Cream of Asparagus Soup

When a friend gave me ten pounds of asparagus recently, I knew I had to come up with more ways to use it than my typical light steaming with lemon and butter. I asked for favorite preparations on Farm Food Blog’s Facebook page, and Jennifer McGruther of Nourished Kitchen provided the link to her favorite Asparagus Soup. If you don’t know Jenny’s blog yet, I urge you to check it out, sign up for her newsletter, Like her Facebook page, etc. She’s a wealth of information about traditional foods and has beautifully written posts with gorgeous photographs. She has awesome meal plans and online classes on cooking traditional foods, too.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds asparagus, rinsed
  • 1 large leek OR (my experiment) two bunches green onions, rinsed (Note: leeks can have sand wedged in their many layers. To remove, slice the leek in half lengthwise, and then fan the layers under cool running water to flush any grit)
  • Optional (my experiment): 1 cup or more sliced celery
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined Celtic sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (white pepper is used in light colored dishes to flavor while not ending up with black flecks in the dish. If you don’t have white pepper, you can just use black pepper)
  • 1 cup heavy cream OR (my experiment) 1 cup sour cream (preferably raw) (Creme fraiche would probably also be delicious)
  • Optional (my experiment): Freshly grated nutmeg, or just ground nutmeg, to taste

Instructions

One of Jenny’s innovations is to simmer the tough ends of the asparagus and the trimmings from the leek in the stock to boost its flavor, then straining those solids out and cooking the more tender parts of the asparagus and leeks to make the body of the soup. If you want to save time, you can leave out the step of simmering the woody ends and trimmings. She also lightly cooks the most tender tips of the asparagus separately to add to the soup at the end and provide a few pretty green chunks. If you want a perfectly smooth soup without those bits you can just chop and cook the tips with the rest of the stalks instead (or cook and eat them separately!).

  1. Prep the asparagus: “Snap” the asparagus–this is a tip I got somewhere a long time ago. Hold each spear in both hands, one hand gently grasping the tip end just below the tip (the bud like part), and the other grasping the woody end (where it was cut off from the ground). Bend the woody end until the stalk snaps in two. Wherever it breaks is the right spot! The tough part breaks off and you’re left with the tender part. Set the woody ends aside. Chop off the delicate tips and set them aside. Chop the remaining middle part of the asparagus into short bits (1/2″ or so) and set aside.
  2. Prep the leek or green onions: Cut off the root ends and the dark green part (chop the dark green part coarsely) and set aside (you can put in the same bowl as the woody asparagus ends). Cut the white and light green part into thin slices and set aside.
  3. Prep the celery (if using): I had a little celery left over so on my second making of the soup, I decided to add it too! Thinly slice several celery stalks and set aside. (I said about a cup in the instructions. You can use whatever you have leftover, but of course the more celery you use the more that flavor will come through.)
  4. Put the chicken stock in a large pot (stock pot, Dutch oven, etc.) over medium-high heat. Add the tough asparagus ends, the leek or green onion trimmings, and the bay leaves. (You can also add the leafy parts and thin inner ribs of your celery bunch rather than tossing these.) Bring to a simmer and let it cook for about 20 minutes, covered, to let the asparagus and leek or onion flavor the stock.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet (or if you only have a small one, work in batches). Stir in the sliced leek or green onion and saute for about a minute. Add the chopped middle parts of the asparagus stalks and saute, stirring occasionally, for another five minutes.
  6. Strain the woody asparagus stems, leek or onion trimmings, celery trimmings if you added them, and bay leaves out of the stock and return it to the pot. Add the sauteed leek and asparagus, and the sea salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the asparagus is tender.
  7. Meanwhile (after the soup’s been simmering about 10 minutes), bring about 2 cups of water to a boil, add the tender asparagus tips, and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain the pot or strain the tips out with a slotted spoon, and dump them in a bowl of ice water to stop them cooking immediately and preserve their bright green color.
  8. Remove the soup from the heat, add the heavy cream or sour cream, and puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. (Alternately, puree the soup WITHOUT the cream or sour cream, and instead, add a hearty dollop of raw heavy cream or sour cream at the table just before eating. This preserves the beneficial bacteria in the raw dairy, which would be destroyed if it were heated too hot).
  9. Add the asparagus tips and serve, with a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg if desired.