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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Asparagus Vichyssoise with Grison Beef Shavings

Served at room temperature, this is an easy summer appetizer to prepare ahead of time.

Weekend version:  Asparagus
Vichyssoise Verrine with Sweet
Onion Cream and Tarragon Gelée

It's asparagus season here in Switzerland and they are beautiful!

I have a moment of great joy when I see the first asparagus arrive at the market. It is one of Spring's ephemeral gifts that must be enjoyed during the short time that it will be available.  I also know that it is just the beginning of what nature will have to offer during the upcoming weeks.  Wonderful cherries are just beginning to show up and will soon be followed by sweet strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.  Life is good!

My cousin, her husband and dear friend were visiting last night from Quebec City.  It is always a joy for us to have family and friends over.  We enjoy hearing the news of what is happening back home and it gives us a chance to reconnect with our Canadian traditions, memories and way of life.  We reminisced about our youth and as usual, every fond memory had an association with food.

Because I wanted to be present and catch up, the menu needed to be one that I could prepare ahead of time.  Soup is always a good choice in this case.  Given that it is now warm outside, I thought I would make something seasonal (asparagus) that would be served at room temperature - inspired by the traditional vichyssoise.

The grison meat shavings are added to offer a taste of Switzerland (this is air dried meat from the Graubunden Canton) and the saltiness of the meat helps to bring out the natural sweetness and delicate flavor of the asparagus.

You will need:  Serves 6 people
  • 20 medium sized green asparagus, washed with lower 1.5 inches (4 cm) of stem removed
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green part only, washed and chopped in 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) rings
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 medium potato, large dice
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • water
  • 1 cube of vegetable stock
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp of white balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 50 g of thinly sliced grison beef cut in thin strips (you can also you prosciutto if you don't have grison meat)
  • 4 asparagus heads, about 3 inches in length and cut in half lenghtwise
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • salt, pepper
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat;
  2. Add shallot and and leeks and sweat for 5 minutes (no color);
  3. Add asparagus, and saute for another 2 minutes;
  4. Cover with water;
  5. Add potato and thyme;
  6. Add vegetable stock cube and simmer for 30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender;
  7. Remove from heat and puree the solids in blender until very smooth (add just enough water to ensure that it blends easily as you can adjust the consistency later with more cooking liquid);
  8. Press through a fine sieve and return to heat;
  9. Add white balsamic vinegar (will add a little sweetness and acidity) and allow soup to simmer for a few minutes to reduce and intensify in flavor;
  10. Add butter and seasoning to taste;
  11. Let cool and refrigerate if you are not serving withing the next few hours.  Return to room temperature for about one hour before serving.
For the Garnish:  
  1. Place the asparagus heads that have been halved lengthwise in a small pan with water, salt and butter;
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the asparagus are tender when pierced with a sharp knife (this should only take a few minutes);
  3. Finish by glazing the asparagus by adding a little butter to the dry pan and coating the asparagus with it over a medium heat (shake them around in the pan to do this);
  4. Reserve at room temperature until you are ready to serve
  5. Ladle the asparagus vichyssoise at room temperature into a soup bowl and add the grison and asparagus heads as garnish.
  6. Serve with a cold Chardonnay.

Time investment:  Prep:  20 minutes, cooking time, 30 minutes, total time:  50 minutes

The full meal:

Mushroom, Pine Nut Rotondo with Basil Parmesan Froth

Some cheese here followed by:

Fresh strawberries with vanilla marscapone cream and almond powder : simple

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