Sometimes great meals come out of cooking with what you have laying around. Lacking any ideas for dinner, I looked through my frig and saw that I had some asparagus and spring onions that needed to cooked before they went bad. I looked around to see what else I might have on hand to turn this into a full blown meal and remembered a recipe I’d seen leafing through Jose Andres’ Made in Spain. I settled on using some frozen cod filets, potatoes, and garlic to create a spin on his Basque-style leek and potato soup. The result is a soup that was very different from its inspiration, but which was delicious.

The beauty of this meal is that it comes together without a lot of effort or active time. The vegetables just need to be roughly cut up – no careful, clean dice required. The potatoes and olive oil make the soup deceptively creamy and compliment the rich cod. Pan frying the cod doesn’t add a lot of fat and is important for adding a tad of texture to the dish; otherwise, the only texture in the dish comes from the roasted asparagus tips. At the end of the recipe I recommend serving the soup in pre-heated bowls – this is one trick the restaurant industry uses to keep food warm longer. To pre-heat my bowls I bring a tea kettle of water to a boil, and then fill each bowl with hot water and let sit for two minutes. Then I dump the hot water and quickly wipe the bowls out with a towel before dishing up the food.

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Asparagus and Potato Soup with Crispy Cod

3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 spring onion including the green part
1 lb yukon gold potatoes
12 ounces asparagus
32 ounces chicken broth
3 tbs olive oil

12 ounces cod filets (4)
salt and pepper

Peel and cube potatoes and rough chop the onions (both kinds). Cut the tips off the asparagus and reserve; then cut the remaining stems into short chunks. Smash the garlic cloves and peel.

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Once the pot is hot, add 1 tbs olive oil and the garlic cloves and cook for about 1 minute. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes and then add the potatoes, asparagus, and chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Once the potatoes and asparagus are soft, uncover the pot and turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toss the asparagus tips with a little olive oil and roast in the oven for about 8 minutes.

Mix 1/4 cup flour with some salt and pepper and spread out on a plate. Preheat a skillet to medium heat. Dredge the fish through the flour on all sides and shake off the excess. Throw 1 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of olive oil into the hot pan and immediately add the fish filets. Cook for about 4 minutes or until well browned on the bottom. Carefully flip the filets and transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 5-6 minutes until the fish becomes flaky.

While the fish is cooking, puree the soup in a blender, adding two more tbs of olive oil, and then pour through a fine mesh sieve into the soup pot and bring back to a simmer. Taste for salt and add more as necessary (I needed to add about 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt).

Fill pre-heated bowls with soup (you may have left over soup – it’s excellent cold as well) and place one fish fillet in the middle of each bowl. Top each fish filet with a few asparagus tips as a garnish (you could also use chives).