It’s a sure sign of spring when asparagus begins showing up in the market stateside as well as in France. During a recent culinary tour, I discovered that in France, green asparagus is seen as exotic and the white as ordinary. It makes me wonder how the French are growing the lily white variety that would deem it ordinary.I believe another trip is needed to resolve this question.
In the meantime, seeing these emerald spears spurred me to think about vichyssoise, but that sounded very familiar. A quick search on my blog and sure enough I posted a recipe in 2012.
This recipe uses less milk and cream than the previous version and uses the blanching liquid instead of chicken stock. In the end it’s just a variation on a theme.
2 bunches green asparagus, washed
2 medium potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
2 large shallots, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
2 – 3 gratings of whole nutmeg (a whole nutmeg and a small microplane does the trick)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 – 1/2 cup heavy cream
In a 4 quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. While the water is coming to a boil, wash and trim the asparagus snapping off the tough ends. Cut off and reserve the tips; then cut stems into 2-inch pieces reserving those as well.
After the water comes to a boil add the asparagus stems and cook until a couple can easily be pierced with the tip of a paring knife (3 – 5 minutes). Using a slotted spoon remove the stems to an ice bath. Repeat with the asparagus tips and blanch for about 3 minutes. Remove the tips to a separate ice bath.
Repeat the blanching once more with the potatoes and cook until tender. Remove the potatoes from the blanching liquid and shock in an ice bath (either their own or the one with the stems). Reserve the blanching liquid.
Place a sauté pan on medium heat and add butter. Once butter is sizzling add the shallots and cook until just softened, but not browned. Add the carrots and continue to cook, adding about 1/2 cup or so of blanching liquid to allow the carrots to cook in the liquid until softened; adding more liquid as necessary. Stir in the herbes de Provence and a couple of gratings of nutmeg. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a heavy-duty blender, add the blanched asparagus stems, potatoes, shallot/carrot mixture, and a cup of the blanching liquid. Blend until puréed. If it is too thick, add more blanching liquid until the consistency of soup is achieved. Pour into a clean bowl. Pour about 1/2 cup of milk over the surface of the purée and refrigerate until cold.
When ready to serve, stir in the cup heavy cream and taste for seasonings. Serve in chilled bowls or like I did and served it in champagne coupes as a first course.