It’s asparagus season! You can boil it, roast it, grill it, add it to other dishes or enjoy it on its own. And now, you can make a delicious, filling soup with it! It was a lucky day for me when a friend of mine shared this recipe that she got from a chef on a cruise ship. It’s such a great way to showcase fresh asparagus when it’s in season. This recipe can easily be doubled.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
1 lb fresh asparagus (use thicker stalks: they have better flavor than thinner ones)
1½ T unsalted butter, divided
1 white onion, diced
2 leeks, white and the soft light green parts only, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/3 C white wine
2 C vegetable stock
1/3 C heavy whipping cream (unsweetened)
2 T flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ C slivered almonds, toasted
Prepare the garnish:
Toast almonds until golden brown: either put them in a single layer in a sauté pan over medium heat, or place them on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for about 3 minutes. Cut the tips of the asparagus and blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Cool them in ice water, drain and set aside.
Make the soup:
In a large saucepan, melt one tablespoon butter and sauté onion, leeks, and garlic until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add bay leaf, white wine and asparagus. Simmer over medium heat until wine is reduced by half. Add stock and simmer for 10-20 minutes, about half covered. Add the cream and remove the bay leaf. Using a hand mixer or blender, puree the ingredients until smooth.
In a small bowl, mix remaining butter (at room temperature) with flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir this mixture into the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes, allowing soup to thicken. Strain through a coarse sieve or strainer, pressing and scraping with a large spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into warm bowls and garnish with asparagus tips and slivered almonds.
Step by step details
This soup is a great way to make the most of fresh, seasonal asparagus. And it only requires a few simple ingredients!
While the garnishes are optional, they really do add a lot to the final taste and texture, so I recommend taking the time to prepare them. First, toast the almonds. The oven method works, but I’m more hands on, so I use the stovetop. Put them in a single layer in a sauté pan over medium heat, continuously stirring them. You don’t need any oil – just put them in a dry pan and let the heat do the rest.
I usually toast up enough to fill the pan and then keep the extras on hand for salads. Or for my next batch of cream of asparagus soup. When they are nice and golden brown, set them aside.
Next, cut off the tips of the asparagus.
Blanch the tips in boiling water, for about 3 minutes, long enough to just soften them and retain their bright green color.
Cool them in ice water. This is called “shocking” them. You can probably figure out why.
Drain and set them aside. Next, chop the onions, leeks, and garlic. A medium dice is fine – it all gets pureed later anyhow, so don’t worry too much about making it pretty.
In a large saucepan, melt one tablespoon butter and add the onion, leeks, and garlic.
Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the asparagus into 1- to 2- inch pieces. Again, it will be pureed, so it doesn’t need to be pretty.
Add the bay leaf and chopped asparagus to the pan, then add the white wine. You can refill this glass with the same wine and enjoy it with the finished soup. Or even while you are still making the soup, if that’s how you roll.
Simmer over medium heat until wine is reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Simmer this for at least 10 minutes. If you like to multi-task, you can leave the pan partially covered and simmer up to 30 minutes while you go and do other stuff.
Remove the bay leaf (they’re good for adding flavor but you don’t want to eat them) and then add the cream. You can use Half & Half in this step, or even milk, if you’re counting calories. But since so little is used, just go for the real stuff.
Using an immersion mixer (or pour it into a blender), puree the ingredients until smooth. Transfer the soup to a deeper pan, if needed for this step, in order to keep the immersion mixer tip submerged in the liquid. I’ve learned from experience that if the liquid is too shallow, it just splatters it all over me, my stove, and my walls. Not fun. Plus it’s a waste of perfectly good soup.
Or, just pour it into a large bowl and puree it there. You can reuse the bowl later.
When everything is blended, it will turn a nice light green color.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining butter with flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. I find this works best if the butter is at room temperature. Just stir and stir and stir with a fork: it will come together.
Stir the butter-flour crumbs into the soup and simmer for 10 minutes, allowing soup to thicken. You will really notice a difference!
Next, strain the soup into a bowl through a coarse sieve or strainer. Or, if you have one, use a food mill. (And if you don’t have one, consider buying one. They aren’t very expensive, they are small to store, and they make this step a breeze. They work great for my gazpacho, too.)
If using a strainer, don’t use too fine a strainer, or it won’t work: it needs to be coarse, with the biggest holes. This step is messy and somewhat time consuming, but it really is worth it. Otherwise you’ve just got asparagus puree, which isn’t nearly as nice to eat as the finished soup will be.
Stir, press and scrape the strainer with a large spoon or spatula. You can even scrape off the bottom of the strainer. Anything that passes through the strainer is fair game.
You’ll end up with a few tablespoons of solids that you can throw away.
Here are the same solids after just a few minutes in the food mill.
You’ll notice a huge difference now in the texture of the soup. This is where you’ll be glad you strained it.
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into warm bowls and garnish with asparagus tips and slivered almonds. Top with some fresh chopped tarragon (not shown here), if available, and it will take it to a whole new level.