Last fall, I made Cook’s Illustrated’s creamy white bean soup for the first time. I was looking for a quick weeknight meal that used ingredients I already had on hand, and I remembered this recipe from when it had been featured in an episode of America’s Test Kitchen’s YouTube series Perfectly Seasonal.
My review: The soup was great. But the garnish stole the show.
I knew I’d enjoy the soup’s silky-smooth texture and rich flavor. What I didn’t expect was to love the garnish as much as I did. The microwave-fried capers were the star of the dish. Crispy, salty, briny—they added a welcome punch of brightness to the lush, neutral-flavored soup.
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When you fry capers, they open up like delicate little flower petals. (Makes sense—a caper is actually the small bud of a flowering plant.) They lose some of their acidity and any mushiness.
Once fried, they’re crispy at first and then melt-in-your-mouth ethereal. They’re also a two-for-one deal: You’re left with the crispy capers and the infused oil, which is great drizzled over the soup (or anything you’d drizzle oil over) or used as the base for a vinaigrette.
And they couldn’t be easier to make. Frying them in the microwave simplifies the whole affair: no pot of oil to watch and temp, and they’re done in just a few minutes. Here’s how test cook Annie Petito makes them in the aforementioned white bean soup recipe:
- Combine ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil and ¼ cup rinsed and dried capers in medium bowl (capers should be mostly submerged).
- Microwave until capers are darkened in color and have shrunk, about 5 minutes, stirring halfway through microwaving.
- Using slotted spoon, transfer capers to paper towel–lined plate (they will continue to crisp as they cool); set aside. Reserve caper oil.
They’re so good and so simple to make, why stop at soup? I’ve spent the last year putting crispy capers on just about everything.
Piccata—be it chicken, shrimp, or salmon—is a natural pairing since capers are already on the ingredient list. But crispy capers (and the caper-infused oil) also add welcome pops of flavor and crunchy texture to any sautéed piece of meat or fish; roasted vegetables; creamy polenta; and, of course, other soups, such as cauliflower, tomato, and mushroom.