I love winter. That is, as long as it doesn’t last too long. Right after Christmas decorations are put away, and the last little bits of glitter are finally sucked out of the carpeting with my “water-washed air” vacuum cleaner, I start planning the flower beds and garden. I can’t wait to get the vegetables and herbs going, and inevitably I end up starting part of the garden over because I have planted too soon and I lose the tender shoots to a late frost. That, or I leave the chickens out too long and they end up in the garden and tear everything up I like to let them out of their coop as often as I can, so they can get grass shoots and bugs, and scratch around in the dirt. I call it “free-ranging.” My sweet husband (who doesn’t care much for the chickens) calls it “free-yarding,” since we don’t have a ranch. Yes, my chickens get the run of the backyard, and they come to me when I call them. And yes, I talk to them. But seriously, am I just supposed to ignore them when they ask me stuff?
I grew up in a country environment. We had pigs and cows and chickens, with the occasional goat thrown in for good measure. There was a garden to tend, fields to irrigate during growing season, as well as tending the livestock. Being the only child at home, the majority of the chores fell to me, and my day started long before sun-up and ended long after the chickens had taken to their roosts. We cooked from scratch, butchered our own meat, and drank raw milk. We put up our own vegetables and ate them all winter long. Growing up that way instilled in me a strong work ethic, and taught me a love for the land and a deep appreciation for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Today, as it poured rain all day long, I started thinking about those days and a treat we enjoyed every spring. We didn’t purchase things like asparagus because it was expensive. All around the valley where we lived, were pear orchards…and in the early spring when things are still wet, the most amazing asparagus shoots would pop out of the ground in the shady, well-irrigated soil of the orchards. The asparagus grew wild, and there was only about a one week window to get it before it got too large and became tough. So, we kept an eye on them and when they were about a foot tall, we would grab a sack and sneak into the orchard and pull up as much as we wanted. It was the best asparagus I have ever eaten. Those memories made me hungry for asparagus, so please allow me to share with you the meal I made tonight, using this delicate vegetable!
I don’t think I have to tell you that fresh vegetables are imperative when preparing any meal.Taking special care in selecting fresh ingredients will ensure that your meal will not only taste amazing but look beautiful too! When selecting your vegetables, check them carefully for wilt, mold or bruising. If you can get your vegetables at a good farmers market, do it! Fairfield has an amazing farmers market called Larry’s Produce, and I make sure to fill up my car every time I visit the Brit and California Girl!
California Girl comments: For this recipe, I have decided to add a pairing of wine. With Miss April’s recipes, I have decided to try and pair her creations with wines that are readily available in grocery stores and wine retailers. All of my choices will also be in the value range under $20. For this particular recipe, I have selected Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. You can purchase it for under $15.00 a bottle. I selected it because there is a lot of butter and fruits on the palate and I think it will be the perfect compliment to this amazing soup.
Leek and Asparagus Bisque with Lump Crab
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup leeks, thinly sliced (the white part only)
3 lbs fresh asparagus, cut in 1 inch pieces. (discard the tough ends)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sherry
2 cups heavy cream
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound lump crab meat (optional)
In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat so it doesn’t scorch. Once melted, add the leeks and sauté until tender and translucent. Add the asparagus and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the pepper.
Sprinkle the flour over the sautéed leeks and asparagus and gently stir to coat. Continue to sauté until the butter/flour mixture starts to bubble and just starts to slightly toast. Gradually stir in the chicken stock so it is smooth.
Add the sherry, and simmer until the asparagus is tender about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and in small batches, run the soup mixture through the blender and puree until smooth. It will be a lovely pale green. Return the puree to the saucepan and heat over medium heat. When hot through, add the heavy cream and stir until heated through. DO NOT BOIL. Serve immediately.
If you are going to add the crab, do so when you add the cream.
Add a swirl of drizzled heavy cream and a garnish of chopped parsley to individual servings.
This soup is absolutely amazing and is delicious with or without the crab. I have even made this with canned asparagus when I was in a hurry (please don’t tell California Girl) and no one could really tell. I used three cans, discarding the juice, and skipped the sauté since the canned asparagus was already tender. **If you use the canned asparagus, you can also skip the 20 minute simmer and just heat it before you run it through the blender. Enjoy!
California Girl comments: Canned Veggies? Oh no!