Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Recipe: Cream of Asparagus Soup with ham and potatoes

No photos of this one, except of the stock. Didn’t expect it to be as entirely wonderful as it was. If I ever do it again, I’ll try to take some snaps. But there are no major mysteries, no arcane secrets that only a photo would reveal, so hey, give it a try . . .

Here’s what you’ll need:

asparagus stock
fresh asparagus (4 to 6 stalks per serving)
ham cubes (leftover frozen ham steak)
red onion, flaked, ¼ onion per serving
carrot, thin sliced, ¼ carrot per serving
potato, cubed, 1 per serving
1 can of peas (small can for two servings)
chorizo, chopped and sliced, ½ per serving
light cream, 3 oz. per serving
fresh thyme, chopped, (I don’t know, the leaves from one stem per serving?)
fresh oregano, chopped (as above, just go for it!)
olive oil
Tellicherry (of course!)

Here’s how you do it.

It started out with the need to clear some freezer space. I still don’t know what half the stuff in there is, but something had to make way for new chicken, and the 4 bags of frozen asparagus stems were taking up a lot of space!

So into the bucket with them! Cover with a gallon or so of water and bring to a boil uncovered. Yes, you could get them hotter quicker with a lid on, but the slower approach lets them defrost more gently as the water warms, and I think, preserves more flavor.

Asparagus stalks

Besides, you need some time to roast some other stuff. So crank the oven to 425° F, whack up a couple of small onions (trim and toss the ends, but leave the peel on), a couple of carrots (again, trim and toss the ends) and a couple of stalks of celery. Grease ‘em up with a little olive oil, lay them out on a piece of foil, and into the oven for at least 30 minutes, an hour if you can. (And if you don’t care about being a stock purist, go ahead and sprinkle the oiled veggies with a little coarse salt, and maybe give ‘em a few good grinds of Tellicherry before you put them in the oven. I usually do . . .)

Roasties for stock

As soon as the asparagus water reaches a healthy bubble, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. You want some bubbles, but not a raging sea. Ultimately, you’re looking to reduce the liquid by half, but you want the whole process to take at least a couple of hours. That way, if you manage to roast your ‘other stuff’ for an hour, everything will still have time to get friendly in the pot. If you’ve already reduced by half before you remember to toss in the roasties, well, just add water! Stock is really simple . . .

So, yeah. When you give up roasting, toss all the roasted stuff into the pot. Since it’s already hot, you shouldn’t have to adjust the heat to keep your perfect simmer going. And as above, if you’re already ‘reduced’ before the roasties have had at least an hour in the pot, well, just add water . . .

Asparagus stalks & roasties

When it’s ‘done,’ drain, strain, scoop and/or otherwise separate all the solid stuff from the liquid. Dump the solids; save the liquid.

Now. While all that’s goin’ on, get the meal prep under way.

Cut your red onion into 1/3 inch wide slices; then cut the slices into ¼ inch wide wedges; and call it flaked. Heat your skillet and toss in some olive oil while you slice your carrot into paper thin half rounds. By now the pan and oil are hot, so cook up your onions.

After you toss them around to get them coated with oil, cube up your (fresh, frozen, last night’s leftovers, whatever . . .) ham. Small. ¼ to 1/3 inch cubes.

When the onions have been on for a couple of minutes, toss in the carrots. Keep ‘em moving; keep cutting ham, if need be.

After the carrots have been sizzling for about two minutes, turn down the heat to a bare sauté and wait for the first touch of color, as in browning, to appear on the onions. Probably take about 7 or 10 more minutes.

While the onions and carrots seek brown, take your favorite vegetable peeler and peel the skin off the bottom 3 to 4 inches of your fresh asparagus stalks. Then trim off the last ¼ inch or so of each stalk. Now, slice off thin 1/8 inch slices from the stalks until you’re left with about 3 inches of the asparagus tips. Toss all the little slices into the skillet as soon as you get them done, and cook, cook, cook.

As soon as there’s a little color on the onion, toss the ham into the skillet. Now, if your ham was frozen, it probably still is. No worries, just takes some time. As the ham thaws, it will releases water. Your skillet of goodies will get wet. And then it will steam. And then dry out. And that’s all just fine. Just keep the heat under it; stir it around from time to time; and get on with the rest . . .

Which includes getting your potatoes peeled (or not, your choice; Cathy likes peeled, and this is white on white, so what the heck, I peeled ‘em this time), and cubed, and tossed into the final soup pot. Cover them with water, toss in a spoonful of ‘chicken base’ (or cover them with your own very special, homemade chicken stock, instead of water and the base), and put a little heat under that pot.

Next, toss your chorizo into a(nother little) skillet with some olive oil and start cooking it.

And while that happens, chop up your fresh herbs.

PaPhew! Really. It’s easy. I promise . . .

OK. Remember that skillet of ham and onion and such? Well, dump your asparagus broth into that pan and bring it all up to a serious bubble. After it cooks together for about 10 minutes, toss the skillet contents into that final soup pot with the potatoes in it. Toss in the chopped herbs, pour in whatever quantity of cream you think you can sneak past your cardiologist, and adjust the heat to a barely there simmer. Let ‘er cook for 30 minutes or so.

And as soon as the chorizo is done, slit it lengthwise; slice one half into thin half-rounds and chop the other into little bits; and toss it into the pot.

Make some rye toast, and an arugula-romaine-tomato vinaigrette, and serve the soup!

1 comment:

  1. I just came across a blog by Lita Watson with lots of info on asparagus and different ways to cook it. Check it out at:

    How To Cook Asparagus