1medium onionpeeled and coarsely chopped, 3 oz.; 85g
4shallotspeeled and coarsely chopped, 2.3 oz; 65g total
1leek, the white and green partstrimmed and cut into thin rounds
1smallcarrotpeeled, trimmed and cut into very thin rounds, 2 oz.; 60g
1small bunch fresh thyme
1fresh bay leaf from the Laurel nobilisor 1 dried, imported bay leaf
1/2ouncechunk of ginger that measures 2-inches;cut in thin coins, 5cm;15g
2quartsfiltered water2 liters
1/2teaspooncoarse sea salt
For the garnish and to finish the soup:
1/2cupcrème fraîche or heavynon ultra-pasteurized cream, 125ml
3/4teaspoonfreshly ground white pepper
1small shallotfinely minced
18small sprigsmâche (lamb’s lettuce) or other seasonal green or herb
Place the beets in a heat proof baking dish, and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Pour about 1 inch (2.5cm) water in the bottom of the dish, cover, and bake the beets until they are soft through, 1 to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets. Test for doneness by inserting a sharp knife blade into the center of the beet; you should feel no resistance. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, trim and peel them.
Make the vegetable broth: Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and cover with the water. Add the coarse sea salt, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft and have lost their flavor, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and strain, discarding the vegetables and herbs. Reserve.
Make the crème fraîche garnish: Whisk 1/ 4 cup (60ml) of the crème fraîche until it is very, very firm and will easily hold a stiff peak. Whisk in the white pepper and using two teaspoons, make 12 quenelles (oval shapes). Place them on a plate, and refrigerate.
Cut 3 ounces (90 g) of the cooked beet into a tiny dice, and reserve. Coarsely chop the remaining beets. Bring 4 cups (1 quart;1 liter) of the vegetable broth to a boil in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat. Add the coarsely chopped beets, stir, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the beets are very soft. Transfer the beets and their cooking liquid to the work bowl of a food processor or use a hand blender to purée, then return to the saucepan. Add the remaining 1/4 cup (60ml) crème fraîche to the soup and heat just until it is hot. Taste for seasoning.
Evenly divide the beet soup among 6 warmed soup bowls. Set two quenelles in the center of each of the bowls of beet soup. Alternatively, you may place a small dollop of the seasoned crème fraîche in the center of each of the bowls of soup. Sprinkle with equal amounts of diced beet and minced shallot, garnish with the mâche, and serve immediately.