At a recent food service conference, I was asked to suggest ideas for healthy, colorful entrée and dessert sauces. Attendees, who were food service directors from health care facilities, schools, colleges, and universities nationwide, said they were getting more and more requests for lowfat, healthy, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian menu items. The entrées and desserts were easy to create. The sauces were not so simple.
First, we need to review a bit of military history. Potage Crécy, or purée of carrot soup, was created to memorialize one of Napoleon’s military victories. As the story goes, his much beleaguered chef, who was cooking out of a horse-drawn cart-kitchen parked in a carrot field, made the most of the “natural ingredients” available to him to create a colorful, lively menu item, worthy of a place on a victory table.
Classic preparation of Potage Crécy is simple. Boil sliced carrots with a peeled potato or two until all are soft. Purée (in a blender or food processor or through a food mill) until smooth. Add the purée back to the pot, season with salt, pepper, thyme, and sage, and allow the mixture to reheat. (Napoleon’s chef would have added a touch of cream and melted butter for thickening, but they are really not necessary. The starch in the potato is more than sufficient for thickening.)
What could be easier or more colorful? This preparation technique can be done with many root vegetables, such as celery root, parsley root, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, or sweet potatoes, or with winter squash, including butternut, banana, turban, or acorn. You can also use other starchy vegetables, such as kohlrabi, summer squash, eggplant, or corn.
Wouldn’t it be fun to serve grilled vegetables with a pumpkin sauce (Potage prepared with pumpkin), green beans with a sweet potato sauce, baked eggplant with a celery sauce, or smoked tofu with a savory banana squash sauce?
Leftover cooked vegetables and leftover mashed potatoes can be combined in a blender or food processor, thinned with a small amount of vegetable stock or vegetable juice for a fast Potage. If this dish is thinned a small amount, it can be served as a hot or cold soup or sauce. Left thick, it can be used as a hot or cold dip for vegetable chips, French fries or baked potato wedges, bread sticks, vegetable sticks, or assorted flat breads. It can even be used as a colorful salad dressing.
Basic Potage can be seasoned with curry spices, cumin, dry mustard, or Mediterranean mixtures, such as dried basil, oregano, and garlic. For savory dishes, add onion powder, chili powder, or red pepper flakes. For a sweet dessert sauce, prepare Potage from carrots, winter squash, or sweet potatoes. Then, season with orange juice concentrate, orange or lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, or ginger. Serve sweet Potage sauce with a trio of sorbets, soy or rice ice cream, or sweetened tofu or pudding parfaits. You can even use it as a dipping sauce for cookies.
(Makes about 1 quart)
2 pounds sliced fresh carrots
1/2 pound peeled baking or Russet potatoes
1 pint water (or water to cover)
1 teaspoon white pepper
Place all ingredients in a small stock pot. Bring to a fast boil. Immediately reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer until all vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Place vegetables and liquid in a blender or food processor (you may have to do this in batches). Process until smooth. Pour back into pot. Cook over low heat until hot.
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Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.
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