Simple does not always mean easy, or fast. We’re learning that in the kitchen, actually, simple sometimes means slow, and somewhat laborious. We had in mind for this week’s entry a spring vegetable soup, with all of the tiny, tender green things that are finally starting to appear at the Jean-Talon market. Simple enough. After making it for what seemed like two days, however, it nearly got named “All Day Soup”. But we didn’t want to discourage you from trying it. It does take a lot of love, but you can really taste it in the end. There’s going to be no recipe for this one, because it’s really just a technique that you need to adapt to the things you find:
The first thing to do is make chicken stock, if you don’t have any. We used to make the world’s most elaborate stock, containing about 15 different secret ingredients. This weekend we pared it down to the bare bones, literally, making a stock with raw chicken carcasses, water, and salt, simmered for 5 hours without ever boiling. This may be the only way we make chicken stock from now on. It’s heavenly. You need to make the stock the day before, if you don’t already have some ready, or it really will take all day to make this soup.
The second thing is to sweat the onion-y things and root vegetables in lots of butter, for a good half hour. We used young leeks, young wild garlic, baby carrots, and baby turnips. We had a smoked pork jowl in the fridge, and on Thomas Keller’s advice, used its skin as a cartouche on top of the sweating vegetables. This adds both flavour and the silken texture that collagen imparts when slow-cooked. It’s not necessary, but if you have access to pork skin, it’s really worth using here.
The third thing is to prepare your baby vegetables. Blanch them in a huge pot of really, really salty boiling water. We used half a cup of kosher salt in 4 gallons of water. Blanch until just tender, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking and set the colour. I’m always impressed by this process, especially when cooking green beans. It turns them into jade. We used asparagus, peas, fava beans, fiddleheads, savoy cabbage, and green beans.
The last step is to add chicken stock to the sweated aromatics and roots, bring it to a boil, add the blanched vegetables, and season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs like basil, or mint, or tarragon, or chervil. If you want to add protein to this, you can also add cannellini beans, bits of ham (we added seared bits of the pork jowl), or place a lovely seared fish fillet on top.