In the dead of winter, I can feel just that: dead. I let myself eat macaroni and cheese and carrot cake with wild abandon, and though comfort food may feed the soul, it doesn’t do much for the body. Sunday night, after a weekend filled with steak and ale pies and bourbon, it was time to reboot.
A velouté is normally a thick sauce, or by association, soup. It means “velvety.” Thick, creamy, soft but substantial. I find if you simmer sweet shallots, asparagus, and basil in just enough vegetable broth for two, and then whiz it up in a blender, you get that same velvety texture that you’ll find in much heavier, creamy, decadent soups, with a lot more vitamins and a lot fewer calories. I add a couple of spoonfuls of crème fraîche for tang and a little more body, but you could go without if you’re deeply virtuous.
I may have missed the start of the year to be good, but there’s always the start of the week.
Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.
- 1 shy tablespoon olive oil or butter or a mixture of both
- 1 extra large shallot, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and diced
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 5 large basil leaves, plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, plus extra for serving
Heat the butter or olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and sauté until soft and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often. Add the asparagus and vegetable broth and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until the asparagus is very tender: 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer the soup to a blender, and add the basil and crème fraîche. Purée until completely smooth. Ladle into bowls, and top with a dollop of crème fraîche and a chiffonade of fresh basil.
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