Asparagus Soup - Spring

Asparagus Soup - Spring

Asparagus Soup
There are many genius recipes and cooks these days on the internet. I believe this creamy asparagus soup should be included in their ranks. All modesty aside most pureed vegetable soups use a béchamel sauce, potatoes or way too much cream which obliterates the taste of the vegetable soup. My way of preparing soup captures the true taste of the vegetable and you don’t even need to use cream. The texture is silky smooth without cream or potatoes or a béchamel sauce. The secret ingredient is oatmeal.
Served cold or warm, this light soup is easy to prepare. The vibrant colors and contrasting flavors and colors--delicate green asparagus tips, silky smooth soup and a dash of Marash chili. The addition of oatmeal gives a silky texture to the asparagus soup.
4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 quart chicken stock, homemade, organic or low sodium (recipe follows)
1/3 cup oatmeal (old fashioned or quick cooking)
1 1/2 pounds medium - jumbo asparagus
2 sprigs Italian parsley leaves only
1/4 teaspoon Marash chili or cayenne pepper
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garnish
Blanched asparagus tips
Croutons (recipe follows)
Black Cypress sea salt
Whipped cream with sea salt (recipe follows)

1. Cut and discard the white ends of the asparagus. If the asparagus is large you will need to peel the base of the asparagus, cut the tips of the asparagus off about 1-inch long on the biases and reserve for garnish. Cut the rest into 1-inch pieces.

2. Heat the olive oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. Sweat the leek and garlic with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes until soft (do not let them color). When the leek and garlic are soft add the wine and reduce the wine to about a tablespoon. Add the chicken stock, oatmeal, asparagus stems, parsley leaves, Marash and another pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Cool a little, then ladle into a blender until half full and carefully blend the soup until smooth. Strain and season to taste. Be careful with the salt adding too much will dull the fresh asparagus flavor.

3. Bring a small pan of salted water to a boil and make an ice bath in a bowl large enough to hold the asparagus tips. Add the asparagus tips to the boiling water for about 2 minutes until bright green then refresh in the ice bath. Or place tips in a small glass bowl, covered with plastic in the microwave; cook for 1 minute on high. Top the soup with asparagus tips, salted whipped cream, croutons and black salt and serve.

Notes: This recipe can be prepared in advance. It will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer.

Croutons
Once you’ve tasted these golden, crispy buttery cubes you’ll want to make them weekly. Clarified butter keeps longer because the milk solids have been removed, so don’t worry if you have extra – it lasts for months covered tightly in the refrigerator. The croutons will keep for 3-5 day in the refrigerator; just re-crisp in a 325 °oven.
Makes 2 cups

2 cups crust-less bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces or 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Finely ground sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350°
1. Place butter cubes in a small sauce pan over medium heat without stirring until completely melted and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom of the pan and it is no longer sputtering. (The sputtering is the water evaporating.) Line a sieve with cheese cloth and carefully pour the clear butter through a sieve into a bowl large enough to hold the croutons. Discard the milk solids.
2. Add the croutons to the butter tossing well to coat. Season with salt and pepper and bake on a sheet pan for about 10-15 minutes.

Chicken Stock
This is what you make on a rainy day. It needs to be watched not every moment but until you can get to the point where it gently simmers for a couple of hours. I learned to put a pinch of salt it the stock from Judy Rodgers; it really enhances the flavor. This stock is so rich with flavor you will want to eat it by itself.
Makes 4 quarts

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large onions, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced 1/2" thick
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2” thick
6 pounds chicken carcasses (including necks, gizzards, feet and heads if available)
6-8 chicken feet (optional)
About 2 ½ gallons cold filtered water
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bouquet garni (3-6 parsley stems, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 6 white pepper corns)

1. In a stock pot or a pot that is taller than it is wide melt the butter, then add the onions, leeks, carrots, and celery. Gently sauté over medium heat for several minutes until the vegetables are completely soft and begin to caramelize. Allowing them to brown will add a deep flavor and color to your stock.

2. Add the chicken parts, including the feet and cover with cold water until all the ingredients are covered by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce to a simmer. Skim the foam that rises to the top regularly so you have a clear stock. When the foams stops rising to the top add the bouquet garni and salt to the pot. Cook at a gentle simmer for 2 ½ - 3 hours. The stock will reduce a little while it's cooking, make sure it doesn’t reduce too much by controlling the heat. You can add more water if it reduces below the chicken bones.

3. Strain through a chinois or sieve, and cool quickly (in less than 2 hours). (I ladle my stock into storage containers set on cake racks to allow the air to circulate all around the container and cool quickly.) When cool cover the containers, label them with the date and store in the fridge for a day to allow the fat to solidify on the top. The next day or any time before you freeze the stock remove the fat and store stock in the freezer.

Notes:
Do not use livers when making stock it will make it cloudy and bitter.
There should be little reduction so the recipe should yield about 4 quarts.
The stock is skimmed before adding the bouquet garni as it tends to float to the top.
You can store in the freezer for 6 months.

Whipped Cream with Sea Salt
This not only a delicious way to add cream to a soup; it's a fast and easy sauce for sorts of savory dishes like a chard tart.
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or 1/2 heavy whipping cream and 1/2 crème fraiche
1/8 -1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium bowl add the cream and 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt. Whip until it forms soft peaks. Taste and add more salt if you like.

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Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie