PEA AND LETTUCE VELOUTÉ HICKORY SMOKED SQUAB BREAST
THE INSPIRATION for this soup came from one of our landmark recipes, the chilled pea soup. In the spring of 1993, as we prepared the opening of the original Restaurant Daniel, we searched for a dish that would come to symbolize the new, the spring, and the greenmarket’s best produce. An intense bright green pea soup was born. It truly marked the beginning of each spring season.
We started with the idea of peas mixed with an onion fondue and rosemary. And we kept playing with it, adding different kinds of peas, some more sugary, sweet, waxy, and starchy. Today the evolution of the recipe has led us to replace the original bacon flavor with a smoked breast of squab. This intensely green pea soup is served, in the same spirit as in the original, with rosemary cream and a crispy golden crouton.
Sprinkle the wood chips in the bottom of a stovetop smoker or roasting pan fitted with a rack. Ignite the wood chips and cover with a lid until the flames are extinguished. Place the breasts on the rack inside and cover. Smoke for 5 minutes, then remove from the smoker and season the breasts on both sides with the salt and pepper. Transfer the breasts to a sous-vide bag and vacuum-seal; reserve, chilled.
For the Chilled Pea Soup
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Boil the lettuce, peas, pea greens, and mint in separate batches until tender, 2 to 5 minutes each, depending on their size. Allow the water to come back to a rapid boil between batches. Once tender, transfer each batch to the ice water to chill. Drain the greens and peas and pat dry. Set aside 2 cups of the shelled English peas for the puree. Peel and split ½ cup of the shelled English peas for finishing.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until translucent. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Combine the hot stock with the boiled greens and peas and the crème fraîche in a blender and puree until smooth (you will need to do this in batches). Pass through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl set over ice. Stir until chilled and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a pitcher and reserve, chilled.
For the Rosemary Cream
Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the rosemary, cover, and infuse for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and chill. Set aside ½ cup for the pea puree. Up to 30 minutes before serving, whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks and reserve, chilled.
For the Pea Puree and Powder
For the puree, in a small saucepan, bring the reserved ½ cup rosemary cream to a simmer, then transfer to a blender; add the peas and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl placed over ice. Stir until chilled and season with salt and pepper. Reserve, chilled.
For the powder, transfer the dehydrated peas to a clean, dry blender or spice grinder and pulse to make a fine powder. Shake through a fine-meshed sieve and reserve.
Using an immersion circulator, heat a water bath to 145°F. Submerge the bag of squab breasts in the water bath and cook for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 130°F. In a medium sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove the squab breasts from the bag, pat them dry, and add to the pan skin side down. Sear for 1 minute, or until the skin is golden brown.
In a small sauté pan, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and cook for 2 minutes, or until just tender. Add the peas and toss to heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
For each serving, place 1 squab breast at one side of a plate and spoon a line of pea puree next to it. Garnish the line of puree with a few peas, 3 carrot diamonds, 1 green pea shoot, 1 yellow pea shoot, and 2 crispy shallots. Sprinkle a line of pea powder above the puree and arrange a few peas on top. Set a small soup cup on the other side of the plate and fill with the pea soup. Float a crouton on top, and top the crouton with a spoonful of the whipped rosemary cream. Place 1 pea flower on the cream and 1 on the puree.