Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Springtime Creamy Asparagus Soup

As you may have read recently, I somehow ended up with 5 massive bunches of asparagus this past week. I roasted some to have with fried eggs for breakfast, I laid a bunch out on pastry dough with potatoes and cheese for a lunchtime tart, I threw a handful into my Chicken Tetrazzini and still I had barely made a dent in the massive pile of tall green stalks. On my food challenge quest for inspiration a few folks suggested making a soup which I thought about and then promptly forgot. Then by the chances of fate when I flipped on the TV the other day, Anne Burrell was in fact making a chilled asparagus soup! So I figured the universe was trying to tell me something so I trudged into the kitchen to get started. I used Anne’s recipe as a base and then added a few touches here and there. All in all for my first stab at asparagus soup, not bad. Hell, it was actually rather fabulous! The potatoes give it texture and creaminess without needing to add any actual cream, though I did because I had some in the frige, but only a touch and honestly it doesn’t need it. A pinch of red pepper for some heat because I like a little spice but you could easily not include it. You might also make it completely vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. I froze half so when husband defrosts it while I am away, will let you know how that experiment goes. All in all, will definitely be making this one again.

Creamy Asparagus Soup
(Adapted from Anne Burrell)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
3 bunches asparagus, woody ends (stems) trimmed (cut an inch or two off the bottom)
5 small red potatoes, peeled and diced (could sub for two Yukon gold potatoes instead)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig parsely
Kitchen twine
1/4 c heavy cream (optional)
1 (4-ounce) log goat cheese, crumbled (optional)

Coat a large saucepan with olive oil. Add the onion, celery and garlic and bring to a medium heat. Season with salt and sweat until the vegetables are very soft and aromatic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Using kitchen twine, tie the parsley and thyme sprigs together (just makes it easier to fish them out later).

Remove the tips from one bunch of the asparagus and reserve. Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1-inch lengths and add them to the pot. Sweat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the potatoes, red pepper flakes and herbs and toss to coat, cooking an additional 2 minutes.
Add the stock. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed (it will). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
On a separate burner, bring a small pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a small bowl of well salted ice water on standby. Cook the asparagus tips in the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water and plunge them immediately into the ice water. When the tips are cool, remove them from the water, pat dry and reserve for garnish later.

Remove the bay leaves, thyme and parsley from the soup. In a blender or with an immersion blender, puree the asparagus stock mixture. (Note, if using a blender hold a kitchen towel firmly over the top of the blender top to hold it down before you turn it on to puree.) Strain through a mesh strainer, if desired (I don’t). Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Chill.
Optional garnish with the reserved asparagus tips and crumbled goat cheese. You could also use a dollop of crème fraiche, sour cream and chives or if you are feeling super fancy, some lump crabmeat.

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