It’s spring. The snow has finally melted and given way to rain, the onion and garlic tops that overwintered have produced a few shoots in my garden, and the first rhubarb leaves promise delightful pies and crisps in another month’s time.
Thus, my favorite season has officially arrived:
Asparagus is a sign of love. Forget Valentine’s Day sentimentality — when you plant asparagus, it’s a sign of commitment, hope, and vitality. Since asparagus takes three years to produce stalks worth eating and then defies any efforts to uproot it, asparagus is a seal in your garden, declaring a desire for a long-term, fruitful relationship. Asparagus rarely disappoints.
When asparagus season arrives, it’s only fitting that you’re ready with an arsenal of recipes to savor asparagus’ sweet-earthy flavor and keep up with the abundance. Believe me, there’s gonna be plenty.
My favorites are the simple recipes: easy roasted asparagus that is gorgeously elegant, crunchy pickled asparagus that provides a lacto-fermented boost to any meal, and the bisque I’m sharing with you today — creamy, delicate, and full of fresh spring flavors.
A Few Tips
If you have an abundance of asparagus, this soup freezes well before you add the cream. Consider doubling the batch, freezing the pureé, then thawing it later in summer when the heat is overbearing and you don’t feel like cooking. It’s a lovely reminder of the already-past freshness of spring. As an additional summertime option, use vegetable stock rather than chicken, so when you thaw it and stir in the cream, you can enjoy it as a cold summer soup.
Also, the crab is optional. I use it both as additional protein and where I live near the sea, crab is always in season. It adds a wonderful extra layer of flavor to the soup, but if crab is not easy to obtain or you just prefer to leave it out. The soup is still delicious without it.
Asparagus Leek Bisque
- 3 pounds asparagus, tough ends snapped off and stalks chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 leek, white and green parts, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter or ghee (see how to make ghee)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup brandy or sherry (optional)
- 1 quart chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want to eat it cold later in the summer)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 pound lump crab (optional)
Serves 4 as an entreé or 6 as a side.
Snap the asparagus. I do this by hand rather than with a knife because by hand I can tell exactly where the extra-fibrous tough part ends and where the tender stalk begins. Just bend each stalk and it will naturally break right where the tender part begins. This way you won’t end up with fibers in your teeth even after you’ve pureed the soup. Chop the stalks into 1-inch pieces and set aside. Clean and slice the leeks and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the butter melts and the bubbles subside. Adding olive oil is an old French trick to keep the butter from burning, so the olive oil isn’t necessary if you use ghee. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add chopped asparagus, salt, and pepper. Sauté another 8 to 10 minutes until the asparagus begins to soften.
Pour in brandy and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer over medium heat until the asparagus is tender, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Using an immersible blender or working carefully in batches with a standard blender, pureé the soup until smooth. The mixture will be quite thick, so work carefully to avoid burns as you blend. Return to medium-low heat OR cool and place in the freezer for future meals.
When ready to serve, heat over medium-low, add cream, and heat just until hot. Do not boil. Ladle into bowls and place a pile of crabmeat in the middle of each bowl, if using.
Do you love asparagus, too? What’s your favorite way to prepare it?
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