Tuesday, May 18, 2010

White asparagus soup with prosciutto chip, crispy asparagus tips, chive blossoms and truffle oil

I started off our dinner menu with a white asparagus soup. Asparagus is in season and the chives in the local garden were blossoming, so I wanted to come up with a dish that would take advantage of this. I really like how the white soup acts as a blank canvas for the garnishes. It really makes all the individuals pop. It tastes pretty good. The only thing I would change about this dish is the cooking liquid. I had to use chicken stock, but I would have really preferred a crab or lobster stock. I just wasn't able to find any shells to make a good stock with.
In previous dinner parties, I've had issues getting everything done on the timeline I was shooting for and pacing dishes so that they were served at the right time/temperature. This time around, I decided to do a lot of things at the last minute so they would come to the table fresh. To make that work, I had to act more like I was in a restaurant and get all my mis-en-place taken care of ahead of time. Garnishes for the soup are above, and the assembly line is below.
Here's the recipe.

2 bunches white asparagus
1 leek
1 small potato
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 T butter

Various garnishes

Cut off the white part of the leek, cut it in half and thinly slice. Cook in a pot with the butter over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Break of the tough ends of the asparagus and chop into 1 to 2 inch sections. Add to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Peel the potato, dice, and add that to the pot along with enough stock to cover everything by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the bay leaf and let simmer for about 1 hour, until the asparagus is tender. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. The quality of the soup will depend a lot on the stock that you use, and if it tastes a little thin, you can try adding more butter or cream, but keep in mind that the garnishes will add a lot of flavor.

The soup is best if you make it a day ahead of time and let the flavors mix. This makes it a great dinner party dish since it is one less thing you can do the day of. Reheat, serve, and garnish with what ever you like. I used crispy asparagus tips that I had reserved from the asparagus salad, prosciutto chips, chives and chive blossoms, and a few drops of truffle oil.

Crispy asparagus tips - Just toss with olive oil and a bit of kosher salt and roast at a very low heat (180-200F) for about 2 hours. They get nice and crispy and take on a very meaty flavor.

Prosciutto chip - Cook in a very hot pan with a small amount of oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. The prosciutto will still feel flimsy when you remove it, but it will crisp up once you let it sit on a cooling rack.

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