ASPARAGUS SOUP

One of the essential dishes for Easter dinner. It’s an Easter dish because it represents all of the new life coming forth. The asparagus represents the new greens coming up. The veal is the young mammal life and the eggs are obvious fundamentally representing birth.

This was one of Bill’s favorite foods. He liked to tease me that I couldn’t make it as well as my family did. I loved to make it for him every spring. But I only made it in spring even though the ingredients are always available now. I typically make it the day before Easter and it lasts nicely through the week. This makes about 20 servings.

2 lbs. of good veal. You can use veal cubes or you ask the butcher to cut up pieces of veal steak into usable cubes (so tender) but to give you all of the fat and bones to create a great broth. I dredge all of this meat in flour, salt and pepper before I sauté any of it.
4 bunches of asparagus
6-8 good-sized shallots — a hearty amount
Broth — can be chicken or I like to use two cubes of Bauer mushroom bullion
Enough water to cover
Enough eggs beaten and added each time you serve the soup.
A decent amount of good olive oil to do the sautéing that must be done during this preparation.
Salt and pepper.

My mother always used onions for this dish but I find that shallots give this dish a really special flavor and I never use even a little onion anymore. Sometimes I chop the shallots by hand as I did this year but some years I put the shallots in the food processor and chop them pretty fine but trying not to turn them into mush. I cover the bottom of my very large 14-inch Sitram braising pan, but there’s no reason not to use a soup pan. Heat the oil so it’s pretty hot but not smoking.

Sauté the shallots until they glisten and pull them out of the pan. You’ll sauté the veal in this same olive oil next. Add more oil as needed.

If I’ve bought veal stew meat I like to clean off any excess gristle or bits of fat from the veal cubes. But after this year I think I’ll never use anything but veal steak prepared as cubes. If the cubes are too big I cut them in half. You want each cube to be a nice mouthful but not to have to cut up the pieces.

Dredge the veal pieces in flour that has had salt and pepper added. Sauté them nicely. Don’t put too many pieces in the pan at any one time so that they are each thoroughly browned on all sides, turning as necessary. Adding more olive oil as needed or you’ll just burn the bottom of the pan. When I don’t dredge the veal can become very tough. This works so much better.

Take them out as they are done leaving them to collect in a bowl and continue with the next batch until they are all nicely browned.

I like to prepare all of raw ingredients ahead of time. Washing and cutting up the asparagus. Putting the asparagus tips to one side. Chopping the shallots or onions. Dredging the meat, so you can just go from one step to the next. The asparagus stems have been cut into 1-inch pieces having cut off the tough end of the stems and discarded them. From the point on the asparagus stem where the knife goes through the asparagus easily you discard what is below the knife and use what is above. Put the tender tips into a separate bowl and keep to one side until the very end.

Sauté the asparagus next gently — just a bit — not to brown or anything. Just get the asparagus coated with the flavor from all the sautéing you’ve done.

Then assemble all of it back together. Salt and pepper to taste. You’re likely to add more salt and pepper later. And add enough water to cover the whole thing with a bit more. Add the mushroom bouillon right into this mix and cook gently until it seems to have married fully into a soup. At that point add the asparagus tips. If I make the soup the day before, which is what I usually do, I only add the tips as I’m heating it up to serve on Easter Sunday, just enough ahead for them to cook through but still have a little bite to them.

When you are getting ready to serve the soup, beat enough eggs for the amount of soup you are serving. The soup has to be plenty hot so that it will cook the eggs on contact as you pour them in. You don’t want them to blend into the soup but to have their own texture.

Vegetarian version. For many years I’ve made a vegetarian version of this soup. This happened once, Anna Mudd, my niece became a vegetarian by simply keeping two pots going. In the vegetarian pot I use just the sautéed shallots, the asparagus, the mushroom bouillon, salt, pepper and water. In fact that was why I switched to shallots from onions. The shallots had a lovely subtle flavor and seemed to make the vegetarian version better so I switched over for all of the asparagus soup.