Martha Stewart Living (November 2015)
When Zach was a kid, he spent several summers with family in Virginia. One highlight was always a visit to Colonial Williamsburg. (We're all on the same page about the fact that Zach was a huge nerd as a kid, right? Good.)
Colonial Willamsburg, for anyone who might not know, is a full-scale working village that recreates the town of Williamsburg during the century in the run-up to the American Revolution. Today it bills itself as "America's largest outdoor history museum."
As a kid, Zach's favorite things about Williamsburg included the tri-corner hats, the stockades and the shoe cobbler's workshop.
And one other thing: the peanut soup.
Cream of peanut soup is a mainstay at Williamsburg's King's Arms Tavern, which originally opened in 1772. It's rich and satisfying. And for people who've never tasted it -- or for nerdy little kids like Zach -- it can be weirdly wonderful.
The 2015 Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart Living features foods "from sea to shining sea." It's devoted to classic, historic dishes from across the country, including this Virginia peanut soup.
The official Colonial Williamsburg recipe uses peanut butter, flour and cream to create a thick, velvety soup. Martha's version has none of those (and, we suspect, is closer to what 18th-century diners might have eaten). Still, Martha's soup is creamy and rich, because you cook the peanuts until they're tender and can be blended in with the rest of the ingredients.
So how does it taste? On its own, it's OK. It's rather like a satay sauce but without any notes of sweetness.
But this is a case where the garnishes make a big difference. Once finished with lemon juice and topped with diced apples, red pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil, the soup becomes incredibly tasty. We loved it. Many of our guests did too, although, to be sure, some folks were just put off by the whole idea of peanut soup.
On balance, though, we'd say the soup was a hit.
But does this soup belong at Thanksgiving? That's a different question entirely. It's certainly not a traditional Thanksgiving flavor (for us anyway). Unlike yams or pumpkin pie, we doubt any of your guests will be demanding, "Where's the peanut soup this year??" If they are, call us. We want to experience what else is on your family's menu!
Still, the peanut flavor plays nicely with some of the other typical tastes on the menu. So if you're looking for something slightly out-of-the-box that's still palatable for a crowd, this could be great.
One final thought: Even if you love the flavor of this soup, as we did, it's not the kind of thing you really want an entire bowl of. (And anyway, it's Thanksgiving: Who wants to fill up on soup?) Our recommendation: Serve this as soup shots in demitasse cups or glass jelly jars. It'll be just the right amount.
Plus, serving little soup shots is, like, totally fancy and your guests will think you're super classy.
Prep: 35 mins | Total time: 1 hour 50 mins
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups unsalted roasted peanuts
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Diced Granny Smith apple and red-pepper flakes, for serving
Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Add carrot and onion; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft but have not taken on any color, about 5 minutes. Add peanuts, broth, and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until peanuts are tender, about 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Working in batches (do not fill jar more than halfway), puree soup in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. (Or use an immersion blender.) Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on solids to remove as much liquid as possible. Return to pot and reheat over low, if necessary.
Stir lemon juice into soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve, topped with apple, red-pepper flakes, and a drizzle of oil.