In a fine dining restaurant only the very choicest bits make it to the table. Meats are ruthlessly trimmed, fish are scaled, gutted, boned and carved into submission and vegetables are trimmed down to their tender hearts, shaped into triangles or diamonds, tourned or brunoised into perfect little cubes. Now although this makes sense in a restaurant where all of the fiddly bits can be utilized elsewhere, at the very least in a stock, it can create bad habits for when the professional chef is cooking at home. Case in point, broccoli stems. When Alex cooks he has this annoying tendency to chop them off and toss them into the garbage. He considers them to be more trouble than they're worth when cooking at home. I, on the other hand love broccoli stems. I like them better than the florets for their texture and for their sweet crunchy flavor. But unless I remember to place my order before he begins cooking, into the garbage they go.
Anyway, I needed a soup for a special dinner this past Friday. Since Alex enjoyed the last broccoli soup so much, it didn’t really come as a surprise when he presented me with an armful of broccoli on Thursday morning. I wanted to make something a little bit more refined for these particular guests and I had the fate of my broccoli stems in mind. So, as always, I began by separating the stems and florets. This time I cleaned and blanched the stems first and pureed them with crème fraîche, a dash of smoke and fire and some of the blanching liquid. It made a for a gorgeous, creamy, pale green puree with a delicate broccoli flavor. Then I blanched the florets and pureed them with some of their blanching liquid, salt and Crystal Hot Sauce. What I ended up with was a deep green puree with an intense broccoli flavor that still managed to be soft and light and the palate.
For service last night we swirled the soups around a ragout of delicate, slippery cinnamon cap mushrooms and garnished it with grated chorizo. This picture is straight from the dinner service, hence the Versace China, which is the bane of our existence. Nothing can really compete with the amount design on that china and win, but imagine a beautifully shaped white bowl as the background. The soup was smooth, creamy, earthy, chewy with the mushrooms and fragrantly spiced from the chorizo, not a bad dish for a stormy winter evening.
The leftovers? Well, those will be swirled together and enriched with aged cheddar cheese to be consumed tomorrow afternoon, hopefully with the scent of a freshly cut pine tree wafting through the house and close football game on the television set.