Sweet Potato Bisque with Maple Pancetta
I’m crazy about sweet potatoes, and besides the canned ones that I’ve gagged on in my childhood, I will pretty much eat them any which way. This Sweet Potato Bisque with Maple Pancetta is one of my favorite sweet potato recipes. It’s adapted from a recipe that I was given when I took a series of classes at Viking Home Chef Cooking School before it closed down in my neck of the woods. At least I got this recipe before that happened! This Sweet Potato Bisque with Maple Pancetta is spiced up with curry powder, ground ginger, and a bit of ground red pepper (cayenne). The spices really counter balance the sweetness of the potatoes. Not a fan of curry? I’m not really either, but the curry flavor is not pronounced in this dish — it’s just a nice background flavor. I add even more flavor to the soup with one of my favorite items ever, crystallized ginger chips. The soup becomes a bisque once the creme fraiche or sour cream is added.
I’m not really sure what possessed me to decide to try topping this bisque with maple pancetta. I had some pre-diced pancetta that I’d bought at Trader Joe’s, and I thought I’d fry some up with some maple syrup and see what happened. I love it, and I think it tastes great by the handful or sprinkled daintily on top of the bisque…you decide which way you want to eat it!
Some people are skeptical of a “sweet potato soup”. I tell people to just try a little, and they always end up liking it. You can serve this bisque a variety of ways. If you don’t have pancetta, you can use bacon. If you don’t have bacon, just make it without the meat. You’ll still love it. In fact, make it vegetarian by simply omitting the meat and using vegetable broth. I like to let the individual eating it decide how much creme fraiche or sour cream to use, so I don’t stir it into the entire pot the way most recipes call for. Some people don’t want any, and some want a lot. I set up the garnishes so people can decide how they want to top it — creme fraiche, maple pancetta, chopped cilantro or parsley, and more crystallized ginger chips. Last Christmas Eve I served this bisque as an appetizer in fancy clear cups with an array of garnishes and it was a hit.
This bisque does not require much, you’ll just have to peel and chop a few sweet potatoes, an onion, and a carrot, then round up some spices.
This is a tolerable amount of ingredients, isn’t it? It goes really fast, too. Just heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and spices, and let them sweat it out for about 8 minutes or until the veggies are nice and tender. Add the sweet potatoes, saute for a minute or two, then add the broth.
This mixture needs to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until very tender. Once the potatoes are ready, it’s time for the food processor, blender, or immersion blender. I chose an immersion blender because it’s so easy, but I must confess that my soup is never perfectly smooth. I am not working at a four star restaurant, so I think that’s ok.
Whichever method you prefer, puree the bisque until smooth, or as smooth as possible. Add salt to taste, and a few crystallized ginger chips or about a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger would be great too.
If you decide to make the diced maple pancetta, do so while the bisque is cooking. Simply heat a medium sized pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and maple syrup, and saute until nice and crispy, about 6 minutes. Place pancetta on a paper towel.
Doesn’t that look good? Whatever you have leftover can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you have any left.
Garnish the bisque with the pancetta, creme fraiche or sour cream, chopped cilantro or parsley, and extra crystallized ginger chips.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 ounces diced pancetta or bacon
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons of crystallized ginger chips, plus more for garnish
- ⅓ cup of creme fraiche or sour cream, plus extra for garnish
- salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, chopped (optional for garnish)
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, curry powder, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper. Cook until onion is translucent and carrot is tender, about 8 minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes to the soup pot and saute 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
- While the bisque simmers, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and maple syrup, stirring frequently. Cook until nice and crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Set aside.
- Puree the soup in a food processor, blender, or immersion blender until smooth. If using a food processor or blender, process in batches and leave an opening covered slightly with a towel in order to let the steam escape. Whisk in the creme fraiche or sour cream, if desire, or leave it out as a garnish. Add salt, to taste. Garnish each serving with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, maple pancetta, crystallized ginger chips, and flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, if desired.
- Adapted from Viking Home Chef Cooking School
This soup freezes well! It can be frozen with the creme fraiche added, but do not freeze with sour cream as it will not blend back in.
Store unused maple pancetta in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Serve as an appetizer in fancy, clear cups or glasses with an array of garnishes for guests to use as they please.