Spring is here, and asparagus is finally in season! In Chicago, I found beautiful dark green asparagus bunches at our Green City Market on Saturday. If you are lucky enough to find white asparagus or those huge spears of green asparagus, enjoy them. Everyone loves my Asparagus Soup, but I didn’t have a recipe. I finally wrote down the recipe so others can enjoy it. It’s a compilation of my grandmother’s fresh asparagus soup and of my friend Katie’s recipe. My grandmother would pick delicious asparagus from her garden. She’d leave the soup chunky and add lots of cream. Growing up on a farm in Kansas, the asparagus soup was always a very special treat.
My asparagus soup starts out like most soups with a mirepoix (mihr-PWAH): mixture of onions, celery, and carrots. Instead, I use Yukon Gold potatoes for creaminess, and I use leeks instead of onions. (I found beautiful leeks at the Farmer’s Market). I don’t use celery because I want the asparagus flavor to shine through. To keep the soup green, I don’t use carrots this time. Mint added a touch of spring and enhanced the asparagus flavor. Just a touch of citrus at the end added just the right zip to the soup. A dollop of crème fraiche on top of the hot soup is more than enough cream for the recipe. Serve the soup cold if you like. If you want to thin the soup, just add a little more vegetable broth.
Asparagus is so good in season that I like to keep asparagus recipes very simple. I like sliced asparagus spears in frittatas, grilled or roasted with a little extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper, or served cold with aioli or citrusy vinaigrette. Peas, asparagus, and fava beans make a great Spring Salad. For an appetizer, I like to blanch asparagus spears, cool, and smear thin slices of prosciutto with goat cheese, herbs, lemon zest, and then roll each spear with the proscuitto/cheese mixture. Mint, thyme, and dill are great herb pairings to asparagus.
As much as I love asparagus, I don’t think it pairs very well with wine. Therefore, I skip wine with an asparagus course of soup or salad. Most sommeliers will tell you that asparagus and wine is not a match made in heaven.
My Asparagus Soup
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 leeks (cleaned) mostly white part (sliced)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
4 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
6 mint leaves
1 tablespoon chives, snipped
Juice of half lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Crème fraiche for garnish
Slivered asparagus tips for garnish
Over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven pot. Add the leaks, potatoes, salt and pepper. Sauté until soft. Add the mint leaves, asparagus, and broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Add the chives and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Taste before adding additional salt and white pepper. Add the lemon juice, and stir. Add more broth if you want a thinner soup.
Serve hot or cold with a dollop of crème fraiche and slivered tips of asparagus.
Serves 4 – 6 as a side.
Connie’s Notes: I wouldn’t make this soup unless you have fresh asparagus. Homemade vegetable broth makes all the difference in this soup.
Crème fraiche (krehm FRESH) is a soured cream consisting of 28% butterfat. It is thicker than sour cream, but not as tangy. It’s available in many grocery stores in the cheese area. If you can’t find crème fraiche, simply add cultured buttermilk or sour cream to heavy cream and let it sit for several hours. Crème fraiche won’t curdle when you finish sauces with it.
Vegetable broth- In a stock pot, add leftover asparagus ends, a handful of flat leaf parsley, 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, small onion or several leeks, 2 unpeeled carrots, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 celery stalks, part of a fennel bulb, mushroom stems, 4 peppercorns, and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for an hour. Strain and store vegetable broth in small containers and freeze. Throw away the solids, or puree, and use as a thickener. Use leftover broth in soups, to steam fresh vegetables, with rice, polenta, etc.
Talk to you next week,
Connie, author of Scratch That cookbook,