Coming this Friday January 19th is the Wausau YWCA’s 11th Annual Men Who Cook event. Being invited as a celebrity chef is a great honor, one that I’ve held for a third year now. For this year’s event I’m cooking French Bistro style fare from the Lorraine and Alsace regions of France. My table of eight is already booked, but there are still tables available for this one of a kind fundraiser event.
In preparing for the event, I usually have a theme picked out about 6-8 weeks before the dinner, in the following weeks, I’ll spend my time researching dishes and planning a menu that fits together thematically and can be prepared in the limited facilities of the event venue. Much of the cooking is done at home and the dishes are transported to the venue and finished just before serving. A firm grip on the logistics is what it takes to make dinner come off successfully.
As the menu is finalized, I’ll use the last week or so to do test runs of the dinner. The meal is a four course dinner with salad, soup, entree, and dessert. I’ll use the test to tweak the dishes, make notes, and adjust my timing so all the components of the meal can work together. Plus I can get the feedback from the rest of family of what needs to be adjusted. Tonight’s test run was the 2nd course: Cream of Asparagus Soup.
Asparagus, a spring time vegetable makes a great soup, either hot or cold. This dish, both bright and lively, is a great interlude from the bacon heavy salad and main course I’ll be serving.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
- 2 pounds green asparagus
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 small carrots, chopped
- 2 small celery stalks, chopped
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 5-6 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream of créme Fraîche
- dash of lemon juice
- Cut tips from 12 asparagus to be used as garnish, about 1 1/2 inches long.
- Cut stalks and remaining pieces into about 1/2 inch pieces
- Cook onion, carrot and celery (about 5-10 minutes) under moderately low heat until soft. Add garlic and cook one minute. Add asparagus pieces, season with salt and pepper. Then cook, stirring frequently, until asparagus is very tender, about 5-10 minutes
- Add stock and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
- While soup simmers, cook reserved tips in salted boiling water, 3-4 minutes. drain and chill with cold water.
- Purée soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth, transferring to a bowl. Take care while blending hot liquids. Stir in créme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper, Bring soup to a boil and finish with 1 tbsp of butter.
- Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips.