VALLEY KITCHEN SPRING ASPARAGUS PURÉE

Courtesy Tim Wood, executive chef, Valley Kitchen at Carmel Valley Ranch

Yields 6 to 8 3-ounce portions

This recipe is truly as simple as it looks. Mother Nature made the ratio easy to remember—one bunch of asparagus to one onion— and the keys to the purée’s success are simply the quality of the ingredients and the technique of sweating of the onions. Another beauty of the recipe is its versatility as a sauce, purée or a simple soup. For soup, adjust the consistency with more liquid, as desired; for a sauce or purée, less liquid is necessary. The pan used should be large enough to hold the asparagus and onion—a 2-quart saucepan with a heavy bottom to allow for even cooking should do.

1 pound fresh asparagus
1 medium onion
1 stick (4 ounces) sweet butter
Kosher salt
Black pepper, freshly cracked
Olive oil for cooking as needed
Water or vegetable stock

Begin by cutting the onion in half from tip to root and removing outer skin. Slice the onion with a radial motion from top to bottom to keep consistent sizing. Ultimately you will end up with ¼-inch onion slices. In a heavy bottomed pot, start cooking the onions over low heat with a good amount of olive oil, about 2 ounces (¼ cup). Cook slowly to allow the bitter onion taste to sweat out and the onions to become sweet, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. This is always a good time to put together a salad or another part of your meal, but don’t wander too far off, as the onions could burn and make the pureé bitter.

While the onions are sweating, clean the asparagus by snapping the “woody” end off then chop into 1-inch pieces. This will allow the vegetable to cook evenly.

When the onions are soft and tender, take the chopped asparagus and add it to the onions. Cover the onion and asparagus mixture with enough water or vegetable stock to cover by about 1½ inches. Cook on a slow simmer until fork-tender (about 15 minutes).

Ready your blender or food processor and cut butter into small, manageable chunks. With a slotted spoon, take the solids from the pot and add to the blender in batches (about halfway up the blender) then add a half cup of the liquid from the pot to thin the mixture to desired sauce consistency. Add about 3 tablespoons of butter per batch for a texture that is rich and smooth. Repeat this process until all solids are blended. There may be some of the stock left or it may be necessary to add some water to thin as you go. You can always thin your sauce down, but it’s hard to thicken if you add too much liquid.

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