Cooking With Asparagus

Cooking With Asparagus

Part of Ep. 1802 Asparagus, Grass & Daffodils

Oconomowoc Lake Club Executive Chef Jack Kaestner, a proponent of preparing recipes with fresh local produce, joins Shelley Ryan in the kitchen to cook fresh asparagus soup with wild leeks and morel mushrooms sautee in butter.

Premiere date: Mar 31, 2010

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
We've shown you how to grow asparagus now let's eat it. I'm with executive chef Jack Knestner and we're at the Oconomowoc Lake Club. And Jack, here at the Lake Club I know you folks try to focus on cooking and eating locally.  

Jack Knestner:
Yeah, last year, about 30% of our food was from local farmers and growers. It involves about 40 different farmers that I work with.

Shelley:
Wow, that's quite a network. In the spring, asparagus is definitely on the menu.  

Jack:
Absolutely. The farmer, I've been working with for about six years now. It's just fantastic, the flavor's great. And one of the first things that I learned from him is that the asparagus has this little tail.

Shelley:
You mean this jagged edge?  

Jack:
Yep, and that way you know that the farmer has picked it and any of the stringy stuff is left back in the field. And this is completely edible you don't have to peel it or anything.  

Shelley:
This is a good thing, you don't want it cut evenly. That means somebody cut it. Okay, well then, am I peeling this?

Jack:
Nope, not at all. It's 100% edible, it's just fantastic. 

Shelley:
So when you eat local, it's really fresh, too. You don't have to do a lot of things you'd normally do.

Jack:
That's one of the funniest things I've found about eating local and cooking more local. It almost makes cooking easier, 'cause there's so much flavor just in the vegetables themselves. 

Shelley:
You don't have to do a whole lot. Now, these are wild leeks or ramps, from the woods. 

Jack:
And we threw that in there because, again it's another seasonal thing that's available just for a couple weeks out of the year.

Shelley:
Love that smell.

Jack:
These have a great smell. And if you can't get the wild leeks or ramps you can use regular leeks.

Shelley:
Both are cold season crops that you can get at farmer's markets or the grocery store for the regular leeks. 

Jack:
And then this time, too, at the farmer's markets some of the spring onions are starting to pop up. Or a Vidalia onion you could even substitute in.

Shelley:
So you don't want to be married to the recipe, you want to be married to the ingredients and then find a recipe to match.  

Jack:
Yep, I think people have gotten — They Google some recipe and then go try to find the ingredients, and it's like trying to find asparagus in January you're not going to make a good soup or sauce.

Shelley:
So start out with the ingredients.

Jack:
And then go on to Google. There's only five ingredients in this recipe. There's butter, and leeks that have been sweated.

Shelley:
And the asparagus. What are you making?  

Jack:
This will be asparagus soup. And if you wanted to add some ends from the morels you can throw those in there.

Shelley:
Another local ingredient.

Jack:
Things of spring. You saute that?

Jack:
The juices from the asparagus will kind of cook out. You almost want it kind of syrupy in the pot.

Shelley:
So it's thickening a little.

Jack:
Yep, and concentrating the flavors.  

Shelley:
Mmm, it smells great.

Jack:
Add vegetable or chicken stock, whatever you have. I like to use vegetable stock because you can make it in about an hour.

Shelley:
Oh, okay. We will have these recipes on our Web site, I promise.

Jack:
Perfect. And then you just bring that up to a boil and put it into a blender or an immersion blender. And strain it.

Shelley:
It's going to have some cream in it, too?

Jack:
Finish it with a little bit of cream, salt and pepper. If you don't want to strain it, that's fine, too.

Shelley:
At the restaurant, you have to be kind of pretty!

Jack:
When you charge $6 a cup, you have to strain it. But at home, I don't strain it.

Shelley:
The next step, we're going to make a salad but you're making it with roasted asparagus? So we need a dish.

Jack:
It's turned out to be one of our favorite salads here. I think most people are familiar with boiled or steamed asparagus, but not roasting. 

Shelley:
We tend to cook vegetables to death sometimes, yeah. So roasting kind of helps control that urge. 

Jack:
Yeah, and I think once summertime comes and it's too hot to turn on your oven, just put it out on the grill.

Shelley:
That's a good idea, too.

Jack:
So you just take your asparagus whole. Try to get asparagus that are more similar in size. If one is real small, take it out and eat it.

Shelley:
And why is that?

Jack:
Just so they all cook at roughly the same time.

Shelley:
Evenly, okay, so just a little olive oil.  

Jack:
A little olive oil, little salt, little pepper. This is part of cooking, too, use your hands. I think gardeners, too, love to use their hands.

Shelley:
Yeah, so play with your food, basically.

Jack:
Continue it in the kitchen.

Shelley:
I've got the finished product over here if you want to move that one. Now, first of all, the oven is how hot for all of these?

Jack:
If you have a convection oven, 400 degrees.

Shelley:
And how long?

Jack:
These went six to seven minutes. They should still have a little bit of a snap to them.

Shelley:
A little crispness.

Jack:
And then the morel mushrooms or shitake mushrooms are about eight to ten minutes. We have some potatoes, and they're about 20 minutes. As long as you have your oven on, you might as well.

Shelley:
These would either be in different containers or you're adding them at different times, so that some are roasting longer than others. You've got the finished products here which is really what I've been wanting to get at.

Jack:
Of course.

Shelley:
I'm no dummy! That's the asparagus soup, which looks just gorgeous.

Jack:
Yeah, just the green color. And then we have the salad.

Shelley:
That's so unusual, with roasted asparagus in a salad and you've got potatoes and morels.

Jack:
A little parmesan cheese and just a simple lemon vinaigrette on it. And if you wanted to you could put on fresh radishes, whatever's coming into season, coming out of the garden.

Shelley:
So again, don't be trapped by the recipe.

Jack:
Nope, and if asparagus goes out of season switch it to green beans or snap peas.

Shelley:
Can I taste it?

Jack:
Absolutely. Roasting concentrates the flavor of everything. That's asparagus. Try the morel. Let me twist your arm!

Shelley:
Jack, this is wonderful. What a great taste of springtime, thank you.

Jack:
Thank you. Enjoy.

Shelley:
I am!

EPISODE SEGMENTS+
EPISODE RESOURCES+

Download Podcast »

Buy DVD »

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.