A good soup is a marvelous thing. At Cleonice we made all our soups from scratch with lots of love and care. Jaime was our ordained Soup Queen and she often made a version of this with Broccoli, but since the asparagus should be poking up out Maine gardens any day now…
The magic to this soup is its depth, layering flavor by starting with a stock, sautéing the asparagus in butter to bring out some sweetness, letting the flavors meld and develop, and saving aside a couple of delicately crunchy tips for texture. You can use this same method to make many other delicious soups, I’ll include some specifics in the notes at the end of the post.
Vegetable stocks are quick to make, unlike a meat stock that takes hours to pull all the flavors out. This means this soup can come together quickly even though we’re starting from scratch. This stock includes the tough asparagus ends that we snapped off, the skins from the onions and shallots we’re going to use, parsley stems, a couple of old Brussels sprouts that were left in the fridge (cabbage family works well in a vegetable stock), carrots, and leek. Combine all these vegetable bits in a good sized pot, cover with water and allow to simmer while we put together the rest of the ingredients and finish our mise en place (read, get everything ready to go and in place).
Gather up an onion, shallot, asparagus, parsley, spinach (mostly for that vibrant green color) a handful of new potatoes, butter & olive oil for sauteing and optional cheddar cheese. Chop the onions and shallots and cut the asparagus into two inch pieces, reserving the prettiest of the tips for our finishing, elegant touch.
Gently sauté the onion and shallot in a mix of olive oil and butter until translucent. Use a heavy bottomed pan you can sauté in with tall enough sides to hold the completed soup (three quart at least). Start with a hot pan (not crazy hot, warm enough to melt the butter but not brown it). Add your oil and then your butter, this keeps the butter from burning. Then add your onions. Keep on medium heat and stir frequently to keep the onion from browning. While this is happening, we can blanch our asparagus tips.
Using the stock water as your cooking medium, dip a sieve filled with the asparagus tips into the simmering liquid. Allow the tips to cook until bright green but still crispy (30 seconds or so). Remove from stock and shock the tips to stop the cooking with ice and cold running water at your sink.
Right about now, your onions should be translucent and soft, add your the asparagus stems and sauté slowly for about five minutes until bright green and beginning to soften. Do not allow to brown.
Add the diced potatoes, and stir to coat. The potatoes act as our soup thickener, they will give the soup heft and richness without adding a roux or cream. I like new potatoes here so we’re not adding a ton of starch just body.
Now we can start adding our stock. Ladle the stock into through a sieve into your sautéed vegetables.
Simmer the soup until the potatoes soften.
Add a couple of handfuls of spinach and allow to simmer until soft.
Now bring out the power tools.
This is where an immersion blender comes in handy. You can certainly use a blender or food processor, but the immersion blender keeps it tidy in one pot and there’s less chance of burning yourself (unless you chose a pot too small).
Season with salt and pepper. At this point, if you really want a smooth soup, you can grab your sieve again and run the soup through to remove any especially fibrous bits. I like my soup with a little more texture, so I haven’t done that here.
We’re adding some roughly chopped sharp cheddar cheese to the soup and give it another whiz with the immersion blender. You can omit it and sauté just in olive oil and you have a vegan soup.
Taste again for seasoning before ladling into bowls and floating blanched asparagus tips on top. Voila, elegant soup in less than an hour.
- 1 Tb Olive oil
- 1 Tb Butter
- 1-1/2 lb Asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces, reserve tips, stems ends removed (for stock)
- 1 Shallot, chopped
- ½ Onion, chopped
- 3-4 New potatoes diced
- 6 cups Vegetable stock, see post for easy to make homemade vegetable stock
- 2 generous handfuls of spinach
- 6 oz Sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Heat a 3 qt, heavy bottomed pan to sizzling hot and add olive oil, then butter.
- Sauté shallots and onion until transluscent.
- Blanch asparagus tips in simmering vegetable stock 30 seconds, then shock with ice water to stop cooking.
- Add 2 inch asparagus pieces to pan with onions and sauté until bright green and tender.
- Add diced potatoes to pan and stir to coat.
- Add vegetable stock to pan and simmer until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes.
- Puree soup in pan with immersion blender.
- Season with salt and pepper - be cautious with salt as the cheese will add some saltiness, if using.
- Add chopped or shredded cheese and puree once again.
- Serve in bowls with blanched asparagus tips floated on top for garnish.
Notes: Easily substitute fiddleheads using the same method, blanching a few for garnish. Fiddleheads need to be cooked thoroughly so a longer blanching is required.
Broccoli is another great substitution, peel the stems to remove the fibrous skin and throw that into your vegetable stock.
Straight up Spinach soup also is great, and has less cooking time. Garnish with a chiffonade of raw spinach.
This basic method is incredibly adaptable to all sorts of vegetables, Celery Root, Carrot, Green Beans, and many more. If your vegetable of choice is more fibrous (say celery) make sure to run it through a sieve. Changing up the cheese or adding some fresh herbs are also great ways of using this method to create a variety of elegant vegetable soups.