Asparagus Soup

07bAspSoupBreadbfLOMany more years ago than I care to think about, I was going to The Theatre with friends (live performance, don’tchaknow, not the movies), and we were pressed for time for dinner.

Hmmm. There was this little place below stairs of the very theatre we were attending that evening – let’s try it! Lovely asparagus soup.

I cannot recall the show we saw (Jenny probably can), but I do recall that soup.

01aAsparagusDividedbfLOThis soup is every bit as good, and truly, not too, too fussy to make – you even get the chance to utilize the (normally) wasted woody ends of the asparagus and the dark green bits of the leek; so I’d call that a bonus!

01bLeekGreensbfLOI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; I am increasingly impressed with Emeril, his methods, and his recipes. I used his asparagus soup as the starting point for this recipe, and served it alongside some lovely garlic bread made using his French bread recipe – which also makes pretty fantastic sammich rolls, but more on that, later – back to the soup!

•1-1/2 lb asparagus
•1 leek
•1 shallot, minced
•1 tbsp garlic, minced
•4 cups chicken stock
•1/4 cup sweet vermouth
•2 tbsp butter
•1/4 tsp salt
•1/4 tsp white pepper
•1/4 cup heavy cream
•2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan

Rinse the asparagus, then slice off the tender tips and set aside in a small bowl.

02bLeeksAspStockbfLOCut off the woody ends and set them aside in another bowl, then slice the remaining asparagus stalks into thirds and stash in another bowl.

Slice the white part of the leek thinly and add to another bowl (I know, the bowls are adding up, but this is as fussy as it gets) with the diced shallot.

Soak the leek greens in a large bowl of water to remove any bits of sand and/or grit, then drain.

03bAspTipsbfLOBring the chicken stock and the vermouth to a boil in a large pot, then add the woody asparagus ends and the leek greens.

Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to infuse the stock with all that asparagus and leek goodness. Strain and discard the asparagus ends and leeks, and return the stock to the pot and back to the boil.

04bAddAspbfLOAdd the asparagus tips and blanch for 90 seconds – just until they are a bright, bright, green. Remove the tips and plunge immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop them cooking any more and to retain that lovely green shade. Drain well and set aside.

Remove the stock from the heat.

In another large pan – I left my stock in the large pot and used my Le Creuset soup pot for this last bit – melt the butter over medium high heat, then add the sliced white bits of leek and the minced shallot and sauté for three minutes.

05bAddStockbfLOAdd the minced garlic and continue to sauté for another minute or so, until you can start to smell the garlic, then add the asparagus stalks along with the salt and pepper and sauté for another two minutes.

Add the reserved stock, stir to combine, then partially cover and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, until the asparagus stalks are nicely tender.

05cImmersionBlenderbfLONote: don’t worry about trying to keep bright green stalks or crisp tender, you want these babies to be very tender, and the almost pea-soup color is exactly what you’re looking for in this case.

OK, so far, several pots and a lot of little bowls, but we are almost done, and, trust me, one sip of this soup and you’ll forget all about any counter clutter.

Remove the pot from the heat and, using an immersion blender – or in several batches in a blender or food processor – purée the soup until smooth.

06aStockAddCreambfLOTake a taste and correct the seasoning, if you think it needs it. I added a couple of good gratings of black pepper, because I think just about everything could do with a bit of good black pepper, but other than that, this soup is just about good to go.

If you’re making this soup ahead of time, allow to cool, then cover and stash in the fridge until needed.

06bAddAspTipsbfLOIf you’re planning on serving right away, return the puréed soup to medium heat, whisk in the cream, then stir in those bright green asparagus tips from the beginning and stir until heated through – about five minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and, if you like, a bit more freshly ground good black pepper.

07aAspSoupCheesebfLOThis happened to make just enough asparagus soup for the two of us as a main course for dinner (with that lovely French bread on the side). If you plan on serving this as an appetizer or first course, you’ll get four generous servings using tea cups in place of bowls – use the saucers, too – you’ll want some place to rest the bread between dunking and eating.

If you’re watching your dairy intake, you could easily substitute good olive oil for the butter in the beginning sauté, and, you might could skip adding the cream entirely at the end. I did add it and thought it nice, but when I tasted the puréed soup for seasoning, I also thought it pretty darned lovely just as it was, so it’s up to you.

Any way you look at it, this is one, nice, soup, and not too, too bad for you, either.

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