What I love about cooking in France is that the French are real sticklers for using seasonal ingredients. There’s no way you’d see asparagus in their groceries in the winter. (In my supermarkets at home, sadly I don’t have to look hard to find non-local asparagus from Chile displayed throughout the cold weather months.) In Paris bundles of the long, sleek spears appear only in late spring and early summer. And what a glorious scene they make— verdant-hued stalks, tender, petite wild asparagus, and snowy- hued white varieties take center stage at les primeurs (produce stores).
Since arriving several weeks ago, I’ve taken advantage of this bounty. At first, I used the stalks as a side to sautéed lamb chops or roast chicken, but then I got more imaginative and included them in a delicious brodo.
This light soup took less than 45 minutes from start to finish to prepare. For the brodo (Italian for broth), I brought a good purchased stock to a simmer, and then stirred in a little blue cheese and cream for an extra layer of flavor. I sliced asparagus into 1-inch pieces and added them along with potato gnocchi to the simmering broth for a few minutes. Snipped chives and chopped green onions were simple garnishes.
You can make the broth several hours ahead and at serving time simmer the asparagus and gnocchi for less than 5 minutes. A salad of summer greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil and a bowl of fresh strawberries and blue berries—all seasonal choices—rounded out the menu for our Paris soup supper.
Brodo with Asparagus, Potato Gnocchi, and Blue Cheese
1 lb. medium asparagus
A 5- to 6-oz wedge blue cheese such as a creamy Roquefort or St Augur
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
4 tsp cornstarch
6 cups best quality reduced sodium chicken stock (see note)
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups purchased potato gnocchi (about 10 oz)
1/4 cup chopped green onions, including 1 inch of green stems
2 tbsp chopped chives
1. Snap off and discard the tough ends from the asparagus. Then cut the spears on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces.
2. In a small bowl use a fork to mash 1/4 cup of the blue cheese with the cream to form a slightly lumpy paste.
3. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium pot set over medium heat. When the stock is simmering, whisk in the blue cheese/cream mixture until it is well blended. Then combine the cornstarch with 4 teaspoons COLD water in a small bowl. Gradually whisk this mixture into the simmering broth. Continue whisking until the broth has thickened just slightly, about 3 minutes. Season the broth with 1/2 teaspoon or more salt and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. (The stock can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to a simmer, stirring, over medium heat when ready to use.)
4. Add the asparagus and the gnocchi to the simmering broth and cook until the asparagus are tender and gnocchi have risen to the top of the broth, 3 to 4 minutes. (If the directions on the package of gnocchi call for more than 3 minutes of cooking, add the gnocchi first, and then stir in the asparagus during the last 3 minutes of cooking.)
5. Season the soup with more salt and cayenne pepper if needed.
6. Ladle the soup into 4 soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with some green onions and chives. Cut 6 small thin slices from the remaining blue cheese and garnish each serving with one. (You will probably have some cheese left over.) Serves 4
Note: Swanson’s reduced sodium chicken stock (which comes in 3 1/2 cup containers) works particularly well in the recipe. Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014Print This Recipe