Asparagus Soup {FFwD}

Asparagus Soup

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie just screams “Springtime!” It’s light, flavorful, and bursting with asparagus flavor.

The soup consists of asparagus (lots of it), onion, garlic, shallot, leeks, olive oil, butter, salt, and white pepper. I started by snapping the asparagus to remove the woody part at the base, then peeling the stalks (seriously, who does that?). I tied the peels and stems in a cheesecloth, then boiled the asparagus, stalks, and peels in boiling water. I removed the asparagus after about four minutes, reserving the water and discarding the stalks and peels.

Next, I heated olive oil in the pot. I was using a butter-infused olive oil, so I left out the butter called for in the recipe. I added the onion, garlic, shallot, and leeks, salted and peppered them, and cooked them low and slow until they were soft and glistening. I added back six cups of the asparagus water, simmered for a while, then dropped the asparagus back in.

After everything had cooked a bit more, I puréed the soup in two batches in my Vitamix. I thought the first batch looked a bit too watery, so I left most of the liquid out of the second batch. When I mixed it all together, it was a beautiful color and consistency.

The recipe says that the soup can be served hot or cold. I wanted to try it right away, so I served it hot with a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil. I found it slightly bland, but a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper solved that problem.

I’m interested to try this soup cold, but I really enjoyed it hot. It was smooth, silky, and brimming with Springtime flavors.

Coconut Lemongrass Braised Chicken {FFwD}

I hadn’t originally planned to make this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, coconut lemongrass braised pork, for the simple reason that I don’t eat pork. The rest of my family eats it, so I thought about making it for them. But the thought of cooking two meals in the summer heat  made me change my mind about that. Nonetheless, I decided to take a quick look at the recipe to see if it seemed like something I might make for the girls another time. That’s when I read in the headnote that Dorie sometimes makes this recipe with chicken instead of pork.

So, I was back in business.

The only ingredients I didn’t already have in the pantry for this recipe were lemongrass and coconut milk, so after a quick trip to the store, I was set to begin.

I began by browning the chicken in a large skillet. I had a whole fryer in the fridge, so I cut it up and used it in this recipe. The next time I make it, I’d like to try it with cubed pieces of boneless breast or thighs, or a combination of the two.

As the pieces browned, I transferred them to an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Once all the chicken was in the Dutch oven, I added the spices — turmeric, curry powder, cardamom seeds, white peppercorns, coriander seeds, lemon zest, lemongrass, salt, and pepper — and cooked until the spices became very fragrant.

I added the coconut milk, water, and, in a departure from the recipe, potatoes, carrots, and onions.

After bringing the pot to a boil, I covered it, then slid it in the oven. I braised the chicken at 300°F for about 50 minutes, until the chicken was done and the vegetables were tender.

I started cooking late the evening I made this, and we ended up eating something else for dinner while the chicken was in the oven. My younger daughter and I decided to split a small serving of the chicken just to try it out.

Note to self: don't photograph yellow food on a green dish

 We both liked the dish a lot. The lemongrass and coconut flavors lent a mild sweetness to the dish, and the curry and other spices were fragrant but not overpowering.

I froze the rest of the chicken and vegetables and served them the following week over egg noodles. As the chicken reheated, it started falling off the bone, so I picked it all off and shredded the chicken, which is what made me think it would be good to make with boneless chicken the next time.

This is a dish I will make again, using my alterations — boneless chicken pieces instead of pork, adding the vegetables before putting the pot in the oven, and braising for a bit longer than the recipe for the pork. And knowing that it reheats well, I’ll probably make a larger recipe next time so we can get several meals from it.

Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote {FFwD}

When I first saw the July list for French Fridays with Dorie, I figured this week’s recipe was one I’d skip. I love salmon but no one else here eats it, so I never make it at home. However, my daughter asked if I could make pulled pork for her, and since I don’t eat pork, I figured this would be my chance to make salmon for myself.

I made the salmon for dinner the same evening that I made chunky beets and icy red onions, also from Around My French Table, and both were delicious.

As fancy as it sounds, this dish was really quite easy to put together. I began by searing grape tomatoes in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, just to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes a bit. To make the packet (“en papillote” means “in parchment” but like most recipes, this one uses foil to make the packets, I suppose because it’s easier to fold into a nice, tight seal), I began by laying freshly-picked basil from my garden on a sheet of foil, then sprinkling with salt and white pepper.

I set a piece of salmon on the basil, drizzled it with olive oil, then seasoned with salt and white pepper. I set the tomatoes to one side of the salmon, grated lemon zest over the fish and tomatoes, then scattered some of the leftover icy red onions from the chunky beet recipe over everything. I squirted a bit of fresh lemon juice on top, then finished it with lemon slices, basil, and a sprig of thyme.

After sealing the packet, I put it in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook the salmon for dinner. I cooked the packet for 10 minutes at 475°F. I served the salmon in the papillote, opening the packet at the table.

This was a wonderful dish. The salmon was cooked beautifully — moist, flaky, and tender — and the herbs and lemon gave it a bright, fresh flavor. This dish paired well with chunky beets and icy red onions and corn on the cob for a satisfying yet light Sunday supper.

If you’ve shied away from cooking fish at home, this is a great recipe to try. It’s quick and easy, without a lot of unusual ingredients. And sealing the ingredients in a foil packet ensures that the fish stays moist and absorbs the flavors of the herbs and spices.

Leek and Potato Soup {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie, I made Leek and Potato Soup. This soup is simple, delicious, versatile, and comforting. It’s easy to throw together — once you chop some onions, garlic, leeks, and a potato, all you have to do is put it all together. There are quite a few variations suggested in the recipe, and you could easily come up with many more, making this a great recipe to have in your repertoire, as the possibilities are endless.

This soup is perfect for wintry weather days, but it can also be served cold in the spring or summer. And it can be served chunky, smooth, or somewhere in between. If you can’t find a variation of this soup that you like, you don’t like soup.

To assemble the soup, I began by cooking onion, shallots (my addition), and garlic in butter over low heat. I added leeks, potato, thyme, sage, chicken broth, and milk, and seasoned with salt and white pepper.

I brought the soup to a boil, lowered the heat, covered the pan partway, and simmered the soup for 40 minutes, until the vegetables were soft. I decided to purée the soup in the pot with my immersion blender. I left a few chunks in it, but for the most part, it was smooth.

After ladling the soup into a bowl, I topped it with freshly ground black pepper and white truffle oil and served it with Irish brown bread made with Irish wholemeal flour from King Arthur Flour.

This soup is easy enough to make on a busy weeknight, versatile enough that you can probably make it with ingredients you have on hand, and so delicious that you will want to make it again and again.