I think any cook or chef can agree that we all get excited when spring comes around. Fresh fruits and vegetables start popping up at stores and greenmarkets and shelves and stands are overloaded with a beautiful array of colors and shapes from varying types of produce. Beautiful, light green stalks of asparagus, full, bright orange carrots, beautiful peas in dark green pods, deliciously red, ripe strawberries spilling out of their baskets - the list goes on and on. So when I saw this soup when thumbing through Thomas Keller's Bouchon Cookbook, I jumped on the train and headed down to the Union Square Greenmarket. Unfortunately, at the time (2 weeks ago) it was still a little early in the season, so I was only able to get some gorgeous carrots and perfect fingerling potatoes. I headed to the supermarket, got some asparagus, cabbage, leeks, parmesan, prosciutto, shiitaki mushrooms, scallions, and plum tomatoes to finish out the soup.
I had to replace the fava beans with lima beans. NEVER AGAIN. I hated them when I was young, and I thought to myself, "Well, I'm an adult now. Maybe I won't hate lima beans." WRONG. GROSS. They are disgusting, mushy, bugs of grossness and I'll never consider them again. And they were CANNED, to make matters worse. BLECH.
Besides the lima bean issue, this is an amazing, amazing soup. It definitely takes more time than any soup than I have ever made before. First, a tomato confit is prepared by cooking tomatoes sprinkled with fresh thyme, salt and pepper on very low heat for 5 to 6 hours until they are dry. Later on, I cooked ham with fresh garlic cloves, then added the carrots, leeks, cabbage, chicken broth, and a bouquet garni and finally added a huge chunk of parmesan (yes, a whole chunk) and the potatoes as the soup cooked and developed wonderful flavors. The soup is best when it sits for a day, but I couldn't wait it out. I blanched some asparagus, and added the asparagus, mushrooms, and scallions and enjoyed the most delicious spring soup that has ever passed these lips.
Spring Vegetable Soup adapted from the Bouchon Cookbook
For the Soup
1 large carrot
One 2 1/2 inch thick wedge of savoy cabbage
1 small leek
1 to 2 celery stalks
4 to 6 small fingerling potatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 Oz. prosciutto (not sliced - but you can use sliced prosciuotto if you have to)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 1-oz piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound fava beans, in the pod
16 medium asparagus spears
24 small shiitake mushrooms, cleaned
2 tbsp chopped italian parsley
2 tbsp minced chives
Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
For the soup: You will need 1/2 cup each of the sliced vegetables for the soup.
Peel the carrot and cut away the ends. Cut it lengthwise in half, then cut each half lengthwise again to give you 4 pieces. Cut each piece crosswise into 1/4-inch thich slices.
Remove any dark outer green leaves from the cabbage and reserve for antoher use. Place the wedge cut side down on a cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices.
Cut away the dark green leaves and root end of the leek, saving them for the bouquet garni. Cut the leek lengthwise in half and risne well under cold water. Cut each piece of leek lengthwise in half and hten cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices.
Wash and trim the celery. Use a paring knife to pull away the strings, then cut the stalks into 1/4-inch-thich slices.
Wash the potatoes. Cut away and discard the ends, then cut the remaining potatoes into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the ham skin or fat side down and the garlic and swirl the pan for a few seconds to coat the garlics, then sweat the garlic for a minute or two. Add the 1/2 cup each carrot, cabbage, leek, turnips, and celery, stir, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup potatoes, the bouquet garni, Parmigiano, and stock and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
MEanwhile, prepare an ice bath. When the potatoes are tender, pour the soup into a bowl or other container and chill in the ice bath until cold, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (This soup is best refrigerated for a day.)
For the garnishes: Prepare an ice bath.
Shell the fava beans and peel the skins from the beans (peeling the beans before cooking them prevents gases from being trapped between the beans and their skins that could cause discoloration). Remove the small germ at the sideo f each bean. (You should have about 1 cup). Blanch the beans in a large pot of generously salted water for about 5 minutes or until tender. Using a skimmer, immediately transfer to the ice bath to chill.
Cut away the bottom third of each asparagus spear and sicard. Cut the remaining spears on a sharp bias into pieces about 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water until just tender and trasnfer to the ice bath to chill. When they are cold, drain the favas and asparagus and spread on paper towels to drain. Cut off and discard the mushroom stems, then cut the mushrooms into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
To complete: If any fat has solidified on the surgace of the soup, remove and discard it. TRansfer the soup to a saucepan, and remove and discard the bouquet garni and Parmigiano. Remove the ham, cut away any excess fat, and cut into lardons about 1 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Return the lardons to the soup and bring the soup to a boil.
Add the mushrooms to the soup, reduce the heat, and simmer for a minute. Add the fava beans, aparagus, and remove from heat. Stir in the parsley and chives, taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil.