Asparagus and Sorrel Eclipse : A Spring Velouté

Classic French Velouté d’asperges à l’oseille with Marrow Toasts

 

The tender young sorrel comes in when the asparagus is just beginning to wane.  Together, they create a unique celebration of springtime.  Be aware that all of these ingredients eclipse at their peak of local freshness in Lyon for a very short time, so this soup will take on a distinct seasonal character that will create nostalgia when it’s gone, and celebration when it returns next year.

 

This is a puréed and enriched soup, featuring the clear and distinct flavor of fresh asparagus married with acidic sorrel, which lends its color to the soup as well. 

“Classic enrichments include cultured butter and crème fraiche.”

Classic enrichments include cultured butter and crème fraiche, and we never hold back in that regard, but you can have a delicious soup following your own cream and butter threshold. 

Many versions of this velouté exist, as it is a country favorite throughout France.  Some also enrich with egg yolks, and you might consider that as well.  

Classic French Velouté d’asperges à l’oseille with Marrow Toasts

Classic French Velouté d’asperges à l’oseille with Marrow Toasts, a seasonal soup from Lyon

Sorrel grows wild in the hills spanning in all directions from Lyon, but it can also be cultivated, so you’ll see sold either loose in a bin from the farmer, tied into bundles, or if you are a real fan, you can buy it growing in a pot from the flower lady at La Marché La Croix Rousse, and know that once you’ve cut the leaves, they’ll grow back again, tender and ready for the next time you want to use them.

“Fresh plump tips are the indicator of freshness when choosing asparagus.”

This creamy soup is especially good when prepared with the excellent new potatoes that are available from farmers at the moment. 

Local asparagus at the typical market in Lyon Croix-Rousse

White asparagus from the Croix-Rousse market in Lyon

The beauty of the new potato is that they haven’t been treated at all, they are coming straight from the ground from the farmer, no chemicals added.

They have tender skins and are completely safe to eat in their entirety, thus there is no need to peel them, and the flavor is mind-blowing.  You can use chunks of the new potatoes, skin and all, which will only enhance the fresh flavors in this recipe.  

Fresh plump tips are the indicator of freshness when choosing asparagus.  When you get them home, skin the base ends lightly with the edge of a sharp paring knife. 

You don’t have to remove all of the rough fibrous skin, as this velouté will be run through a chinois after puréeing.  Just remove any yellowed outer skin from the very base and trim the ends before using.  

“Choose thin marrow bones, as these are the ones that will yield their marrow readily with just a push of the thumb.”  

Veal or beef marrow can be found at the Croix Rousse market from butchers along the market, or your favorite farmer if he’s willing to part with some. 

Marrow bones from Lyon market

Marrow bones can also be found at the Croix-Rousse market in Lyon

Choose thin marrow bones, as these are the ones that will yield their marrow readily with just a push of the thumb.  Thicker marrow bones (the ones that lie higher up along the bone) will hold on to their marrow, requiring you to dig it out, which is a task that I try to avoid.  I save those for the pot-au-feu.

 

RECIPE:  Velouté d’asperges à oseille, toast à la moëlle

Asparagus and Sorrel Velouté with Veal Marrow Toast by Lucy Vanel

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– For the Velouté:

  • 500 grams of fresh asparagus, stems and tips, cut into 3 cm or 1.5 inch lengths
  • 4 new potatoes (today we used BF15), approximately 200 grams of potato
  • 2 fresh new carrots, about 100 grams of carrot
  • 4 small spring onions, chopped, white part and about 2 cm or 1 inch of the green
  • 10 grams butter
  • 1 bouquet garni: parsley, bay and thyme tied in a bundle
  • water to cover
  • 1 bunch of sorrel, about 12 leaves
  • optional enrichment:  50 grams or 1/3 cup butter
  • optional enrichment:  100 grams or approximately 1/4 cup crème fraiche
  • parsley, chopped finely, for serving
Ingredients for the asparagus and sorrel velouté

Fresh asparagus, sorrel, potatoes, carrots and onions are needed for this soup

 

– For the Marrow Toasts: 

  •  1 or two fresh cut veal or beef marrow bones
  • 4 wedges of country bread
  • fleur de sel for serving 

 

METHOD:

 

Prepare the Velouté:

Place the asparagus, potatoes, carrots, spring onions and butter in a 3-4 liter pan or soup pot. 

Over medium-low heat, stir the vegetables with the butter until the butter melts and coats the vegetables. 

Raise the heat to medium, add a generous pinch of sea salt, and continue tossing and stirring the vegetables, until they release some juices and begin to soften.  Add water to cover and nestle the bouquet garni into the vegetables. 

Raise the heat and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer gently for approximately 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and cooked through.  

Sorrel leaves for the asparagus velouté

Sorrel grows wild in the hills spanning in all directions from Lyon, but it can also be found at local markets.

Remove the bouquet garni from the soup.  (Don’t forget!)  Purée the soup until smooth, then strain the purée through a medium mesh strainer or chinois, retaining the resulting soup, discarding the fibrous parts of the asparagus that are left behind.  (a very fine-meshed chinois is not going to work for this task, make sure the holes are large enough, so the mesh of the strainer will not get clogged. You may consider a strainer for this task.)

Roll the sorrel into a cigar and cut into fine chiffonade or very thin strips.  Add the sorrel to the puree, and return to the heat, stirring constantly until the sorrel turns from a bright green to a dull olive color, about 4 minutes.  

Puree the velouté again, add salt and pepper to taste, as well as the butter and cream enrichments, if using.  Stir over medium-low heat until the butter is melted, and both the butter and cream are incorporated.  Cover the pot and keep warm.

Prepare the marrow toasts:  

Using your thumb, pop the marrow out of the bones.  If the marrow does not release easily from the bone, an easy way to get it to release is to place it in a dish in the microwave on high for 5 seconds, then pop it out. 

If you have a thick bone that will not release the marrow, use the back end of a spoon or small knife to gently dig the marrow out.  

Fresh cream

Creme fraiche from the Croix-Rousse market

Cut the marrow into 1 mm slices, deal it out onto slices of country bread.  Place the garnished bread on a baking sheet, toast under the grill (250-300ºC or 450-500ºF) until the edges of the bread are toasted, and the marrow is bubbling.  Remove from the oven, and sprinkle each toast with a pinch of fleur de sel.  

Ladle the velouté into soup bowls, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, drizzle a bit of the crème fraiche on top, and place a marrow toast along the edge of the bowl.  

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