Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pureed Pea Soup with Truffle Oil

This is revenge soup and boy was it tasty.

See a year or so ago I worked at a not great oh so sorry, my bad...South Western restaurant here in Madison. The menu at the place hasn't changed in over 10 years and the cafe part of the place grossed about 20 bucks a week, if that gives you a hint of the culinary bleakness of this supposed dining establishment. Since there were no customers to speak of and I wasn't allowed to help with tables in any way shape or form I had a lot of time to eaves drop and chat with co workers.

So though the menu was unpalatable and often the cause of gastroenterological distress the owner managed to have a seriously bloated ego about his cooking skills. One day he had the whole staff ooing and ahing at some canapés he had made out of the French Laundry Cookbook as he pointed back and forth to the picture in the book and his creation. Much brown nosing occurred in the form of “it looks better than the picture” and so on and so forth.

After an 8 hour shift of making one latte and then repeatedly cleaning every square inch of the espresso machine to stay busy I was less than impressed. I did however peak at the book once he was gone. It's a beautiful book with very very fussy recipes which I suppose for a lot of people is a big thing. When he came back to claim the book and stared at me with the disapproval reserved for the lone employee than refuses to be a sycophant I was looking at a recipe for some fancy chocolate cake. I blurted out something about wanting to give it a try.

“Well dinner there costs hundreds of dollars there you know. My wife and I ate there on our honeymoon.” These and many other details I was supposed to be impressed by sailed over my head to which I replied, “No I mean it would be fun to cook.” He looked at me like I had peed in his crème Anglaise, scoffed while snatching away the book and walking away saying something about that being doubtful under his breath.

The end of my tenure at this particular restaurant was as needlessly dramatic as this man's food was horrible so I've held a bit of a grudge. And you can ask the fella I hold grudges for life. I'm still mad at a boy who tried to pull my pants down on the playground in kindergarten for example. So when I was looking at cookbooks at the library and found the French Laundry book I knew I had to cook something out of it just to prove my old boss wrong by cooking something fabulous from it. Not that he would ever know of course nor would he care but I wanted to put that energy into the universe and end this grudge I've been holding. A perfect “I told you so” moment that would end in me and the fella eating something nice for dinner.

Looking through the book now that I know how to cook and spend time with a chef I was able to see that the French Laundry isn't even that special. I eat better most nights of the week albeit sans caviar and foie gras. Not to mention none of those desserts were going to gluten free friendly even after heavy modification. So instead I went in search of a hoity toity recipe that would put to use some of this bottle of truffle oil I have and worry about spoiling while it sits in the back of my cupboard. In the process I found a recipe for pea and truffle oil soup. And since I was on a soup kick it seemed perfect.

It is sadly however not spring so finding English peas to shell and cook to perfection following all Thomas Keller's fussy instructions was not going to happen. So I bought frozen peas and carried on from there. It turned out to be a genius move seeing as his complicated instructions end in flash freezing the peas and then pureeing them so I just thawed the peas and went on with the recipe from there.

It was a lot of work and not really worth the effort for the end result. Forcing pea puree through a sieve has got to be up there with child birth on the scale of long difficult and painful life experiences. It did however make for a very creamy soup. And a very beautiful green soup as you can see from the picture that hasn't been color edited. Plus it was a good excuse to make Parmesan crisps which are as fun to make as they are tasty and I really enjoyed my truffle tinted green soup sipped from a mug with a crispy thin bit of cheese.

So there you have it, revenge soup. In your face snotty restaurant owner man.

Pureed Pea Soup with Truffle Oil

2 pound bag of good quality frozen peas
1/4 cup agave nectar (approximate)
salt to taste
1/2 vegetable stock
1/4 cup water (approximate)
white truffle oil
Parmesan crisps (recipe below)

Place frozen peas in colander and run cool water over them just until they are no longer frozen but not until they are mushy. Run thawed peas through food processor until smooth. Pour about a cup at a time of pureed peas in a mesh sieve Force the pea puree through the sieve into a large bowl, this will take a lot of time and elbow grease so be prepared. You should have bright green very smooth puree in the bowl and the dry tougher outer portion of the peas left in the sieve Discard the pea hulls (or save to toss in risotto or pasta later) and run the remaining cups of pea puree through the sieve

When you have pushed all the peas through the sieve add the puree back into the food processor. Add agave nectar (I used about 1/4 cup) and salt to the puree to your particular taste and process to combine. Check peas for taste and adjust seasoning as you like.

Add vegetable stock and water (enough to make the soup the consistency you like) to food processor and processor briefly again until combined. If serving cold pour into mugs or small bowl with narrow tops. If serving warm, gently heat soup over low heat and pour in mugs. Just before serving drizzle a bit of truffle oil in each mug of soup and top with a Parmesan crisp “lid.”

Parmesan Crisps

1/ 2 finely grated Parmesan
silicon baking mat

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of cheese near one corner of the silicon mat and using your fingers spread the cheese into a thin 2 inch circle. Repeat with the remaining cheese, leaving a 1/2 inch of space between the cheese circles.

Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Use a small metal or heat safe spatula to very gently dislodge them from the mat and transfer to a plate to cool. They will be soft while removing from mat but will harden as they cool. Use to top pea soup as a decorative lid.

Modified and made slightly less complicated from a Thomas Keller recipe in The French Laundry Cookbook.

1 comment:

Nilium said...

Well sheesh maybe I should post my Revenge recipe on my blog....... Hmmm, Clam Chowder? nope wouldn't want to tread in your soup.... Tuna it is then, Ahi tuna South-West style. You'll just have to wait...