Thursday, December 17, 2009

White House Recipe: Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford's Broccoli Soup

Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford's new recipe for Broccoli Soup is a flavorful dish that's perfect for a winter warm up, and part of the ongoing program of focusing on seasonal and healthier foods at the White House. Regarded as an extraordinary culinary talent, Comerford has worked at the Executive Mansion for fourteen years, and is now on her third presidential administration. (Above: Comerford picking vegetables in the Kitchen Garden at the White House)

First Lady Michelle Obama
re-appointed Comerford as Executive Chef in January of 2009, and Comerford notes that she's been newly inspired by Mrs. Obama, whose focus on local, fresh and seasonal foods has transformed the cooking practices at the White House.

Comerford says that she's even planted a vegetable garden at her own home in Maryland, thanks to the influence of Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden, which Comerford visits regularly. Comerford says she believes that having an edible garden like Mrs. Obama's--and healthier eating--is something that's possible for everyone.

"Doing something fresh and seasonal is something every average American can do in their own home," Comerford says.

Comerford and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass have both said that broccoli is among President Obama's favorite vegetables, and no doubt he's a big fan of Comerford's Broccoli Soup, too. It's fun to note that the last Chief Executive for whom Comerford cooked, President George Bush, had a legendary and public dislike of broccoli. Yes, change has certainly come to the White House kitchen.

White House Broccoli Soup

1 tablespoon butter
6 garlic cloves, sliced
4 shallots, sliced
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 sprig thyme
1 small onion, sliced
2 heads broccoli, stems sliced, and green tips reserved for puree
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste

1. In a medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, add the garlic, shallots, leeks, onion and thyme. Sweat in the butter until fragrant.

2. Add the broccoli stem slices and saute until softened.

3. Pour in the chicken stock and bay leaf and simmer for about 20 minutes.

4. In the meantime, blanch the broccoli tips in a pot of boiling water over medium heat until bright green. Remove the tips from the water and "shock" in a bowl of iced water.

5. Drain the green tips and puree in a blender. Set aside.

6. Puree the soup in a blender and strain through a fine chinoise [conical sieve] into a large serving bowl.

7. Add the green tip puree and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve piping hot.

This is the second recipe by Chef Comerford released by the White House; her first recipe, for No Cream Creamed Spinach, is here. The Kitchen Garden was first planted on April 9, 2009, and was top-loaded with broccoli during the summer, and through the Fall Harvest. The most high profile White House event for which garden produce was used was the Nov. 24th State Dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The garden has produced more than 1007 pounds of fruits and vegetables, and is now prepped to continue growing through the cold season, with the addition of hoop houses, which provide cover and warmth for winter vegetables.

*Photo by Samantha Appleton, White House