Weekly Winner: Silky, Sumptuous, Spring Soup

IMG_0426There is still absolutely no sign of spring here in Chicago.  I’m still wearing my parka and dreaming of the day I’ll be able to open up a window and let in some fresh air.  But just because it might not seem like spring outside doesn’t mean I can’t start eating like it’s spring. Spring produce has started to hit the market and to me, nothing says “spring” like asparagus.  The problem is I still need something to warm me up and chase away the chill that remains here. Cream of Asparagus Soup with Sautéed Mushrooms serves as the perfect bridge from winter to spring — which I’m hoping will arrive eventually!

This soup is absolutely luscious and very “fancy” tasting – like the kind of soup you order in a restaurant and then announce that you would like to bathe in the soup.  Oh wait, is that just me?  Sorry.  Seriously, this is an impressive soup!  The recipe comes from Cuisine at Home  and while it borders on “fussy” to prepare, the end product is totally worth it.

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Sautéed Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 (1 lb) bunch asparagus

2 Tbsp each unsalted butter and olive oil

8 oz button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 cup chopped leeks

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream and chopped chives for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Trim and discard woody ends from asparagus, chop stalks and reserve tips.  Blanch tips in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes; transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, then drain.
  2. Melt butter with oil in a pot over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper; sate until moisture is evaporated, 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer mushrooms to a plate using a slotted spoon; reduce heat to medium.  Add asparagus stalks and leeks; seat, partially covered, until softened, 5 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high.
  4. Deglaze pot with wine and cook until evaporated.  Stir in broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender, 10-12 minutes.
  5. Puree soup with a handheld blender or transfer to regular blender and puree
  6. Stir in cream, mushrooms, and Dijon; season soup with salt and pepper.  Top servings with soup cream, chives and asparagus tips.

 

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Weekly Winner:  Because You Can’t Always Be Good

For the most part I cook healthy food. My weekly repertoire consists of low-calorie, whole foods made from tons of veggies and lean meats with the rare exception of the occasional pork fest.  No processed foods, not a lot of fat (but come on, some!) and a healthy dose of all the right “super foods”.

But you know what?  Every once in a while you just gotta be bad. I’m not talking about three Big Macs and a couple of milk shakes kind of bad, I’m referring to heart-warming, soul-satisfying, ooey-gooey, cheesy bad. The kind of dish that restores your faith in humanity.  For me, that kind of dish is usually mac-n-cheese.  But just because I’ve decided to be bad (and be happy about it), that doesn’t mean I can’t dress up and “adultify” mac-n-cheese and transform it into something, dare I say, elegant?  Its spring and the asparagus (look, a vegetable!!!) is fabulous right now so lets add that along with a sophisticated pork-product (prosciutto) and put on our fancy jammies to enjoy this meal.

Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Prosciutto is too good to be abbreviated and hyphenated.  This dish deserves to be called by its full name and eaten with reverence.  The recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine and is surprisingly a one-pot wonder.  No separate pan for a cheese sauce or even for a bechamel.  Nope, all you need here is one big ‘ol pot and the restraint to actually dish it out into separate bowls rather than diving in with the wooden spoon.  Not that I would ever do that. Because that would be bad.

Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

3/4 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

8 oz. elbow macaroni

2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup evaporated milk (not fat-free)

2 large eggs

5 oz. Fontina, coarsely grated (about 1-3/4 cups)

1 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips

2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives

Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

Bring a 4-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. With a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a bowl, and keep warm.

Bring the water back to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, whisk the evaporated milk, eggs, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Add to the pasta, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts, another 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the asparagus, prosciutto, and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.