Asparagus is available all year in modern supermarkets, but -- like strawberries -- its delicate flavor is especially associated with the traditional springtime growing season. Asparagus is delightful simply steamed, pan-roasted or served cold in a vinaigrette, but a well-made asparagus soup is especially pleasurable. It's fast and easy to make, but creates an unusually elegant impression at your table.
Things You'll Need
- Ice water
- Soup pot
- Onion, shallot or leek
- Olive oil or butter
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Immersion blender, blender or food processor
- Heavy cream (optional)
- Soup bowls or tureen
Rinse the asparagus spears under cold water; then snap off their woody ends. Drop the asparagus into a pot of boiling water and blanch them for 3 to 4 minutes; drain the spears and transfer them to a bowl of ice water. This step, called "blanching and shocking" the asparagus, is optional but helps the vegetable retain its fresh, green color.
Gently saute a handful of finely chopped onion, shallot or leek in the bottom of your soup pot in a small quantity of olive oil or butter, until it's translucent and aromatic, but not browned. Trim and reserve the delicate tips from the spears; then chop the remainder and add it to the pot. Pour in enough chicken or vegetable broth to barely cover the spears, roughly a quart of broth per pound of spears for a puree soup, or 2 to 3 cups per pound if you plan to make a cream soup.
Cover the pot and simmer until the asparagus is tender, approximately 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Puree the vegetables in the pot using a "stick"-style immersion blender, or by ladling it in small batches into a standard blender or food processor.
Return the soup base to your pot. If you're making a pureed asparagus soup with no dairy, thin it -- if necessary -- with additional broth, until you're happy with the consistency. For cream soup, add heavy cream until the soup reaches the correct degree of thickness. Stir frequently, as the soup returns to a simmer.
Boil the reserved asparagus tips separately in a small saucepan until they're just tender, another 3 or 4 minutes, then drain them. Taste your soup and adjust the seasoning, as necessary, with salt and pepper. Ladle it into individual bowls or a large tureen, and garnish your soup with the reserved asparagus tips.
Tips & Warnings
- A simple asparagus soup leaves the delicate taste of the asparagus itself as the center of attention, with the onion or leek providing just enough additional savor to play a supporting role. For a more robustly flavored soup, add a small quantity of celery and garlic to the onions at the beginning of the cooking time.
- Mild-flavored herbs such as chervil or a bay leaf can also enhance the flavor, though the bay should be removed before you puree the soup. A small sprig of parsley added to the pot has little impact on the soup's flavor but will enhance its color once the soup is pureed. If you make a cream soup, add a tiny pinch of nutmeg to the pot as well. You shouldn't be able to identify it by taste as nutmeg, but it brings out the richness of the cream and makes it somehow "creamier."
- Just few drops of lemon juice or white wine vinegar, added at the very end of your cooking time, can brighten and enhance the flavor of either a simple asparagus puree or a cream soup.
- For a lower-calorie version of the soup, thicken milk or half-and-half with a small quantity of cornstarch or quick-thickening "gravy" flour. Use this mixture in place of heavy cream.
- Chefs pass the pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any lumps or fine shreds of skin from the asparagus spears. This gives the soup an extra-smooth texture.
- Photo Credit Ildi_Papp/iStock/Getty Images
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