WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: For our Creamy Asparagus Soup recipe, we found that cooking asparagus on medium-low heat slowly coaxed out its flavor. But there was a fine line between perfect and overcooked; for its fresh flavor to translate to the soup, the asparagus needed to be just tender enough to puree, but no more. For the soup's base, we quickly discovered that water was bland (no surprise). A homemade asparagus stock wasn't worth the extra effort, and additions of wine or vermouth turned a delicate soup grassy and acidic. Ultimately, our tasters liked store-bought chicken broth the best. We tested a number of "cream" components, from yogurt to sour cream, crème fraiche, and rice milk, and they were all too heavy, too tangy, or just too weird. In the end, a pour of heavy cream tasted just right. To give the soup a silky quality we switched from a base of onions to leeks. When pureed they made the soup creamier and added heft.
1. COOK TIPS: Cut tips off asparagus spears and chop stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. Peel the spears with a vegetable peeler if they are thicker than 1/2-inch. Melt 1-1/2 tablespoons butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add asparagus tips and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
2. SOFTEN VEGETABLES: Add remaining butter and asparagus, leeks, 1/2-teaspoon salt, and 1/8-teaspoon pepper to empty pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
3. SIMMER SOUP: Add broth to pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in peas and Parmesan. Puree soup in blender in 2 batches and return to pot. Stir in cream, lemon juice, and asparagus tips, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. (Soup can be refrigerated in airtight container for 2 days.) Serves 6
Recipe and image courtesy of Cook's Country. CHEFS is a proud sponsor of Cook's Country TV. Originally print date: Cook's Country April/May 2010