Mary Anne here. Last month, following our cooking demo at Bloomingdale’s in White Plains, I wrote a piece about “Stalking the Perfect Asparagus Spear.” I promised that an Asparagus Soup would follow, so with tremendous pleasure (and a dash of humility), I present my hot-off-the-stove rendition of a classic favorite!
Basic Tips for the Spears:
If you plan to freeze asparagus for later use, be certain to break off the tough stems before freezing. This was my first foray into freezing this vegetable and once defrosted, it was limp, (albeit bright green) and impossible to find the natural cut-off point for the inedible stem. I was able to “eyeball” the spears and guess where the tender stalk began, but the next time I find myself needing to freeze the surplus I’ll not forget to snap their ends before they hit the zip-lock bag!
If you do freeze asparagus, I would venture that they won’t be good for anything but soup, given their limp state after defrosting. Having said that, these floppy stalks retained their distinctive flavor and produced the best Asparagus Soup I’ve ever tasted.
For this recipe, reserve 5 or 6 perfect stalks, cutting them about 1½ inches long from their tip. The tips create a beautiful garnish when serving. (The remainder of the spear is tossed into the cooking pot.) After sautéing them as per the following recipe, split each tip lengthwise.
After the soup is completed, if you don’t plan to serve it immediately, allow it to cool completely, uncovered. This will preserve the natural green color and prevent the soup from turning a yellow pea color. (I don’t know the chemistry, but it seems to me it’s some sort of oxidation process.) Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate.
Again, if you’re preparing the soup a day or two before you plan to serve it, don’t add the cream until you’re reheating and serving. And, as for the cream – if you’re cutting calories, you do not need the cream at all. The soup is delicious without any of my suggested embellishments. The soup can be served either hot or cold. Even cold, you can opt to use the cream. Simply stir in just before serving.
After cooking the soup, you will need a mesh-strainer. Force the liquid through, using the back of a wooden spoon or sturdy rubber spatula to “weed out” the asparagus strings.
Asparagus Soup with Jalapeno
Makes 4 Main Servings
Note: Don’t be put off by my use of Jalapeno. I am not a fan of food that is so spicy I have to wear a bathing suit to dinner! While this addition isn’t traditional in an Asparagus soup, I felt that it would be fun to experiment and give this otherwise subtle potage a gentle kick. The Jalapeno did just that – enhancing the flavor of the final product, while murmuring its piquant presence.
For this recipe you’ll need a large soup or stockpot, a medium saucepan, a food processor, and a clean bowl or like vessel to transfer the strained soup.
1 large onion diced (about 2 cups) – $1.61
2 ½ lbs. asparagus, tough stems removed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces. (Read above for reserving several tips for garnish) – $4.49
3 tablespoons unsalted butter – stock
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced – $0.14
¾ teaspoon salt – stock
Freshly ground black pepper to taste – stock
2 Tablespoons flour – stock
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock – $3.39
2 cups water, divided
¼ cup light cream (optional, and freeze what you don’t use) – $0.30
Sour cream or Crème Fraiche (optional)
Grand Total Assuming Stocked Pantry: $9.93
Per serving: $2.48
1. Melt the butter in a large soup/stock pot. Sauté the onions until translucent, about 10 minutes over med-high flame, stirring often.
Meanwhile bring the chicken stock and 1½ cups of water to a slow simmer.
2. Add the remaining ½ cup of water to the onions. Add the reserved asparagus tips and sauté briefly until bright green and tender-crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus tips and set aside.
3. Add the remaining asparagus pieces and the Jalapeno to the pot. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, stirring well to combine. Cover the stockpot and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, stirring until evenly coated. Remove the pot from the heat and gradually pour in the hot chicken stock and water, stirring constantly.
5. Return to medium heat and simmer, uncovered, about 25 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to puree.
6. Using a food processor armed with a metal blade, puree the soup in batches. After pureeing, remember to run the soup through a mesh strainer to eliminate the strings of the asparagus. I used a large bowl to transfer the strained soup. It was fully pureed in 3 batches. * Tip: Don’t rush and overload your food processor or you’ll end up with a huge mess as the soup leaks out of the bowl of the processor!
7. To serve warm, add the cream (if you’ve opted to use it) and gently reheat over medium flame. Correct the seasonings and garnish with a dollop of sour cream or homemade Crème Fraiche (optional, again) and decorate with the reserved asparagus tips.