This elegant and delicious appetizer is ridiculously simple. It requires only two ingredients (if you don’t count water, salt and pepper, and the parsley that I used for garnish) and not much skill to prepare. Due to some relatively warm weather we’ve had in January (now it is cold), asparagus are very early this year. I hadn’t decided yet what I was going to make for an appetizer, but my mind was made up quickly when I saw the first crop of white asparagus at the market. I couldn’t resist and cooked the asparagus sous-vide, but you could get a very similar result by steaming the asparagus instead. The combination of white asparagus with goat cheese is a classic one, and it gets even better when you serve this with a nice glass of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. This is amazing and I’ll definitely make this again. Here’s what I did.
For 4 servings as an appetizer
4 thick white asparagus, about 400 grams (.9 lb)
100 grams goat cheese
salt and freshly ground white pepper
minced fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)
Peel the asparagus. Cut half a centimeter (a quarter inch) off the bottom, and do not peel the top. Gather the peels and trimmings in a saucepan.
Cover the peels with about 250 ml (1 cup) of water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer, uncovered, until the water has reduced by about half, about half an hour.
In the meantime, cut off the tips at about 10 cm (4″) from the top. If cooking sous-vide, vacuum seal the tips separately from the stalks with some salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Cook the stalks sous-vide for 45 minutes at 85C/185F, or steam them for 20 minutes until they are very tender.
Strain the asparagus stock into a blender, using a chinois to press as much liquid out of the peels as you can.
Remove the crust from the goat cheese (if it has a crust).
Add the asparagus stalks and the goat cheese to the blender.
Blend at high speed…
…until completely smooth and frothy. If you do not own a high-speed blender like a Vitamix, you may have to use a fine sieve to make sure the soup is smooth.
Pour the soup into a saucepan, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Gently heat it up, but do not let it boil.
Cook the asparagus tips sous-vide for 20 minutes at 85C/185F, or steam them for 10 minutes.
Serve the soup in tumblers. Arrange an asparagus tip in each tumbler, and add the hot asparagus soup carefully (to keep the tumbler clean).
Garnish with a bit of minced parsley, if you like, and serve at once.
As already mentioned in the introduction, this is outstanding with a good Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. Other sauvignon blancs from the Loire region are also fine, like Menetou Salon, Quincy, or Touraine. A sauvignon blanc from another region might work as well, as long as it is in a dry style with nice minerality.
Spaghetti alla Gricia is one of the guanciale-based roman pasta dishes; the others are Carbonara (with egg) and Amatriciana (with tomatoes).