As soon as local asparagus is available in our markets in a few weeks, it’s the right time to use them for an elegant soup puree. Especially with freshly picked local asparagus, the flavor is more intense than the store-bought variety. In Maine the season for asparagus is very short, though if we continue to have a cool spring, it will prolong the season somewhat.
An asparagus soup puree is a fairly simple dish to make and only requires a few ingredients. The one that I offer here was inspired by Chef Daniel Boulud’s rendition that I had many years ago in his first New York restaurant, Daniel.
I came across the actual recipe in his 1993 book, Cooking with Daniel Boulud. I’ve adapted it here for home use.
It can be served chilled or warm and garnished with swirls of crème fraiche and snipped chives. In Boulud’s version he suggests a red-pepper coulis as a garnish. This is wholly optional and won’t affect the flavor if you omit it. But it’s certainly striking to top the soup with both swirls of the red pepper and the cream and it adds a nice flavor profile.
To store asparagus, set them upright in a bowl or wide glass filled with cold water and refrigerate until ready to use. Break off the lower two inches of the woody part of the bottom stem before using. You can, however, use the ends in a vegetable stock.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Servings: 4 to 6 as a first course
2 pounds asparagus, the bottom 2 inches of thick, woody stems broken off and discarded and the rest cut into 2-inch pieces
1 quart chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large leeks, white part only, cleaned, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small potato diced (about 1/ 4 cup)
1 tablespoon parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Crème fraiche, to garnish
Snipped chives, to garnish
Red-pepper coulis (see recipe), optional
Prepare the asparagus and set aside. Heat the stock in a separate pot until it reaches the boil; set aside and keep warm.
Meanwhile melt the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven over medium heat and add the prepared leeks and stir until coated with olive oil and butter mixture. Sweat the leeks by firmly placing a sheet of waxed paper over them, turn the heat down to low and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Do not let them color.
Remove the waxed paper and add the warm stock, potatoes and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil, partially covered. Cook for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the asparagus and parsley, bring back to a lively simmer and partially cover the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the asparagus are very tender. Season with salt and pepper.
In three to four batches puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, putting each amount of puree into a medium-size bowl set over another bowl of ice water; this will help retain its vibrant green color. Note: to puree a hot soup mixture, firmly hold down the cover of the blender and start the speed on low and then rev up to puree or liquefy setting. Hot liquid in a blender can spurt out of control.
Chill thoroughly before serving or serve warm. Garnish with snipped chives and swirls of crème fraiche alternating with the optional swirls of the red-pepper coulis.
Red pepper coulis
1 large red pepper, cut in half, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon peeled and chopped shallots
1/4 cup chicken stock
A few drops Tobasco
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small pot. Add the peppers and shallots and sweat by placing a sheet of waxed paper firmly over the peppers. Cook over low heat until soft, about 7 to 8 minutes. Puree in a blender until very smooth.
Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely before using. If using in warm soup, reheat the coulis.