Sadly, we’re nearing the end of asparagus season. Until recently, asparagus has been abundant and quite reasonably priced, but soon prices are going to skyrocket again. Today, at my favorite international grocery, I discovered enormous 2 lb packages of asparagus for $1.79 on the clearance rack (my favorite place to seek out bargains). Clearly they must’ve had an excess that they needed to unload quickly. That comes to a meager .90 cents per pound, and that’s a bargain I can’t resist.
OK, so they weren’t the best looking bunches of asparagus I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t matter because I’m making soup! Soup is the perfect way to use up past-prime produce, and since I have a ton of asparagus, I’ll make two batches and freeze them for the holidays when our house is full of family and guests.
As I was selectively picking through the motley packages of asparagus, I noticed a tiny Indian woman watching me. In her broken English, she asked what I was going to do with all of that asparagus. I answered simply, “soup.” Apparently she understood because a bit later, she tracked me down again, this time with a friend who understood a bit more English, and they asked me how to make asparagus soup. As best I could with simple words and hand signals, I explained how to make asparagus soup. Now, I’ll do the same for you (minus the hand signals).
Many people tell me they’re too intimidated to make soup which is downright silly because it’s one of the easiest things to make. You almost can’t go wrong, especially with blended vegetable soups. In very basic terms, you sautee your selected ingredients, then add some form of liquid, let it simmer for awhile, allow it to cool (very important step!) and then run it through the blender until it reaches the desired consistency. That’s it!
This recipe produces a beautifully rich and creamy soup, although it doesn’t actually call for any milk or cream. If desired, you can make it completely dairy-free by simply swapping the butter out for more olive oil. If, on the other hand, you desire a creamier soup, you can add a few tablespoons of cream, half-and-half or evaporated milk in the final step (I prefer evaporated milk when cooking because it never curdles or separates).
Before we get started, I want to let you in on a little trick that my wonderful mother-in-law taught me (I don’t know how I got through almost half my life without knowing this essential tidbit!). Sometimes it’s hard to know where to cut the asparagus to ensure that you remove all of the woody part of the stalk. I had always cut the ends off, often unintentionally leaving behind some of the stringy ends. Irene showed me how to simply “snap” off the tough ends. Holding the cut end of a stalk between your thumb and forefinger, simply bend the stalk until it snaps. The tough, woody end will naturally snap off where it meets the tender part of the stalk. It works perfectly every time. Depending on how fresh your asparagus is, it will snap at different places on the stalk – the fresher it is, the lower the snap location.
In the following recipe, I used both shallots and sweet Vidalia onion because that’s what I had in the larder, but you could use just one or the other, if you choose.
(No) Cream of Asparagus Soup
No one will believe that this rich and flavorful asparagus soup does not actually contain any cream!
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 lb asparagus, woody stems removed and cut into 2″ pieces
- 4 Tbl butter
- 2 Tbl olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 2 Tbl white wine
- 32 fl oz container of low sodium chicken broth
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 2 Tbl sour cream or creme fraiche
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Fresh chives or thyme to garnish
In a large, heavy pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and shallots and sweat them over medium low heat until they are softened but not browned. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the asparagus and continue to sweat the vegetables until the asparagus is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, chile flakes, salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium, add the white wine and simmer until most of the wine has cooked off. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Once it has reached a nice, easy simmer, turn the heat down to low, cover, and continue to simmer until all the vegetables are tender and the asparagus is still slightly green, about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid, transfer the pot from the heat, and let the mixture cool completely. While it is cooling, blend the sour cream (or creme fraiche) with a light squeeze of lime juice (or lemon juice) to thin the mixture slightly and add brightness. Set aside.
Working in batches, puree the cooled mixture in the blender and transfer to a large bowl. Continue until all of the mixture has been pureed and placed in the bowl. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. If you desire a creamier soup, add a few tablespoons of cream, half-and-half or evaporated milk in this step (I always prefer evaporated milk when cooking because it never curdles or separates).
Serve the soup warm. Ladel into bowls and top with a dollop of the lime-spiked sour cream and some chopped fresh chives or thyme. The soup can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 days or frozen for later use. For two people, divide and freeze in individual 2-person portions.
This delicious recipe is brought to you by 2peasinapod.online.