Asparagus Soup

Monday, June 6th, 2011

(Thanks to Kate Manchester & Edible Santa Fe!)

From: Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

Makes 4 1/2 cups, serves 4 to 6

There’s no reason to limit an asparagus soup to just one ending, nor is there any reason to let your asparagus soup take on a dingy color and less than brilliant flavor. Just plan to serve within 20 minutes or so after making it, and it will have all the clarity one hopes to find in this vegetable.

Mercurial asparagus can go in many different directions, and here are three. The spring herbs such as chervil and chives (and their blossoms) are a natural; ginger crisped in brown butter less usual, but manages to be just as right, as does finishing the soup with a few drops of toasted sesame oil, black sesame seeds and slivered cilantro. In all three, a few drops of lemon juice added just before serving bring all the elements smartly together.

I prefer to use fat stalks of asparagus and peel them. They puree much more easily, leaving you with a smooth and silky soup. If you want to make this earlier in the day but still have that bright green color, pour the finished soup immediately into a bowl set over ice, stir to cool it down as quickly as possible, then refrigerate.

1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, preferably thick shoots, well-washed
2 fat bunches scallions (about 2 c. chopped), or leeks, the greens set aside
Sea salt and white pepper
3/4 c. potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 T. butter
Several drops of fresh lemon juice from a Meyer lemon, if possible

Bouquet garni:
Several parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme

DIRECTIONS:

Snap off the butt ends of the asparagus and put them in a pot with 5 cups water, scallion greens and bouquet garni. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, then simmer while you prepare everything else. If you’re not ready to use it after 25 minutes, strain and set aside.

Cut off the tips, cover them with cold water and set aside to soak, agitating the water occasionally to get rid of any sand. Peel the remaining middles of the asparagus and chop into 1/2″ chunks.

Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the scallions, asparagus middles, and potato. Give a stir, add a teaspoon of salt, and cook over medium-high heat, just until the butter begins to brown a bit, after several minutes. Pour the hot broth through a strainer right into the pot, if you haven’t strained it already, then simmer for 8 minutes. Puree, in small batches, until smooth. Set the strainer over a clean pot, pour the soup into it and agitate with a rubber scraper, finally pushing any debris against the strainer. Taste for salt and add a few drops of lemon juice to bring up the flavors. Season with a little white pepper.

Simmer the asparagus tips in a little salted water until tender, then drain. Add them to the soup just before serving.

Three Ways to Finish Your Asparagus Soup

  1. With Spring Herbs: Garnish with plucked chervil or tarragon leaves, snipped chives, and their blossoms. If chervil is abundant, add a handful to the broth.
    Lovage-just a single leaf-cooked in the broth and slivered over the finished soup is another way to go.
  2. With Ginger: Take a knob of ginger about an inch long, peel it, and thinly slice it into julienne pieces. You’ll want about two tablespoons. Melt two tablespoons butter until browned, then add the ginger and cook until golden and just starting to crisp. Add the cooked asparagus tips and toss them with the ginger and butter. Serve with a cluster of ginger and asparagus in each bowl.
  3. With Sesame Oil: Drizzle a few drops toasted sesame oil over each bowl of soup. Sprinkle with toasted black or white sesame seeds and garnish with a pinch of finely slivered cilantro in each bowl. (If you love the flavor of fresh coriander, consider cooking 2 tablespoons of the minced stems along with the soup vegetables.)

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