Spring soups are great on a cool evening. Here is one of my favorites to make as soon as Asparagus gets into the stores. (I wish I had the patience to grow asparagus myself!)
Cream of Asparagus Soup
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon chicken base paste
1 1/2 cups asparagus (cut into 1 inch pieces)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup finely diced shallot
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs (lemongrass, rosemary, thyme etc.)
1 cup half and half
1 egg yolk
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and grated finely
fresh cracked pepper
Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan. Stir in chicken base paste. Add asparagus pieces and boil for about 5 minutes, until just tender but still bright green, then remove from heat. Puree with an immersion blender or in a regular blender and return to pan. In another pan over medium high heat, melt 1 teaspoon butter and then add shallots. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. When shallots are becoming translucent, add remaining butter. Stir in flour as soon as butter is melted to make a roux. Cook and stir roux for another 3 minutes then incorporate milk by pouring it in slowly while stirring roux with a whip or whisk. Stir in dry mustard and herbs. Combine milk mixture and asparagus mixture. Whisk half and half and egg yolk together then whisk into the soup. Heat gently over medium heat until hot but do not boil. Check for seasoning, adding salt or more herbs if desired. To serve, top bowl of hot soup with grated hard boiled egg and a bit of freshly cracked pepper. Serves 4 to 6.
Hints: Prepare asparagus for use by washing it and snapping off the tough ends. The stalks will snap between the tender part and the tough part if you apply a bit of pressure when holding the root end and middle of the stalk to snap it. This is a rich soup and hearty enough as a springtime main dish, however it can be made lighter by omitting the egg yolk and substituting milk for the half and half. Use any herb that you have available, although chives may be a bit redundant with the shallot. The herb flavor will become more pronounced if the soup is stored or made in advance so wait until serving before checking the seasoning for the final time.
Asparagus is one of my all time favorite veggies. Green or white, I love it roasted, stir fried, boiled, grilled, BBQ'd, pickled, in salads, on pizzas, in soups, any way, any time. One of the many reasons I love springtime: its asparagus season!