Cooking with Butts (Asparagus Soup)

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With decorative citrus!

The title was either that or something about “taking a leek” (I think I’ll save that one for vichyssoise).

Did you know that something like 40% of the food in this country is thrown out? That’s an astonishing amount. Yeah, you could compost the “unpleasant to eat” things like woody asparagus butts, but with a little love and attention you could also turn them into some really good eats. And in addition to saving the planet you’re saving some pennies from your food budget. Get a whole ‘nother meal out of two bunches of asparagus butts you would otherwise throw out. I had to purchase a leek, but everything else was already in my kitchen (garlic, shallot, chicken stock, heavy cream, lemon, and sour cream). This soup could be totally vegetarian by the way. Just use vegetable stock, or even water, instead of chicken stock.

This method works with any tough or past-their-prime veggies; mushrooms, broccoli, squash, carrots, celery  . . . just go ahead and clean out your fridge.

Asparagus Soup (Sorry there’s no picture of the finished product, but asparagus soup is not a very attractive dish)

Party size: 4

Hardware:

  • Medium sized pot
  • Blender or immersion blender
  • Mesh strainer
  • Ladle

Mats:

  • 1 Tbsp of Butter (thereabouts)
  • 1 Leek, rinsed, halved and chopped. Just the white part. (Don’t throw out the rest though, we’ll use that in a later recipe)
  • 1 Shallot, diced (or onion, if you’ve got that lying around instead)
  • About a pound or so of Asparagus Butts (or wilted celery, wrinkly mushrooms, celery stalks, etc) cut into about 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, smashed
  • 1 quart of Chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • Three or four heaping spoonfuls of sour cream or creme fraiche
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Walkthrough:

  1. Over moderate heat, melt the butter in the pot. Add the leek and shallot and cook until the shallot is translucent but not browned, about 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add the asparagus to the pot and cook until it turns bright green, about 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes until the asparagus is tender.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and blend. Whether you use a hand immersion blender or a proper blender, remember that this stuff is piping hot. Blend until everything seems smooth.
  5. It’s not smooth, so strain it through the mesh strainer. Pour the soup through the strainer and use the ladle to press against the sides to force the liquid out of the pulp. Get rid of the pulp.
  6. Add the cream and sour cream and blend again.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and the juice from half a lemon.
  8. Garnish and serve.

Suggested Garnishes: Crispy bits of bacon, a scoop of cream fraiche, chopped chive, crispy pancetta, blanched asparagus tips

ProTip: If something tastes “meh, okay but blah” there are two things you can do to liven it up – add salt and add acid (the pH kind). Acid can take the form of lemon juice, vinegar, pickles, whatever you think would go well with the dish. This is the culinary equivalent adjusting the brightness and sharpness of your monitor.

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