've been thinking about making this soup since last week when Steve Jobs died. The link? Kona Village Resort, where my husband and I honeymooned (sixteen years ago this week!) and spent several subsequent family vacations. Jobs was a frequent visitor there and we saw him once or twice.

There were strict but unstated rules about technology at Kona Village: no phones, devices or laptops allowed on the beach (or really in the public areas). There were no telephones or televisions in the hales (thatch roofed bungalows). Being at KVR meant unplugging. Relaxing. But no one ever bothered Steve, who I recall on one particular morning, plunking away on his laptop on the lanai, as other guests mingled between tables and the outdoor breakfast buffet.

The food there was good. Entrees were not usually anything to write home about but the fresh fruit, local veggies and fish were always wonderful. Two things were my favorite on the menu: the French Toast, which I ate with ying-yang puddles of maple and coconut syrup, and the Cream of Potato and Maui Onion soup. Both contained enough dairy fat to sink an outrigger canoe.

KVR made other food introductions for me. Thanks to the generosity of my west coast family for whom a trip to Hawaiʻi is just a hop, skip and a jump, I almost always have a bottle of coconut syrup and a jar of Volcano Island White Honey in my pantry.

Kona Village suffered substantial damages as a result of the March 2011 tsunami and has been closed since. I do hope they reopen. Where else can you wake to the delicate but relentless chirping of a thousand birds? Where else can you watch a donkey picking its way over a hardened mass of black lava? Where else is the air is scented by plumeria? Next door at the Four Seasons Hualalai? Death first!

Well, soup first, anyway. Now is a good time of year to pick up a sweet onion. I got a fairly generic one at Trader Joes. Other varieties of sweet onions include Vidalia, from Georgia, and Walla Walla, from Washington State. Just pick up a big one. I use a scale for this soup to make sure the proportions are right, though I did include rough estimates so you can make the soup without a scale.

Potato and Maui Onion Soup
Print recipe only here

2 T olive oil (or 1 T oil and 1 T unsalted butter)
1 large sweet onion - Maui, Vidalia - trimmed and chopped (250 g)
4 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped (500 g)
32 ounces Imagine Organic chicken broth
1/2 cup water
Salt and fresh ground white pepper (if you have it, otherwise use black)

Set a medium-large soup pan over a medium flame and add the olive oil (or combination with butter). Add the onion and turn down the flame a bit. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add the broth and water and bring to a low boil. Turn down flame and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Turn off heat and allow to cool. If you are in a rush, transfer it to a bowl and set that bowl in a bigger bowl filled with ice. Stir until the soup is at room temperature.

Blend the soup, working in batches, and strain through your finest mesh strainer into a clean soup pot. Reheat and taste for seasoning. If it's too think you can add more stock or dairy (nonfat, lowfat, heavy cream - your choice, but please no that the soup is plenty cream without the addition of any dairy). But if you deem it too thick you can add up to a cup of liquid.

Serve and enjoy.

If you want to fancy it up a bit, you could add one of three accoutrements:

1. Sautéed leek - Trim white park of leek into 3 inch pieces, then cut in half so you have two half circles. Separate the leaves a bit, then slice very thin strips. Sauté gently in a bit of olive oil until just softened, then spoon them into a light, floating puddle in the center of the soup.

2. Chives - finely chopped and scattered in the center of the bowl.

3. Old school dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, in the center.

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