I recently had the pleasure to welcome chef Ross Pangilinan into my kitchen. There was so much to learn about building alluring robust flavors from this talented chef, I was eager to see how he used techniques to nuance his celery root and green apple soup spiked with either fresh sunchokes or parsnips.
The award-winning chef-owner of Orange County’s Mix Mix Kitchen Bar (Santa Ana) and Terrace by Mix Mix (South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa), as well as ReMix in Long Beach, showcased the skillful methods needed for creating a creamy soup without any cream.
Contrasts in flavor and texture atop the velvety mix were delivered by crunchy, butter-fried croutons as well as an apple relish rich with lemon juice, chives, and olive oil. If you wish, a smidgen of black truffle oil could be added at the last minute. Pangilinan prefers black truffle oil because it is more subtly flavored than white truffle oil.
If the buttery croutons are omitted, the soup is vegan. We agreed that those toasty cubes of crunchy rustic Italian bread could be passed at the table for optional use. But after further discussion, he said salted puffed wild rice would be a tasty vegan option instead of the croutons (see cook’s notes for puffed rice recipe).
His impressive culinary history could fill several pages and includes time spent in some of the world’s finest kitchens. After graduating from Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu, his experiences included work in France at the two Michelin-starred Les Trois Marche restaurant with chef Gerald Vie, as well as a lengthy list of sous-chef gigs with the Patina Restaurant Group. Before striking out on his own, he was executive chef at Costa Mesa’s Leatherby’s Café Rouge for seven years.
As chef-owner, he opened Mix Mix Kitchen Bar in Santa Ana in 2016, which went on to earn a much-respected Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2019, in addition to being named “Restaurant of the Year” by Orange Coast, which also named his second restaurant, Terrace by Mix Mix, one of the “Best New Restaurants” in 2019.
In 2020, Pangilinan opened his third restaurant, ReMix Kitchen Bar in Long Beach. All three restaurants reflect his appealing eclectic style, showcasing French techniques while imbuing dishes with his Filipino American heritage and Southern California’s bounty of seasonal flavors.
Yes, there’s his scrumptious Adobo, an elevated but still-soulful rendition of his grandmother’s classic Filipino staple and his not-to-be-missed Filipino Fried Chicken, plus his French-inspired pan-seared market fish or duck entrees.
If you’re in the mood to cook at home, try his dreamy, creamy soup. Have a look at the video to see how he successfully refined the flavors.
A Side Passion: I love to golf. I’m a nine handicap.
Early Dream: To be a chef at a country club with a golf course. Now I’m a member.
Sunchokes: Couldn’t get any today for the soup. They are like a cross between an artichoke and a parsnip, or artichoke and a turnip.
Few People Know: I was born in Tennessee and am a Tennessee Titans fan.
Drink of Choice: An Old-Fashioned, made with good whiskey—such as High West, it’s smooth and not the most expensive.
Restaurant Faves: Babbo in New York City for the Bolognese and tripe. And Hamamori Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Costa Mesa where James (chef-owner) just feeds me. I sit, have a beer, and he sends food out.
Secret Talent: In my teens, I was semi-pro skateboarder.
Home Freezer Inventory: Chicken nuggets, frozen bananas, desserts from Trader Joe’s.
Celery Root, Green Apple and Sunchoke (or Parsnip) Soup
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 cup extra-virgin light-flavored olive oil, divided use
- 1/2 medium-sized white onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 medium-sized celery roots, stalks and leaves trimmed, root peeled, coarsely chopped
- 2 large parsnips or 1-pound sunchokes, coarsely chopped, see cook’s notes
- 2 Granny Smith green apples, cored, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided use (this is to taste, you may need less)
- Water to cover, plus more later if needed
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Optional: 1/2 to 1 tablespoon black truffle oil
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter
- 1 cup 3/8-inch diced rustic Italian bread (crust removed)
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 generous sprigs fresh thyme
- Salt to taste
- 1 Granny Smith green apple, cored, unpeeled, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon black truffle oil
- 1/4 cup finely sliced fresh chives
- 2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil, light flavored
Cook’s notes: To prep parsnips, cut in half crosswise, trim root end, peel with swivel-bladed peeler, cut in half lengthwise, cut out and discard woody cores, coarsely chop. Or if using sunchokes, wash them and coarsely chop. Sunchokes offer added earthiness, parsnips more sweetness, so less sugar is needed. If you want to substitute puffed rice for croutons, here’s how – Heat about 1 inch of canola oil in deep pan to 400 degrees. Add 1/4 cup raw wild rice and cook until popping stops; scoop out with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season with salt.
- In Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1/2 cup olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until just starting to brown on edges, stirring occasionally. Add celery root and toss to coat with oil; cook about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add parsnips and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apples and cook until mixture caramelizes a little bit; toss occasionally and be patient. Season with salt, pepper, and a good pinch of sugar. Toss.
- Add water to cover and bring to simmer on medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, as the soup cooks, prepare croutons and garnish. For croutons, melt butter in small skillet on medium-high heat. When butter is foamy, add bread, garlic, and thyme. Without letter butter get too hot and burn, allow croutons to get golden brown, tossing them frequently in the process (see video for this technique). Drain on paper towels and season with salt. Set aside. Prepare garnish: Combine all garnish ingredients in medium-small bowl; toss and set aside.
- Finish soup: Scoop out about half of liquid and set aside. Cautiously transfer remaining mixture to high-speed blender. Cover and hold cover down with hot pad. Starting on lowest speed, puree, slowly increasing speed. Add just enough reserved liquid to reach a creamy texture. With motor running (to emulsify), add juice, plus sugar, remaining olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste (and if using, black truffle oil). Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If still hot, ladle into soup bowls – if cooled off, reheat and ladle into soup bowls. Top with croutons and garnish. If desired, drizzle with a little olive oil or black truffle oil. Serve.
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”