Let's start by stating that I have never purchased this many bell peppers at once. I actually don't think I've purchased this many of anything at the grocery store ever. Whenever I make a soup, I usually double or triple the recipe so I can freeze a ton and have lots of warm and quick options throughout the cold winter. I go into hibernation mode during the darkest part of winter and would often rather be cuddling on the couch under a blanket than cooking for 2 hours.
Broiling peppers is something I have yet to master. As soon as I see the char start to appear I begin panicing and usually pull the peppers out of the oven. Isn't burning bad? I stress out and stare through the oven window and bite my nails until it's all over. If you haven't let the peppers char completely and you've bitten all your nails off, you get to endure a highly time consuming peel-a-thon. Trust me, the blacker the better. It will save you quite a bit of time in the end.
A few weeks ago I went to dinner at a friend's house for her birthday. Her husband is a great chef and cooked us a fabulous multi-course meal, pairing each course with delicious wine. Our soup course was one of the best I've ever had, a roasted red pepper soup with fresh crab. I raved about it with a big goblet of wine in my hand and decided then that I was going to make it on my own.
I was offered the recipe but politely declined and wanted to go at it on my own. How hard could it be? I looked up a couple recipes and it seemed fairly straightforward. My bigest obstacle was how to thicken the soup without using wheat. All the recipes I found used bread as a thickener which doesn't really fit in with my philosophies these days.
I settled on a recipe that called for a russet potato rather than bread and boom goes the dynamite, I was off to the store. My second problem was I've never cooked crab. I found a recipe that looked delicious but wanted me to buy a whole crab, remove and cook all the meat, and soak the shell in the soup. Ummm...
I made a quick call to my chef buddy in the parking lot of the grocery store and asked what was up with the crab. He said he bought fresh pre-shelled and pre-cooked crab at our local grocery store for $12. Now, problems three and four. Working only part time means my funds are limited, so $12 for 6 oz of crab meat was not really in the budget (not to mention these recipes are typed up and photographed for an audience that consists mostly of me, so my profit margin is nonexistent).
Problem four was even if I'd had $12 extra for some crab meat that I could probably cook myself for much cheaper (future post!), it didn't matter because I was at a chain grocery store and they only had frozen crabmeat that looked somewhat horrendous and was more expensive. So, for this time around, I forgot the crab and just made a delicious soup.
Halfway through cooking I thought to myself, 'It probably would have been a good idea to make this once, taste it, and THEN make extra batches to freeze once I knew it was good.' Hindsight is 20/20, friends. Luckily enough for me, this was yummy and my freezer is full of lunch and dinner sized portions I have been taking with me to work very often.
One more comment about peeling the peppers. I wasn't able to get all the skins off before using the handy vintage immersion blender I bought my sister for Christmas (another thrift store find for $3!) to puree everything. This resulted in some slivers of skin in the end product that are a slightly odd texture in your mouth. Next time I will absolutely let everything char char char, and maybe I'll save up and splurge on some crab.
Roasted Red Pepper Soup, adapted from allrecipes.com
Set the oven to broil and preheat for about 5 minutes. If your oven offeres a high or low broil, choose low. Cut the peppers into quarters and deseed, placing quarters skin-side up on a baking sheet. Allow peppers to broil until skins are black and charred, the blacker the better as I said before because it makes for easier peeling.
Remove peppers from oven and place in a paper bag to sweat for about 10 minutes, loosening the skins. Peel skins and discard, then chop peppers and toss into a large pot with chicken broth and potato. Boil over high heat, then add half-and-half, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, and basil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Make sure potato has softened, then puree soup in a blender, food processor, or using an immersion blender until completely smooth (if you were unable to remove some of the peel, you will end up with some slivers like I mentioned before and these will never get smooth so don't worry about those...you can try straining them out or just swallow them).
If you decided to add crab, you have two options. You can pour the pureed soup back into the pot, add the crab, and heat for about 5 minutes over medium heat to warm the crab. You can also do what my chef friend did and portion the soup out into bowls and drop a little handful of crab into the middle. The soup is so warm it will heat the crab on it's own and it allows people to portion how much they want in each bite.
Bon appetit...just not wheat!