Chile Bisque

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: About 11/2 hours, largely unattended

This is one of those pure and simple soups flavored by a single ingredient. Well, almost. The only other things between you and the complex taste of mild dried chile are a touch of garlic and a hint of bay. You can change the heat level by using 2 or 3 chiles or none instead of 1; in fact, this soup is a terrific way to experiment with the characteristics of different dried and fresh chiles.

5 or 6 (about 3 ounces) dried ancho chiles

1 chipotle chile, dried or canned (don’t use too much of the adobo if you use canned; optional)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup medium- or long- grain rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 quart vegetable stock or water

2 bay leaves

1 cup cream

01 Put a skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Toast the dried chiles until darkened slightly and fragrant, about 2 minutes per side. If you’re using canned chipotle, set it aside for later. Put the dried chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Use a plate to keep them submerged if necessary. Let the chiles soak until soft, an hour or so.

02 After the chiles have been soaking for about 30 minutes, put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about a minute. Add the canned chipotle, if you’re using it, and the rice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until the rice starts to turn translucent, about 2 minutes more.

03 Add the stock and the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so that soup bubbles gently, cover, and cook undisturbed until the rice is very tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

04 When the chiles are soft, drain them, carefully remove their stems and seeds, and add them to the soup pot. Fish out the bay leaves. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pan. Or cool the mixture slightly (hot soup is dangerous), pass it through a food mill or pour it into a blender, and purée carefully. (The soup may be made ahead to this point, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat it gently.) Add the cream and turn the heat under the pot to medium. Gently reheat the soup until hot but not boiling. Cook, uncovered, for another 3 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened (if it’s too thick, add a little water or stock). Taste, adjust the seasoning, then serve.