38 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • marCh 2014
Toasted Peanut Soup with sorghum marshmallows and
chicken cracklings is a longstanding favorite on the menu at Wit
& Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina, Four Seasons Hotel,
Baltimore, where Zack Mills is executive chef. “Prior to service,
we make the marshmallows from scratch with sorghum, sugar, egg
whites and a few other ingredients, spreading it along the inside of
the six-ounce soup bowl,” he says. “Then, we lightly torch it with
a pastry blowtorch to bring out the natural marshmallow flavor.”
Each morning, a few liters of the soup are prepared,
incorporating freshly toasted peanuts so that the oils are drawn
up. The soup itself is a combo of chicken base, sherry wine vinegar
for acidity, onion, garlic and roasted peanuts.
Chicken cracklings are currently prepared only for this dish.
“We fry the chicken skin right before service,” Mills says. “The
secret is in taking care to have it dried out thoroughly before you
fry it. The best way is to set it in a very warm oven for a while.
For service, a member of the waitstaff fills the guest’s bowl about
two-thirds full of soup tableside.”
Mills aims to create light consommés in spring, incorporating
mirepoix ingredients in a play on chicken noodle soup with a ravioli
filled with chicken egg yolk. “Once cooked in the hot liquid, it
basically becomes poached and should run into the soup,” he says.
He offers a couple of tips: Lightly blanch the onions, carrots and
celery before adding them to the soup bowl, and layer the egg yolk
gently on top of one pasta sheet before covering with a second sheet.
Jeremy Ashby, executive chef at AZUR Restaurant & Patio,
Lexington, Ky., promotes the farm-to-table movement and created
a farmers market without fees for growers on the south side of
Lexington, efforts that mirror the sense of place and season he
conveys through his cooking.
Although soups at AZUR change daily, Buttermilk and Salsify
Puree, garnished with grilled, wilted spinach and bacon, is a guest
favorite that Ashby likes to menu in the spring. “Since salsify is
a silky, medium-to-bright green, I like it for the spring menu,” he
says. “The acid in buttermilk cuts through the bitterness in that
root. It’s like oysters Rockefeller with sweet baby spinach and
bacon, with the oysters replaced in this recipe by salsify. It’s crisp
and sweet and juicy and just pops all over your taste buds.”
Ashby’s version boasts apple pie moonshine with notes of
cinnamon and apples. “You marinate the venison in it, along with
molasses, four to six hours or overnight,” he says. “Molasses adds
a dark, transformational sweetness to the meats, including the
duck legs and chicken, both skin-on, that I use for the base.”
left to right: Peanut soup at wit & wisdom comes with sorghum marshmallows and chicken cracklings.
Jeremy ashby’s buttermilk and salsify puree is garnished with grilled, wilted spinach and bacon.
soup getting fresh