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White Asparagus Velouté with Eggs and Enoki, tasted on April 24, 2005 — Sorry for the few days between postings, but we've been busy cooking for the most recent Jewish holiday - Passover. Think of it as a kind of Jewish Thanksgiving. Lots of food, and four mandatory cups of wine. Yes. Mandatory. I've already documented our efforts from a couple of years ago. This year we decided to do fewer courses and do them even better. Focus focus focus. We thought we would follow our own advice we regularly dole out to restaurants.

The menu consisted of: chicken soup with matzah balls (I'll write a full report on this later), homemade gefilte fish (again, I'll have to write up this report later), eggplant, purple yam, and garlic terrine, and Lampreia Coconut Cookies among other things. But there was one dish I'd like to focus on today. At our Passover meals it's tradition to start off the eating portion of the event with a small bowl of saltwater with a sliced hard-boiled egg. This year I decided to do something different. I still wanted to retain the essence of the dish, the saltwater being tear-like and intended to evoke sadness. But I wanted something more interesting.

Instead this year I made White Asparagus Veloute with Egg, Enoki Mushroom Tempura and American Caviar. (Note: for anyone really up on the rules of kosher food. Some Jewish sources consider Sturgeon not kosher. But some Conservative sources say it is. If you are keeping kosher, and won't eat caviar from sturgeon, feel free to replace with eggs from a fish that you will eat. Or even capers.) The caviar is there for the salt. The white asparagus and tempura'd enoki mushrooms make for a sea of softer tones with the egg.

Here's the recipe:

  • Take one bunch of white asparagus, rinse and chop off the bottom couple of inches from the stalks of asparagus.
  • Chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces, and set aside.
  • Roughly chop half a large onion and set it aside.
  • Take 2 tablespoons of rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) and put in a saucepan large enough to hold the chopped asparagus and an inch of water above it.
  • Put the saucepan on a medium flame, and then add 3 ounces of ground chicken.
  • Keep stirring the meat as it fries in the fat and cooks, but don't let it get brown.
  • After about 2 minutes add the onion.
  • Sautee the onion and chicken in the fat for another few minutes until the onions get soft. Stir frequently so that nothing gets brown. Turn down the heat if you're worried about it browning.
  • Add the chopped asparagus, 1 cup of chicken stock, and then fill the pot with enough water to just cover the asparagus.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Cook on a medium flame and stir every few minutes
  • The trick is to get cook the asparagus on the medium flame until it's super soft and the different flavors in the saucepan have started to integrate. This should take roughly 30 minutes.
  • Take the pot off the flame and allow it to cool for another 30 minutes.
  • Fill your blender halfway with some of the contents from your saucepan (likely they won't all fit at once, and you don't want to fill too high as blending hot ingredients can result in unpleasant spattering).
  • Liquefy the contents of the blender and empty out into a bowl.
  • Repeat this process until all the contents of the saucepan have been liquefied to the finest consistency your blender can manage.
  • At this point you have to make a decision about thickness. I was happy with what my blender produced. You may want to put your velouté through a tamis to get it even thinner. The key for me is to have a consistent consistency (as it were). Velouté means "velvet". It shouldn't be watery, but it should be smooth as silk.
  • When you have the right thickness put the velouté in a sealed container in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours put the velouté back in a pot and heat on a low flame.
  • Hard boil 6 chicken eggs. Set them aside to cool
  • Beat 1 additional chicken egg into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of potato starch. Mix well. This is your batter.
  • Dip 6 stalks of a few enoki mushroom each into the batter.
  • Remove the mushrooms from the batter and deposit them for 60 seconds in very hot oil.
  • Remove the mushrooms from the oil onto paper towel and allow to cool.
  • To plate, slice the hard boiled egg with an egg slicer and deposit in the bowl.
  • Pour some of the asparagus velouté around the egg and stand up a spring of the tempura'd enoki on the side (for anyone familiar with the story of Passover, this is supposed to evoke the reeds on the shore of the Nile)
  • Top the egg with a half teaspoon of a salty caviar (I used American sturgeon, feel free to substitute). This is the "salt" in the dish (and it's also more eggs, so you get double meaning).
  • Serve immediately so the caviar stays cold and the soup is still warm.

I had slightly different plans for this dish as I was hoping to cook the eggs so the whites were cooked but the yolks were soft and warm. That way when you put your spoon into the egg, the yolk would leak out into the asparagus velouté. I also had fantasies of cooking the eggs in containers that would make them into cool shapes, but I'm not sure these even exist. Is there such a thing as a plastic cube or pyramid or other shape that you can fill with egg, seal, and then hard boil, only later to release the egg in its cool shape? If that does exist, please tell me. If not, then I expect royalty payments.

A couple of things to wrap-up. This seemed like a big hit at our meal. Jenny in particular enjoyed it. Additionally, I basically ripped off the Velouté formula from the red cabbage veloute in All About Apples. And finally, it doesn't need to be Passover, and you don't need to be Jewish to enjoy this. I think it's quite good any time for anyone.











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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