I've just checked weather.com and according to the map over there, not a single part of the continental United States has any sun right now. (Darn Hawaii.) So let's all take a collective breath and remember, February is the shortest month of the year for a reason.
It is nasty out there today - New York City's streets have those all-too-familiar rain ponds at every street corner and the wind keeps whipping the rain horizontally, so it sneaks under your flabby umbrella and smacks you (gently) in the face. It's one thing to have velvety snow falling in large clumps and turning a loud city into a muffled wonderland. It's another entirely to wake up to flooded subways and dank, drippy shoes.
If I could, I'd stay home on days like today, baking bread and futzing around the apartment in felted slippers, planning trips to warmer climes. Instead, I've decided to just give myself up to the cold and wet. Such is winter, such is life. Why fight it? It'll be gone before too long. I'm grateful right now that I have pretty pink tulips in a vase to come home to, smooth wooden floors underfoot in the morning that feel so fresh and cool, and pure sunshine in the form of potato soup to warm me.
Sunshine? Potato soup? Come again?
My readers in Germany will probably be as perplexed as I was when I first saw this soup come together. After all, we're used to potato soup being a wan and wintry sort of thing. Flecked with parsley and small discs of hot dogs, Kartoffelsuppe is delicious, no doubt, but not a stunner in the looks department. It's rib-sticking in a way that is absolutely essential in the dark winter months, but I wouldn't exactly call it sultry.
This soup, however? Practically flaunts its hot, sunny curves in a mini-bikini by comparison. This is Spain's answer to that northern stuff. Instead of onions and Wuerstchen, it has garlic and silky Serrano. Instead of pallid milk or cream for thickening, it has toasted almonds pulverized to a chewy grit. Shot through and through with gossamer shards of saffron, ground finely in the palm of your hand, this potato soup is gutsy and brazen. It parades around on peep-toe stilettos, shows off its admirable cleavage, practically throws itself at you.
It is, pardon me, the sexiest soup I've ever eaten.
Make it, and your house, so cold when you first came home, will warm quickly with the scent of fried garlic, toasting almonds, and shreds of Serrano giving up their porky oils to the pan. Eat it, scraping the bottom of the bowl most impolitely, and you'll feel your cheeks flush. The texture is both silky and coarse, and the flavor (the flavor!) is irresistibly complex. I don't think I've enjoyed dinner this much in a long time.
Just watch out: it might make you do things you can't be held responsible for afterwards, like booking a last-minute flight to Barcelona. Such is the power of soup like this. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Potato Soup With Fried Almonds
Serves 4 as an appetizer, or 2 for supper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
6 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup finely diced Serrano ham
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into irregular 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 cups chicken broth
1 pinch saffron, pulverized in a mortar
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the almonds and garlic and cook until golden, 5 minutes. Spoon out the almonds and garlic; reserve. Add the ham to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer.
2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and garlic. Add all but 2 tablespoons to the soup. Steep the saffron in a few tablespoons of the soup broth for 2 minutes; then add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and cook until about half the potatoes have disintegrated, about 35 minutes. Skim the soup regularly.
3. Using the back of a spoon, crush some of the potatoes to thicken the soup. Add the vinegar to the reserved garlic mixture and stir it into the soup. Add the parsley. Cook for a minute. Taste and adjust seasoning.