This is the story of how I found out I am doing everything wrong when I make soup.
Earlier this year, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a class at the New York Culinary Experience. Put on by the International Culinary Center in NYC, it is a weekend intensive full of intimate classes with celebrity chefs like Masaharu Morimoto, Jacques Torres, and Daniel Bouley. The event is chock full of classes, luxurious meals, and a goodie bag that is worth its weight in platinum. Next year, I am seriously considering taking the whole (expensive, but amazing) session.
But I digress.
I was privileged enough to attend the Rites of Spring class led by Naomi Pomeroy, of Top Chef and Beast fame. This chef is so gregarious, so down to earth, so passionate and educated and humble and sweet…well, she is my new girl crush.
Hell, she is my new crush, PERIOD. The perfect mix of charm and candicy, of business and whimsy…I can see why she is so successful – she is driven but not grating and genuinely loves to cook and talk about food.
And she really knows how to cook.
This is her recipe. It is – to put it simply – phenomenal. Don’t skimp on any steps or leave out any ingredients. This takes a while but it is so worth your time. The steps are labor intensive (and without pictures because many components were prepared ahead of time for students – so sorry!!) and meticulous, but they result in an absolutely perfect dish.
Asparagus Veloute with Chive Oil
For Soup Base:
2 cups finely diced onions
2 cups cleaned, sliced leeks
3 cloves garlic, diced
5 oz butter
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup water.
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. creme fraiche
1. In a large stockpot, add the butter, onions, leeks, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until the veggies become translucent but not at ALL browned(maybe 15 minutes).
2. Add the garlic and water, then cook for another 20 minutes or until all the veggies are totally soft.
3. Puree in blender (or Vita Mix, by which Pomeroy swears) with the water, creme fraiche, and cream.
4. Set aside.
For Chive Oil:
6 bunches chives
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 tsp. vitamin c powder
1 tsp. salt
Large bowl of ice water
1. Drop the chives into boiling water, to which the salt and vitamin c powder has been added.
2. After 1 minute (in which time the chives have been blanched), remove them and “shock” them in the ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve the vibrant color.
3. Dry them thoroughly.
4. Place the chives and oil in a blender , going slowly at first then faster as the ingredients meld into one.
5. Once the ingredients are mixed, blend it for 2 minutes straight. Then, strain through a chinois or cheesecloth. Let it fall naturally without pressing it – it may take up to 2 hours.
6. Store in a squeeze bottle.
For Asparagus Spinach Puree:
2 cups washed fresh spinach
large bowl of ice water
2 tsp. vitamin c powder
Salt to taste
2 cups fresh asparagus, finely chopped
1. Boil some water and put enough salt in it to make it taste “like the ocean – salty” (directions straight from Pomeroy).
2. Add half of the vitamin c powder to the water, and put the spinach in it for about 30 seconds, just until it wilts.
3. Put the rest of the vitamin c powder in the ice water and move the spinach there to shock it. (save the boiling water and the ice water for the asparagus)
4. After it is cool enough to handle, dry the spinach well.
5. Add the asparagus until it is tender but not floppy – 3 minutes or so. Do NOT overcook or you will lose the color.
6. Shock it in the ice bath and then dry it.
7. Puree the asparagus and spinach in a blender.
Asparagus Spinach Puree
1 tbsp. creme fraiche
Salt and pepper, to taste
To pull the soup together:
This is absolutely a rite of spring. So fresh and grassy, with a hearty but not heavy or greasy taste. I have never made a soup like this. I have never slowly sauteed so many onions so they sweat and become sweet without caramelizing. I have never separately blanched spinach to preserve the beautiful green color of asparagus. I have never painstakingly let oil drip through a cheesecloth to add a sharp bite of chives to each spoonful of soup. I have never specially sought out creme fraiche for its smooth, silky texture. I have never used an immersion blender to froth a soup or vitamin c powder to keep some color or really salt each component. I have just been half assing my soup.
But I won’t anymore, and neither will you. Because once you taste this soup, you can’t go back to 30 minute soup that you used to eat.