Hearty winter soup from Auvergne
This soup of winter vegetables with bacon and sausage is a meal in itself. In the Auvergne region of central France, it is often served over slices of country bread, which makes it even more hearty. If you’d like to try it this way, place a slice of lightly toasted French sourdough bread in the bottom of each bowl before adding the soup.
A few words on the ingredients: If you can find it, use Savoy cabbage. That’s the dark green variety with curly leaves. Choose potatoes that will not fall apart when cooked. If you can find slab bacon, have your butcher cut it lengthwise into strips about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Otherwise use thick-cut smoked bacon. As for the sausage, in France we would use saucisse de Toulouse or smoky saucisse de morteau. Elsewhere, a sweet or spicy Italian sausage or a high-quality bratwurst would work well.
In Auvergne, this soup generally also includes a ham hock, and possibly other cuts of pork as well. That is one step too hearty for me and I have not included them here. But if you’d like to try it that way, you’ll find instructions at the bottom of the recipe.
2 quarts (2 liters) cold water
3 large carrots
1 tbsp. sea salt or table salt
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2-4 thick strips of bacon
1/2 cabbage, preferably Savoy
2 large uncooked sausages
Pour the water into a large soup pot — it should fill the pot about halfway up — and set on the stove over a high flame. While the water is heating up, you will be preparing and adding the vegetables.
Peel the carrots and chop crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Add to the pot.
Peel the turnips, cut into quarters and chop into pieces about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Add to the pot.
Peel the onion, leaving it whole. Stud with the cloves. Add to the pot.
Add the salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme.
By this point your water should be coming to a boil. When that happens, turn down the heat to keep it at a low boil.
Cut the bacon slices in half and add to the pot.
Pierce the skin of the sausage in a few places. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the sausages lightly until they are golden brown. Add to the pot.
Remove the tough outer leaves and core of the cabbage. Chop lengthwise into four strips, and then crosswise into pieces about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Add to the pot.
Peel the potatoes, slice them in half lengthwise and then crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Add to the pot.
Continue cooking at a low boil for about 20 minutes more.
Remove the onion, bay leaf and thyme branches.
Before serving, remove the bacon and sausages. Slice into pieces about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Return to the pot.
Ladle into broad soup bowls and serve piping hot. Serves 4-6.
To make a classic potée auvergnate, you will also need a ham hock and a piece of shoulder of pork or some smoked pork chops. Cook them separately before beginning the recipe — they should be boiled for about 90 minutes, until they become tender. You can add them to your soup pot when you add the sausage. Be careful: you will need a larger soup pot, with plenty of room for the additional pork.