Asparagus, one of the first fresh vegetables of the spring, makes a warm and bright soup. Chase away a March chill with a bowl and some warm bread.
Spring is in the air!
The sky is full of forbidding gray clouds and the air is blustery. You can feel the dampness from the dirty piles of icy snow at the street curbs as you tighten a scarf around your neck. But there is hope, asparagus is $1.99 a pound. More reliable than reading a ground hog's shadow, a sure sign of spring is cheap asparagus. One of the first spring vegetables to make an arrival in March, it is a welcome sight. Those tender green stalks hold the promise of sunny days with milder temperatures.
But hold on - the lions of March still dictate damp and cold weather. This month can be a tease. One day there is sun and the temperatures rise just enough that everyone is enjoying the great outdoors. You can smell the difference in the air as people smile at the neighbors they haven't seen during the cabin fever months. But just as you are ready to toss the winter gear, it is cold again and this almost feels worse. Like a betrayal.
Here is a remedy for that betrayal, creamy roasted asparagus, and parmesan soup. It will help rid the bone chill you may feel and comfort you as you wait for March to go out like a lamb.
Roasting the asparagus with garlic and shallots helps to give a depth of flavor to the soup and elicits some sweetness and caramelization out of the vegetables. The addition of olive oil, salt, and pepper will season the vegetables. I always steal a stalk of asparagus as a snack when it comes out of the oven.
Cut the asparagus in pieces and put in a saucepan with the shallots and garlic. Save the asparagus tips to add to the soup at the end. Pour the chicken stock into the pan along with the sprigs of thyme. Since the vegetables are roasted, you are just heating the chicken stock to a simmer. Don't simmer too long, the asparagus should still be green.
Puree the soup in a blender until smooth and add back to the pan. Stir in the cream and again simmer until the soup is hot. Now is the time for those asparagus tips you saved, the cheese and to check the seasoning of the soup. The parmesan will add some saltiness so you may need to have a light hand with the seasoning.
I like to have the soup with a garnish of creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt, and a sprinkle of chives. Roasted asparagus and parmesan soup is a bright spot on a chilly day. Don't forget the warm bread!
Roasted Asparagus and Parmesan Soup
- 3 pounds asparagus
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 8 shallots, ¾ cup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup Parmesan, shredded
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons chives
- creme fraiche
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the asparagus stalks. If any are too woody, you may want to use a vegetable peeler to peel the stalk. Slice the shallots into wide slices. Place the asparagus, garlic and shallots on a sheet pan. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes. The asparagus should be pliable but still green, not gray.
- Cut the asparagus into pieces. Save the tips to add when the soup is finished. Put the roasted vegetables in a medium saucepan with the thyme sprigs. Pour the chicken stock over the vegetables and heat until simmering. Once the stock is hot, take out the thyme sprigs and pour the contents into a blender. Blend until everything is smooth and creamy. You may need to do this in steps. Don't overfill the blender. Hot liquids can expand and blow the top of the blender off.
- Once all the vegetables and stock are blended, pour back into the pan. Add the cream and continue to warm with medium heat. Add the asparagus tips and parmesan, stirring the soup until the cheese has melted. At this point check the seasoning. Add pepper but check the salt. The cheese will add a bit of saltiness to the soup. Garnish with the chives and creme fraiche (sour cream or plain yogurt is also good).