Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Asparagus Soup or Crème d´asperges.
Asparagus season (Spargelzeit) is very short and German white asparagus (Spargel) is well worth the wait for its unbeatable flavor and freshness.
Asparagus is best when grown and picked fresh. Regardless of whether you are buying thin asparagus or big jumbo spears, you should always choose stems that are firm and lush, rather than dry and wrinkly. Avoid any stems that are discolored, scarred or turning slimy at the tips. If you are using whole spears, then make sure the buds are tight and firm. If you are making soup like Dorie Greenspan´s Asparagus Soup, though, you could also use the somewhat more affordable spears called “soup asparagus” that you will sometimes find on market stalls.
The less time it takes to get asparagus from the field to the plate, the better it will taste because the sugars in the plant start to turn to starch once it is picked. Trim the stalks and, if the lower part of the stem seems tough, break off the bottom third of the stem. White asparagus always has to be peeled completely. The cooking time varies according to the thickness of the stems, but usually ranges between 8 to 12 minutes.
For today´s recipe I choose to use white asparagus, the season will last only another three weeks or so and green asparagus is hard to find locally – we only get white asparagus in the month of May until mid-June and we use it in as many dishes as possible while it is still available. So if you find white asparagus, grab some of this elegant vegetable while you can. As already mentioned, the fresher it is, the better, of course, which is why farm shops and roadside stalls are generally the best source.
Dorie´s recipe is easy and, apart from fresh asparagus, the ingredients required for this soup are staple items in our house. You will need two leeks, an onion, a shallot, a garlic clove, some pepper (I used delicious freshly ground "white kampot pepper" from Hennes Finest based in my hometown, beautiful Cologne * ) and some French sea salt. The asparagus trimmings simmered in your hot stock really add to the intense, yet delicate flavor of this sophisticated soup. When the soup is fully cooked, it is whizzed up in the blender. I did not strain the soup, so it had plenty of texture from the asparagus, leeks and onions.
As one very talented and much admired chef once said: “Forget the traditional three-course meal. Eating in, or out, these days is all about small plates” – and I would add “small glasses” - so I chose to serve the asparagus soup in various espresso glasses from my collections and instead of adding crème fraîche, I decided to top the mini soups with some creamy milk foam topping, fresh dill and shrimps for color and for taste.
This is a delightful White Asparagus Soup, elegant, seasonal, tasty and pretty - what more could one want from a late spring recipe.
To see how the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group prepared this vegetable soup, please do click here.
White Kampot Pepper from "Hennes Finest" available at www.hennesfinest.com/de/weisser-pfeffer.html