Happy Father’s Day!

In yesterday’s The Permanent Tourist Charleston blog, I shared memories of my magnificent father, and thoughts on cooking for Dad on his big day. The post includes a delicious recipe, and an opportunity to win a copy of The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbs Smith).

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/you-know-well-have-a-good-time-then/

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

 

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Organic Farming the Farmer King Way

On yesterday’s Home, Garden & Beach page, I posted about a farmer friend of mine who grows beautiful, organic food using his own ingenuity and tricks he learned from his grandmother.

It’s had over 1,000 visits so far. Here’s the link:

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/farmer-king-rules/ 

Enjoy!

PS – Please note that you can join my facebook page for the same blog by typing in: The Permanent Tourist Charleston in your facebook bar. It should take you right there. I would love to see you there!

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Simply Saturday

Happy weekend to you, faithful readers!

Here’s yesterday’s post from my new blog, The Permanent Tourist-Charleston. To get regular posts or to subscribe, go to: charleston.thepermanenttourist.com

It features a simple, seasonal salad of garden-fresh cucumbers, red onions, jalapenos, and banana peppers wrapped up in a Champagne vinegar, water and a splash of sugar sauce.

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/simply-saturday-2/

Happy cooking!

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Sweet Tea Dreams

In today’s post on my new blog, I discuss the wonderful Grace Episcopal Church Tea Room and why it’s a must do during Spoleto.

Please come visit me there!

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/sweet-tea-dreams/

Succulent Buttermilk Pie at The Grace Episcopal Tea Room.

Succulent Buttermilk Pie at The Grace Episcopal Tea Room.

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Simply Saturday

In today’s column on my new blog, The Permanent Tourist – Charleston, I offer a recipe from Simply Saturday’s column on seasonal, fresh cooking. In this case, a delicious turnip soup and a cookbook giveaway of Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Come follow me there if you like!

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/simply-saturday/

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Photos by Rick McKee.

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Photos by Rick McKee.

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The Permanent Tourist – Charleston

Having called Charleston, SC home for over 14 years, and still loving it as much as ever, I continue to feel every day like a tourist in my own town. However, I know this town, restaurants, events, personality like a native. So, I decided to join forces with a blog franchise based out of Sea Island, Georgia. With the help of founder, Melissa Lee, I’ve just launched a new blog by the name of The Permanent Tourist, Charleston. In it, I’ll take you to all the best places to see, do, eat so that tourists and locals alike can help find all the wonders that call Charleston home.

In Permanent Tourist mode, yours truly. Photo by Joe Loehle.

In Permanent Tourist mode, yours truly. Photo by Joe Loehle.

Please come visit me there and subscribe if you’re interested in receiving regular posts. I’ll continue to post new posts from that blog here, as well as keep the events page and books news current on this website.

Today’s post is all about what makes baseball games so much fun at Charleston’s Minor Leaugue ballpark – The Joe!

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/fun-is-good/

Thank you!

Holly

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Souffles Rising

Cookbook Review and Giveaway

It seems everyone who loves to cook or eat, particularly French cooking or eating, has a souffle story. Some are happy, some are rather sad. I have my share of both. But for Greg Patent, author of The French Cook – Souffles (Gibbs Smith, March 1, 2014),  most of his life has been a souffle love story. And, it began with the French Chef herself, Julia Child. Already a talented baker under the guiding hand of his Granny who mesmerized him whipping egg whites with a fork during in his “first childhood” in Shanghai, Julia later seduced him with her balloon whisk, copper bowl, and stunning souffles.

Patent, who travels to cooking demos with his own copper bowl and balloon whisk, expertly details all of the elements of making both sweet and savory souffles in this beautiful book (photography by Kelly Gorham). His writing is concise, detailed, and at times almost scientific in describing the how-to’s of making souffles puff. His passion for cooking, baking and souffles comes through in every syllable. At times, it’s as if you can practically hear his soothing “voice” in your ear, building your souffle-making confidence all along the way.

Patent begins the book with an excellent series of descriptions of the four types of souffle bases (bechamel, veloute, bouille, or fruit/vegetable puree), and especially helpful lessons on mounting egg whites, folding, breaking egg whites, the debate over fresh or older egg whites, finally confessing in his down-to-earth manner, “I tend not to fret over the freshness of egg whites in making a souffle.” Beyond the base and the whites, the bottom line is timing. As Patent wittily states, “You must wait for them (souffles); they won’t wait for you.”

If you’re like me, you won’t be able to wait to make the likes of Green Garlic Souffles, Crab & Morel Mushroom Souffles, Meyer Lemon Souffles, and Cold Passion Fruit Souffles. Patent includes all kinds of wonderful derivatives from a standard souffle, including a souffle stuffed crepe, souffle roulade, and frozen souffles, as well as several sauce recipes. The James Beard winning author has penned several cookbooks  and has another winner on his hands in “Souffles.” Julia would be proud.

The French Cook-Souffles by Greg Patent. Photography by Kelly Gorham.

The French Cook-Souffles by Greg Patent. Photography by Kelly Gorham.

Cookbook Giveaway

Like Patent, I love making souffles, but as I said before, I’ve had a few sad souffle stories, including a woefully underdone chocolate souffle at Tour D’Argent in Paris, and a fallen souffle for a tardy photo shoot.

Do you have a souffle story? If so, please share it with me here in the comments section. I’ll select a winner on May 1 and will mail you a copy of Greg’s book.

As always, bon appetit!

 

(Please note: Souffle should be finished with an accent on the “e” but my formatting will not allow me to do it!)

 

 

 

 

 

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Clearly Consomme

The manuscript for my newest cookbook, The French Cook: Soups & Stews (Gibbs Smith, June, 2014) has been filed. Though not yet finished (photo shoots, edits, and design await), my months of soup recipe testing and writing have come to a close. I would by lying if I didn’t say it was a relief to have this book done, but I am also a little bit sad that the creation steps are behind me.  I’m elated with the cover which I just discovered this morning.  Here it is:

My very newest book baby, The French Cook: Soups & Stews, currently available for pre-order  on Amazon.

My very newest book baby, The French Cook: Soups & Stews, currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

I hope you like it, too. I am eager to see the new book when she’s done. Gibbs Smith and my editor and her design team always do such a wonderful job.

I want to share with you another little advance peek into the book’s content with the following (adapted) chapter front on consommes, the very last chapter I wrote.  A recipe for a simple and beautiful Beef Consomme with Mushrooms and Chives follows.

The inviting and elegant clarity of this soup makes it an excellent candidate for a special occasion or holiday, such as Easter.

 

Consomme

Consomme (prounced con-some-may) is the consummate soup. A darling of The Belle Epoque in 19th-century France (and elsewhere), it is a dainty soup that deserves to be served in pretty, petite bowls and demands polite sipping. Made from stocks that are clarified with egg whites and enriched with meat (or seafood) and vegetables, they become as clear as the Azur sea and can be “finished” with anything from fresh herbs, to pasta, to truffles and even savory cream puffs. Escoffier catalogued hundreds of consommés in his legendary Le Guide Culinaire. There are consommés named after sunrises (Consomme a l’Aurore), actresses (Consomme Sarah Bernhardt), and Kings (Consomme George V).

It’s a shame that consommés have slipped somewhat out of fashion, because they are truly a pleasure to see and eat, can be made ahead, and are so versatile. The process of making a consommé is not complicated, but it does take a little time. Because the soup is purely “stock” (beef, veal, seafood/fumet, or chicken can be used), you really must use a well-prepared homemade stock or a top-quality commercial stock. Make it several days ahead and/or freeze it to break up the work. Once the stock is at room temperature, the stock is combined with a mixture of egg whites, (sometimes) ground meat, and finely minced vegetables. These ingredients do two things: they add a second, corresponding level of flavor to the soup and most importantly, the egg whites “clarify” the stock, literally pulling out impurities as the strange looking mixture simmers along. For the first several minutes (about 15), the egg/meat/vegetable mixture needs to be stirred, basically non-stop, with a wooden spoon, to make sure none of the crucial egg whites stick to the bottom or sides. After that it’s left alone, uncovered, and the most miraculous thing happens. The mixture starts cooking and thickening at the top and becomes what is known in consommé circles as a “draft.” After 30 minutes, it’s done its work and what lurks below the rather ugly draft is a beautiful, clear as a brilliant, sunny day, consommé. Next, a ladle is nudged into the draft to form an opening, and the consomme is ladled into a waiting bowl, through a fine sieve lined with three paper towels. The draft is then discarded, having done its work.

After that, the list is virtually endless on ways to finish the seasoning and garnishes for the consommé, but they should pair with the flavor of the stock, be petite, and be pretty. Nothing clunky will do. This chapter gives you an opportunity to pull out your food processor, which does an excellent job of mincing the vegetables finely for the clarifying mixture. All consommés can be prepared ahead and frozen or refrigerated, but add the garnishes just before serving the steaming soup, preferably served in your prettiest China.

Beef Consomme with Mushrooms and Chives

(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

Whisper thin slices of button mushrooms are added to the hot consommé to cook in just five minutes and are garnished with a sprinkling of fresh, green onion flavor chives. The “feet” of the mushrooms are added to the vegetable mixture to add another layer of mushroom flavor using an otherwise discarded part of the mushroom. This is an excellent consommé for beginners as it relatively simple and simply beautiful to behold.

Beef Consomme with Mushrooms and Chives

Beef Consomme with Mushrooms and Chives

 

2 stalks celery, chopped into 2”-lengths

1 leek, trimmed, cut to 1” above the white root, halved vertically and well-rinsed. Cut into 2”-lengths

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered

Cleaned “feet” from 14 cleaned button mushrooms. Reserve the mushroom heads separately.

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves and stems

4 eggs whites

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon salt

10 black peppercorns, lightly cracked with a chef’s knife

6 cups best quality beef stock

To finish the soup:

1 tablespoon Cognac

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups very thinly sliced reserved mushrooms

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Place the celery, leek, mushroom feet, onion and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until very fine, about 30 seconds. Set aside. Place the egg whites in a very large bowl and whisk energetically with a whisk until frothy, about 1 minute. Whisk the reserved vegetable mixture into the egg whites and combine. Fold in the beef, salt, and peppercorns with a wooden spoon and stir to combine.

Place the room temperature stock in a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot. Stir in the vegetable/beef/egg white mixture with a wooden spoon. Turn on heat to medium, and continue cooking (uncovered), stirring constantly, until the stock comes to a simmer, about 15 minutes total. The draft will form now. Stop stirring and leave it alone for 30 minutes, making sure to keep it at a low simmer as to not break up the draft.

Remove from the heat. Break a hole in the draft, gently with the bottom of a ladle, and start scooping it out into a sieve lined with three paper towels into a large bowl. Keep working until all that is left in the pot is the draft. Discard this. The consommé can be refrigerated or frozen at this point. To finish, heat the consommé over medium high heat in a medium saucepan until simmering. Add the Cognac and mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are just wilted. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chives, being sure to get mushrooms in every bowl.

Variations: Another way to use a good beef stock consommé such as this is to serve it with a julienne of a combination of vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, leek, celery, onion, and cabbage. Cut the vegetables into a julienne and simmer them in the warm, finished consommé to cook just before serving. They give extra flavor to the consommé at the last minute and are both beautiful and delicious.

Bon appetit!

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A Reluctant Crustacean Killer and The Curious Case of Delicious Crab Bisque

When it comes to killing (unless you count mosquitoes) , I’m a wuss. I can’t even stamp out a palmetto bug (a.k.a. cockroach). Once, when I was twelve, while retrieving the mail from our mailbox in Florida, a pretty green lizard leaped out from the box into my face. Terrified,  I slammed the door shut, automatically decapitating the poor little guy.  I wept for hours, assembling his remains, burying them, and building a small cross out of twigs for his grave. At Le Cordon Bleu, on the day we were making eel stew, yours truly was handed one of the few live ones that slithered on my board as I tried, and failed, to cut off its huge head. Chef Jackie Martin had to rescue me, screaming and faint having somehow flown to the corner across the room, wrap the eel’s head with string, and bang it against the stainless steel cupboards until it was lifeless.  Twenty years later, I’m not sure I’ve yet recovered from that one.

Dogs, cats, cows, pigs, lambs, goats, horses – I love them all, really truly all of God’s creatures (though I still struggle with snakes). But its those spiny, ancient creatures of the cold Atlantic waters for which I have a special affinity and sympathy. I think it’s because I grew up outside of Boston and summers were always spent in Maine where lobster, steamers and drawn butter were regularly served to sate our young bodies, spent from hours playing in the sea. How I loved eating lobster then, as I do now, I just hated the killing part, and I still do. That’s why the little hypocrite in me lets someone else do it, though I did once rescue and release a 60 year-old lobster from the steamer tank into the waters off Rockport, MA which somewhere assuages my extreme lobster killer guilt.

All of that changed a few days ago. I was preparing to make and test lobster and a crab

Beautiful Boiled Lobsters (photo from lobsterfrommaine.com)

Beautiful Boiled Lobsters (photo from lobsterfrommaine.com)

bisque recipes for The French Cook: Soupes et Daubes (Gibbs Smith, September 2014).

Impossibly torn at the sheer joy of savoring one of my favorite things, a delicious seafood bisque (or two),  and the sheer horror of the inevitable: I was about to become a lobster and crab killer.  Because their internal organs and flesh rot very quickly and bacteria mounts fast when dead, these crustaceans really must be cooked alive. And, in the case of a bisque (of any kind) the shells are a crucial part of building the flavor. And, shells from a cooked lobster or crab, don’t give off the same flavor as shells from a raw lobster or crab, where the fresh, raw flavor seeps into the fumet as it cooks.

So, off I went to my affable advisors at the seafood counter at The Harris Teeter in downtown, Charleston, eye-balling a couple of handsome, pre-cooked lobsters. Full of hope, I told Doug what I was making and asked him (knowing the answer) if I could just use the pre-cooked guys. “No, you have to use live,” he said, resolutely.

Next stop, Crosby’s Seafood, uptown. The kind lady there plucked two, 1 3/4 pound beauties out of the tank (I couldn’t stop thinking about their already traumatic journey from the bottom of the craggy, cold Maine waters, to a trap, to a plane, and once again to this tank in SC), and now she was putting them in a paper bag. I asked her to double the paper (images of that eel enforcing images of  panicked pinchers breaking through), which she did, also wrapping it with plastic. Same for the poor crabs, though I felt less sorry for them somehow, for reasons I can’t explain. I confessed my concerns about limiting their pain, erasing it if at all possible. I couldn’t bring myself to do the one method Doug had recommended (sticking a knife between their primal, groping black eyes). She suggested something else. Put them in a freezer for about 30 minutes. This “puts them to sleep,” so going into the pot is less traumatic.

Hopeful, I asked my neighbor Lucie to house the crustaceans in her large freezer, while I prepared to cook them. I put on two large pots of salted water to boil.  By now trembling, I decided to start with the crabs because they were smaller and it would be faster. Well, that part proved true, but one of them almost successfully crawled out of the pot. I was able to get him back in there. Less than 10 minutes later, it was over. Now, it was time to tackle the big boys. It didn’t go well and I hesitate to explain it in detail (I didn’t even take pictures because I didn’t want to exploit them), but suffice to say, the first guy didn’t want to go in and he wasn’t asleep.  I had to take a fifteen minute time out to breathe and calm down, but now I was ready to make bisque.

The recipe that follows is made from fresh blue crab, thickened with a flour roux, and finished with cream, sweet lump crab meat, fresh thyme, Old Bay Seasoning and fresh thyme. It is sublime! If you, like me, suffer from crustacean killer guilt, keep in mind that you are using every single part of these creatures and absolutely nothing goes to waste – it’s purely crustacean bisque and so delicious it will make you cry, but in a good way. It may seem like a lot of work, and frankly it is. But, you can do it in three parts: 1) steam the crabs and strain the fumet base, 2) make the bisque base, strain and store overnight in the fridge, 3) finish the bisque in minutes the next day.Blue Crab Bisque with Old Bay Seasoning, Vermouth and Fresh Thyme

Blue Crab Bisque with Old Bay Seasoning, Vermouth and Fresh Thyme

Recipe

Blue Crab Bisque with Old Bay Seasoning, Vermouth and Fresh Thyme 

(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

To steam the crabs for the fumet base:

8 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

6 live blue crabs (about 3 pounds total)

For the bisque base:

4 tablespoons butter

1 leek, trimmed to 1″- above white base, halved horizontally, well rinsed and finely chopped

1 onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, trimmed, and finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Reserved shells from the crab fumet

3/4 cup dry vermouth

2 bay leaves

To finish the bisque:

2 tablespoons butter

1 large shallot, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

3  tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces (1 cup) lumb crab meat

Reserved meat from steamed blue crabs (about 1/4 cup)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Start with the fumet base. Bring the water and salt up to a vigorous boil in a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven or similarly- sized pot. Add the crabs all at once. Cover, and reduce to high simmer over medium high. Cook 8 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a very fine sieve or Chinois into a large bowl. Set aside. When the crabs are cool, pull off their legs and set to the side of your work surface. Pull of their backs, rinse, and add to the shell pile. Pull the little tab up on the bottom of their bodies to release, remove (saving for shell pile), remove and discard the gills and rinse off any bitter green matter, or “tomalley.” Carefully, work inside the bodies to remove any sweet flesh and be attentive to removing and discarding any bits of shell or cartilage. Reserve the meat in the fridge. With a mallet or the bottom of a sturdy sauce pan, smash the reserved shells into smaller bits. This will help them to release flavor on the next step of the bisque journey, and probably the most important one, the bisque base.

To prepare the bisque base, melt the butter over medium heat in the same Dutch oven or pot, rinsed. Add the leek, onion, celery, a generous dash of salt and pepper, and Old Bay Seasoning. Stir to coat, cooking five minutes or until just softened. Add the flour, stir, and cook another minute. Add the reserved shells, stir to coat and cook 2 minutes. Add the Dry Vermouth, increase heat to high and cook down to a glaze. Add the reserved, strained fumet base, 2 bay leaves and a generous pinch salt. Bring up to a boil over high, reduce to a simmer over medium, medium low, cooking uncovered for 25 minutes, skimming off foam and elimating as you go. Strain through a China cap or fine sieve/colander into a large bowl, pressing hard against the solids to release flavor before discarding them.  Set the bisque base aside.

To finish the bisque, melt the butter in the same Dutch oven or pot, rinsed, over medium heat. Add the shallot, a dash of salt and pepper, and Old Bay Seasoning. Stir to coat and cook until just softened, 5 minutes. Add the flour, stir to coat and cook through one minute. Stir in the cream, lump crab meat, reserved blue crab flesh. Taste carefully and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir gently to avoid breaking up the crab. Serve steaming hot with a garnish of fresh thyme for each bowl.

Bon appetit!

 

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Wearin’ of the Green St. Patrick’s Day Asparagus Soup

I call this soup “triple threat asparagus” because the flavors are layered in a stock based upon trimmings, roasted fresh asparagus for maximum flavor and color, and a finishing garnish of roasted asparagus tips. A perfect starter for your St. Patrick’s Day feast, this will whet the palate for corned beef and potatoes like no other.  Adapted from the soon-to-be-released The French Cook: Soupes and Daubes (Gibbs Smith, September 2014).

Soupe d’Asperge Cremeux

Triple Threat Creamy Asparagus Soup

(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

Special equipment needed: China cap or fine colander

A shining example of French method and frugality, this purely asparagus soup uses every part of the tender spring spear, and precious little else. A quick asparagus stock is assembled with the tougher outer-layer peels and feet of the spears. Next, the tender asparagus themselves are roasted to intensify flavor and are added near the very end of cooking to maximize color and texture. Leeks provide a bit of onion brightness and a tiny splash of cream at the end is the finishing touch on this exquisite, brilliant green and slightly textured soup.

2 large bunches (about 40 spears) fresh green asparagus, rinsed, tough foot (cut about 1” above the bottom) removed and peeled, starting about 1” below the tip to the bottom. Reserve the removed feet and peelings together in a small bowl. Reserve the peeled asparagus separately.

For the asparagus stock:

1 onion, halved, peeled and thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, rinsed and thinly sliced

7 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

5 sprigs fresh thyme bundled together with kitchen string

Reserved asparagus peelings and trimmings

Asparagus stock in the making, using every scrap possible to build flavor and eliminate waste.

Asparagus stock in the making, using every scrap possible to build flavor and eliminate waste.

 

For roasting the asparagus:

Reserved, prepped asparagus spears

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Generous dash freshly ground black pepper

To finish:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 shallot, peeled, halved and finely chopped

2 leeks, tough green leaves removed to 1” above white (save the green leaves in the freezer for later use in a stock), quartered lengthwise, well-rinsed, and finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Reserved roasted asparagus spears, cut into 1/4”-lengths (put aside 1/4 cup for garnish)

3 tablespoons whipping or heavy cream

1 teaspoon Dry Vermouth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F. In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized soup pot, combine onion, celery, water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, fresh thyme bundle, and asparagus feet and peel trimmings. Bring up to a boil over high heat, reduce to a mild simmer over medium/medium low and cook uncovered, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to roast the asparagus, on a full, edged baking sheet, toss the prepped asparagus spears in the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer. Place on the middle rack of the preheated oven, and roast for 20 minutes, or until tender and just starting to take on a little golden color. Toss once midway through cooking. Set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut the asparagus into 1/4”-lengths, reserve.

Strain the finished stock through a China cap or fine colander into a large bowl, pressing against the solids to extract flavor. Discard the solids. Keep the strained stock off to the side. Rinse the Dutch oven or soup pot if needed. In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When melted, add the shallot, leeks and seasonings. Stir to coat and cook for 5 minutes, or until just softened. Sprinkle evenly with the flour and stir to coat. Cook for one minute. Add the reserved stock, stirring. Bring to a boil over high and reduce to a gentle simmer over medium/medium low. Cook for 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from the heat. Add all but 1/4 cup of the reserved asparagus spears to the pot. Puree with an emulsion blender, traditional blender or food processor until chunky smooth. In the same pot, bring the puree up to a low boil over high heat. Stir in the cream and the dry vermouth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve the soup very hot in individual bowls, each garnished with five spear tips. (Note: The soup and garnish can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen. However, only add the cream, vermouth and final seasonings just before re-heating and serving.)

Finished and ready to serve.

Finished and ready to serve.

Bon appetit!

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