I hope I’m not speaking prematurely, but spring seems to be in the air! As I write this it’s supposed to be almost 60 degrees this afternoon and it’s beautiful and sunny out.
My thoughts are turning to spring meals. I’ve got two desserts and a decadent soup for you this month—and they feature lemons, strawberries, and asparagus. It doesn’t get much more spring-y than that!
Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Custards
For the custards:
2 1/2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. whole large eggs
2 lg. egg yolks
1/8 t. salt
For the soup:
1 lg. leek, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
1/2 c. shallot, finely chopped
1/2 t. salt
1 t. unsalted butter
2 1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
3 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. heavy cream
For this recipe, you’ll need 6 2-inch ramekins. If you don’t have them, you can order them from Amazon here. I have a set of them and I use them often for dips, garnishes at the table, etc.
Make the custards:
Butter ramekins and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring cheese, cream, and milk just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and steep for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour steeped cream through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing lightly on the cheese solids. Discard cheese solids. Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add steeped cream in a thin stream, whisking until smooth. Divide among ramekins.
Place ramekins in a baking dish and fill dish with a hot water bath about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. I use a kettle to boil the water while the cream steeps so the water is hot and ready to pour into the baking dish when the ramekins go in.
Bake in center of oven for 40-45 minutes or until centers of custards are completely set. Transfer ramekins with tongs to a cooling rack and cool for five minutes. Do not cool longer than five minutes. Run a knife around the ramekin to loosen the custard, place a soup bowl over the ramekin, and invert so the custard is in the soup bowl.
While the cream steeps and the custards bake, make the soup:
Wash the chopped leeks in a bowl of cold water and drain well. Pat dry. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leeks, shallots, salt, and pepper; cook until leeks are softened, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus, broth, and water; simmer, covered, until asparagus is just tender, about 10-12 minutes. After 2-4 minutes, remove 6 asparagus tips, cut each in half, and reserve for garnish.
Use an immersion blender to purée soup or purée in batches using a blender. Transfer soup to a large bowl and wipe out saucepan. Pour soup through a sieve into the saucepan; discard any solids. Stir in cream, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium-low heat until hot.
Ladle soup over custards, garnish with reserved asparagus tips and extra shaved cheese, if desired. Serve hot.
Lemon Chiffon Crunch
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. melted butter
1 3-oz. pkg. lemon Jell-O
3/4 c. boiling water
1/2 c. sugar
Juice and peel of one lemon peel, zested and chopped
12 oz. evaporated milk
Combine first four ingredients; mix until crumbly. Reserve 3 T. crumb mixture; press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of a buttered 9-inch square pan; chill.
Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water; add sugar, lemon juice, and peel. Chill to consistency of unbeaten egg whites. Ten minutes later, pour evaporated milk into a freezer tray and freeze until ice crystals form around the edges. Turn into chilled bowl; whip until stiff. Fold whipped evaporated milk into Jell-O mixture. Spoon into pan on top of crumb layer. Sprinkle top with reserved crumbs. Chill until set.
3 c. flour
2 1/2 t. sugar
3/4 t. salt
2/3 c. chilled shortening, cut into pieces
1 1/4 sticks chilled butter, cut into pieces
10 T. ice water
3 1/2 c. rhubarb, trimmed and sliced 1/2-inch thick
16 oz. strawberries, hulled and halved (for very large berries, cut into quarters)
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 lg. egg yolk
1 t. water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add shortening and butter and mix with a fork or pastry knife until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water, 1 T. at a time, until dough comes together in a ball. Divide dough into two disks and chill. When chilled, roll out disks into two circles. Place one circle into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.
Mix filling ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Spoon filling into pie crust. Roll out second disk of dough and place on top of the pie. Trim edges. Whisk egg yolk and water; brush over top of pie.
Place pie on baking sheet and cook in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook pie for another hour and 25 minutes. Cover crust with foil if it is browning too fast.
Remember that readers are always invited to share recipes. Just email them to me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll put them in a future post.
Until next time,