Watercress Soup with Caviar
The peppery taste of watercress is distilled in a soup made from a few simple ingredients -- butter, onion, leek, chicken stock, and cream. And that fresh watercress! Chef Legendre rinses the watercress bunches intact, holding them like bouquets. He removes the stems with a single cut of the knife, leaving the leaves behind. The stems add flavor to the soup base; the leaves are softened, then rubbed through a tamis to leave flavor without texture. The finished soup arrives at the table in a green froth with a double-layered quenelle of whipped cream and caviar in the center.
- Unsalted Butter - 1 tablespoon
- Onion - 1 small, peeled and finely chopped
- Leeks - 2, cleaned and chopped
- Chicken Stock - 2 cups
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1 quart
- Watercress - 2 bunches
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1 cup, beaten to firm peaks
- Caviar - 4 tablespoons
Melt the butter in a large saucepan or small pot over medium heat. Add the onion and leeks and let them slowly cook without coloring until they are translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Keeping it in a bunch, rinse the watercress, then cut off the stems as a group and put in the onion-leek mixture. Stir; cook 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and cream and cook 20 to 25 minutes.
Put the watercress leaves in a large strainer. Plunge it into hot salted water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until completely wilted and soft. Remove and put in a bowl of ice water. Swish the leaves with your fingers to make sure cold water penetrates to the center of the strainer. Lift again and press gently on the leaves to extract the water. Squeeze in your hands to remove any water remaining. Place the leaves in a tamis or strainer and press through the mesh with a butter or pastry knife. Set the extraction aside.
Strain the cream mixture, then stir in the watercress extraction. Season to taste with a little salt.
To serve: Whisk or puree the soup with a hand blender to make it airy. Ladle into hot soup plates. Make 8 quenelles of whipped cream. Place a small quenelle of caviar in the center of each. One at a time, lift the cream-caviar quenelles with two spoons and place one in each bowl of soup.