The joys of French cooking: cream of asparagus soup with fine herb butter

If you’ve been visiting the farmer’s markets lately I’m sure you’ve seen some gorgeous asparagus. I’ve been cooking it frequently and tend to enjoy it simply: steamed lightly with some lemon and sea salt.

Sometimes a humble vegetable, in its natural state, is so very satisfying.

But at other times, it’s nice to take the same vegetable and incorporate it into a more complex dish, which is what I did recently at a French Cooking class I attended at the Osthoff Resort in Wisconsin.

Mise en place for asparagus soup

Now I’ve made creamy soups like this many times, but this one had a surprising element: an herb, citrus butter that I added in just before serving. The butter added just the right zip of lemon and tarragon.

(On a side note, as a New Yorker with a small kitchen, it was so wonderful to cook in a swoon-worthy kitchen where there were two women to wash each and every pot, spoon, knife and plate. How dreamy!)

Now this soup was part of a 5-course bistro-style lunch that was so filling I couldn’t eat dinner that night!

Along with the soup I enjoyed a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and some gougeres, those tasty (and addictive) pastry puffs made with shredded gruyere cheese. I was so busy making soup and Coquille St. Jacques that I didn’t get to partake in making gougeres, so I’ll attempt those another day.

So my suggestions to you is, enjoy this soup along with a simple salad for a complete meal. But be sure to enjoy it with a glass of white wine. (And please don’t worry about the cream; it’s not that much, and it’s “okay” once in a while.)


Cream of Asparagus Soup with Fine Herb Butter
I’d make the herb butter first, even though that recipe comes second. That way you can put it in the refrigerator while you make the soup.

Sweating the asparagus, garlic, onion and leeks

2 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of onion, diced
1 cup of sliced leeks (white + light green sections)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lb of asparagus, peeled and cut to 2″ pieces; reserve some of the tips for garnishing
1/2 cup Yukon potato, peeled and diced
3 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of whipping cream
Sea salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons of fine herb butter

Straining the soup

Make the soup
Heat butter over medium heat in a large pot to melt. Add onion, leek, garlic and asparagus. Sweat, but not brown (about 5 minutes). Add potato and stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Puree until smooth in a blender. Pour through a sieve (you’ll need a large one) into another pot and then return to medium heat. Add cream, salt + pepper, to taste (I added quite a bit of both). Meanwhile in a separate bowl, boil the asparagus tips until tender-crisp (about 2 minutes) and drain.

Ladle soup into bowls and then place a slice or two of the butter into the soup and swirl. Garnish with asparagus tips.

Bon Appetit!

Fine Herb Butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of fresh basil, minced
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon of chives, minced
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 pinch of sea salt

Blend all the ingredients together; wrap in parchment paper and chill until needed. Add a slice or two into the soup, or on some crunchy bread.


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