Pappo Keeps the Beet Alive

Executive chef John Thiel cooks up a welcome bowl of late-winter sunshine with beets and crème fraiche in Alameda.


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Photo by Anya Soltero

In 2005, executive chef and owner John Thiel opened the doors of Pappo in Alameda and introduced his signature beet and goat cheese salad, which can still be found on the menu 15 years later.

“I love beets and the winning pairing with goat cheese, but wanted to change up the look and feel,” offered Thiel.

Several years ago, he developed a belly-warming golden beet soup that’s not too rich and is ideal for Bay Area winters. The golden glow of the soup with its bright flavors and an artful garnishment of goat cheese crème fraiche and chervil, effortlessly bridges two seasons. Each year on Valentine’s Day, Thiel changes up the recipe by using Chioggia beets, with their deep pink and white spirals, to create a charming presentation.

Whatever the hue, this soup effortlessly fuses two phenomenal ingredients, two seasons, all the while warming the body and soul.

Thiel recommended pairing the soup with Thiel Family Wines Russian River Chardonnay, 2017, from his family-owned winery — available at Pappo. Other Russian River Valley chardonnays would also pair well. Pappo, 2320 Central Ave., Alameda, 510-337-9100, PappoRestaurant.com.

 

Golden Beet Soup With Goat Cheese Créme Fraiche

1½ pounds golden beets (sans greens)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green part only, rinsed

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, minced

Approximately 5½ cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup crème fraiche

¼ cup goat cheese

Salt and white pepper to taste

Fresh chervil for garnish

 

Preheat the oven to 400º. Place beets in a baking dish with about ¼-inch of water. Cover with lid or foil and bake until tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool, then peel. Quarter beets.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add the leeks and bay leaf, sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté briefly to release its fragrance, then add the beets and 4 cups of the stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover and adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove the bay leaf and purée the soup in batches in a blender. Return to a clean saucepan and reheat. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and crème fraiche until smooth and evenly distributed.

Divide the soup among warm bowls, garnishing each portion with goat cheese crème fraiche mixture, and top with a small sprig of chervil.

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