The Soup Blog
Recipes, Culinary Insights & Humor Spooned Up Fresh Every Week…………………(Now in its Ice Cream Phase)
Midwinter Grill: Barbecue Pork & Parsnips Soup
Categories: Dairy-free, Parsnips, Pork


Boy Meets Grill, Freezes to Death

We had our first false spring last week, only to have the weather turn cold again on the eve of Chicago’s mayoral election.  I’m sure by the time the new mayor takes office, he’ll have us on the road to a prolonged thaw.  Rahm won’t officially take office until May, but he is liable to heat things up a bit before that.

He’s certainly well-known for his heated language.

Even so, I think I’ll still have to keep the grill on ice for a while longer.

It’s sad.

I had begun thinking of taking my family’s standard recipe for ribs (a terrific herbed dry rub, see below) out to the barbecue, but for now, I guess I’ll just keep roasting them in the oven.

The ribs are a real kid pleaser, which is why I figured I’d try to adapt them into a soup recipe.  Adaptation was key, since soup is never going to be something you can pick up and gnaw off the bone.

The barbecue soup idea came to me during our not quite spring cleaning of our freezer.  We have been slowly working through the frozen fish and ribs and potstickers and chicken that have been taking up space in the iciest part of the icebox for way too long.  That’s what brought the pork tenderloin into play. That and several hours above freezing.

Once it was thawed, I chopped it up, pulled out the jar of spice rub which we always have ready for rib night (No, we don’t have ribs every week, but it’s comfort food people.) and tossed them together.  The spice rub, which I originally stole from the Joy of Cooking (1997 version, the one I got to work on), is just dried herbs and spices so it can be made ahead of time. It’s not in the rub section, though, it’s under Oven-roasted Spareribs and I can’t tell you if it made it into subsequent editions of the Joy.  Regardless…

The ribs take at least an hour and a half, although longer and slower make them even better, as is the case with most barbecue.  I put the tenderloin in at 250°F for 45 minutes because I thought that would be enough time to seal in the herb-roasted flavor.

I was right.

As a companion for the roast pork, I got hold of a couple of pounds of parsnips that I figured could make up the soup base.  I haven’t used parsnips all that often in this blog and certainly never in a featured role.  It’s a bit sweeter than its cousin the carrot and it’s got a lot more bite too.  But just to be on the safe side, I threw in a few cloves of garlic to round it all out and pureed the whole thing into a smooth blend.

The parsnip base now had a rich, almost creamy taste that really complemented the roast pork.  All I had to do after I added the meat was let the whole thing simmer for a few minutes so the flavors married together a bit.

The only comment from the family was that it was pretty thick, but that was before I added the fifth cup of stock.  After that, the soup was, to quote myself…


Perfect for a cold pre-spring day when you’re still stuck inside.

Perfect because this soup lets you taste the warm weather coming on the next few pages of the calendar.

Barbecue Pork & Parsnips Soup
(serves 6-8)
Spice Rub
2 t sage
2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
1 t thyme
1 small pork tenderloin (mine was a little more than 12 ounces), cut into ½-inch cubes (roughly, no ruler necessary)
1 T canola oil
2 lbs parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
salt & pepper to taste
5 cups stock

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 °F, then combine the herbs for the spice rub  in a bowl, grinding them together in your fingertips.  (dried herbs are probably the way to go here)
  2. Toss the chunks of pork with the spice rub to coat each piece of meat, then put them in a small baking pan and roast for 30-45 minutes.  Set aside when done.
  3. In the mean time heat the oil in a 3 quart stock pot, add the parsnips and garlic and brown slightly.
  4. Before you burn the garlic add the stock and seasonings, bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Now that the parsnips are nice and soft, puree the soup mixture with an immersion blender (or bar blender, that always works too) until the texture is very smooth.
  6. Add the roasted pork to the soup and bring the mixture to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  This gives the pork the chance to marry its flavor with the rest of the soup.
  7. Serve warm and eat.  You won’t be disappointed.

Image Credit: “Frozen Barbecue”  A cold lonely image by the author.

Okay, maybe I didn’t stick to a strictly seasonal theme this week.  But parsnips are available right now and so’s the meat.  I guess my beef isn’t with the ingredients, it’s with the weather.  My question to you is:  Hot enough for you? Leave a comment.

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