Seafood Cream Soup with Saffron and Asparagus
I was surprised at how self-conscious I felt about posting about this really rather moderate sort of a luxury, so there's going to be somewhat about money as well as cooking.
1 half pound each of shrimp, salmon (cut into fork-sized pieces), minced clams, and bay scallops
most of a pint of heavy cream
most of a quart of (store-bought) chicken stock
about a pound of asparagus
about half a cup of sliced almonds
about half a pound of oyster mushrooms
some white pepper
2 good-sized shallots, maybe a half cup when chopped up
about a teaspoon of saffron which was probably older than it should have been
some Pouldre Forte: Black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, galangal, cardamom, nutmeg, long pepper
First step, research! I looked at cream seafood soups and cream of asparagus.
I got one very valuable piece of information-- shell your shrimp, then simmer the shells for 15 minutes. The result had an amazing amount of flavor.
While the shrimp shells are simmering, I used enough butter to gently fry the almonds, asparagus, shallots, and mushrooms in a good sized aluminum pot.
When the shallots were done, I dumped in the cream, chicken stock, salt, pepper, pouldre forte and saffron, and simmered for about half an hour. Then I put in the salmon and shrimp (the largest pieces of meat-- bay scallops are tiny and minced clams are, well, minced) for a couple of minutes. When they were barely done, I put in the clams and scallops for something like a minute and turned off the heat.
It was a little bland, but when I added some hot sauce it was really excellent. On a second meal (a bowl of this soup is quite filling), I added an anchovy and that also worked well. This suggests that it mostly needed salt, but I'm going to try adding hot mustard in a future meal. More and/or stronger saffron would be a good idea.
It probably would have been better with the toasted almonds added as a garnish, but I just didn't want to bother.
OK, money. This cost about $50 or so, and I'm going to get at least five meals out of it. In other words, pricewise, it's just a little more expensive than fast food and highly competitive with low end restaurant food. Still, part of the theme was expensive ingredients.
So I'm going to look at modifying it to be cheaper and to be more expensive. And to look at what it would need to be kosher.
The most expensive part is the seafood (and I could have cut the price some by buying at the Italian Market instead of Whole Foods). The cheapest seafood was the clams. And I think spinach is cheaper than asparagus. I used oyster mushrooms because it was a seafood soup, so I went with the name. In retrospect, I think portobella mushrooms would have been better, and I'm looking forward to clam/spinach/portobella cream soup at some point. I'm not sure what spices or herbs it should have.
When I thought about increasing the luxury level, my first thought was pheasant stock-- pheasant seems to be about $25/$30 per pound in the US. dcseain pointed out that it's much cheaper in the UK, and a little research suggests that it's more like $10/pound there. Pheasant is very tasty, and I have no idea why no one has farmed it on a reasonably large scale in the US.
Other than that, there's upgrading the mushrooms. I think black trumpet and morel would be very nice, and both of them are visually interesting. Truffles are very expensive, but I've been disappointed by truffle products. I had a slice of truffle at a gourmet restaurant and it was wonderful, but I'm not sure whether it would go with the soup.
Macadamia nuts might work well.
I'm also unsure about good choices for more expensive seafood. Sea scallops at least have the virtue of being larger and more noticeable. I've had wonderful conch once (chewy and tasty). It might be a good idea. I can't see any point in getting larger shrimp.
As for kosher, all that's needed is for all the seafood to be fish rather than shellfish. I'm interested in suggestions for other sorts of fish. Bass? Trout?
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