Asparagus! Oh my, it's without a doubt my favorite spring vegetable. All winter I long for the fresh, local spears that the warm weather in May will bring. Yes, I purchase imported asparagus during the winter when the craving gets to be too much, but alas, it is never able to completely satisfy. Nothing compares to the amazing asparagus that grows here in the Midwest! I have literally pages of recipes for the fabulous stuff, and it is a challenge to prepare even a fraction of them during "Asparagus Season". But there is one recipe that was made as often as possible at the cafe, because it was so beloved by our customers (and me!); Spring Asparagus Soup.
This recipe is the result of hours of experimentation with recipes. Finally, I came up with what I thought was the best version, with pieces of asparagus tips floating in a silky, delicate, amazing concoction. And the customers confirmed! So, here is my favorite asparagus soup recipe. Be sure to have some sourdough baguette or French bread at the ready-it's great to dip into! I can't help but believe you will have found your new favorite spring soup recipe! Blessings!
1 pound fresh asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces, reserve tips separately
4 Tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 quart chicken broth*
1 cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons corn starch**
Salt and Pepper, to taste
*(I reserve the liquid from steaming the asparagus and use it to make the chicken broth using chicken base-1 Tablespoon to one quart water. Eliminate the salt in the recipe and adjust the seasoning at the end; chicken base tends to be salty. This adds just that much more asparagus flavor to the soup. If you have chicken stock on hand, use it to steam the asparagus!)
** Using cornstarch rather than flour makes this a gluten-free soup, provided the chicken broth contains no gluten.
Place the asparagus pieces (steam tips separately) in an asparagus pot, steamer insert, or into a saucepan with about a cup of water. Steam pieces until tender. Remove from cooking vessel, and then steam the tips until just tender. Reserve the tips to add to the soup at the end.
Melt the butter in a small stockpot or very large saucepan. Sauté the shallots over medium heat until tender and translucent (do not brown), then add the garlic, salt (if not using chicken base), and pepper and cook for another minute or so, stirring constantly. Add the chicken broth and the asparagus pieces. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the asparagus is extremely tender.
Remove from the heat and either puree with an immersion blender, or in a blender in batches. Puree until the soup is smooth and silky-be patient! Return to the heat and bring to a simmer.
Place the cornstarch into a small bowl and work the cream in, making sure there are no lumps. Slowly stir into the soup, and simmer until thickened.
Add the asparagus tips to the soup. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Serve.