Multi-Textured, Multi-Demensional Soup

By D. J. Costantino


D. J. Costantino
Stinging Nettle Soup, Fried Egg-Beemster Cheese Espuma, Dill Oil, and Dill Powder
Stinging Nettle Soup, Fried Egg-Beemster Cheese Espuma, Dill Oil, and Dill Powder

Think of your favorite soups and the descriptors they call to mind: comforting, luxurious, humble, refreshing. Coming from an uninspired kitchen, though, soup can also be one note, unsatisfying, and, at its worst, a bad cliché. “Often, soup is something chefs feel like they have to have on their menus,” says Justin Severino, chef at Pittsburgh’s cure and a three-time James Beard Award nominee. “But soup is one of my favorite things.”

Thrilling is the word that best describes a bowl of Severino’s stinging nettle soup with fried egg-Beemster cheese espuma, dill oil, and dill powder.

He starts simply enough with water, yellow onions, and a load of stinging nettles that are plentiful in Pittsburgh in the spring. For the espuma, Severino combines hard fried eggs, hot milk, Beemster cheese, and olive oil in a Vitamix, blending until smooth. He passes the mixture and pours it into a siphon.
The magic happens tableside, where servers dispense the espuma into the bottom of a bowl, with a divot made to cradle the dill oil and powder. Then they pour the nettle soup (thinned to half the desired consistency) into the dill oil, which ripples out into a “halo of espuma.” The dish starts its evolution immediately, with the proteins in the espuma slowly thickening the nettle soup. Because each flavor is housed in a different texture, they never truly blend together in the bowl, and you can compose bites at a whim—with a little more cheese, a burst of dill, or straight up nettle. Then your bowl is scraped clean.

“Soup can be humble and exciting,” says Severino, who has applied the same techniques to chanterelles, burrata, and cocoa powder. It’s a winning formula—with seemingly endless iterations—for elevating soup to an artfully composed dish.

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