Recipe for asparagus, potato and herb soup
From the New England Soup Factory Cookbook, you chose this recipe for asparagus, potato and herb soup, and what could be more timely as we're just coming into asparagus season here in Rhode Island. The secret ingredient, the one that made all of us curious, is fennel -- the bulb, not the seed -- and there's no doubt it adds brightness and complexity to the taste of the soup. The recipe calls for two cups of light cream, and together with the potatoes, that's a bit rich for me. You could substitute part milk (whole, lowfat or skim), or all milk. Or, omit altogether and add more stock or water, for a soup that's creamy without any dairy at all. The herbs and dry mustard provide plenty of flavor, and the pureed potatoes give it body. As with most asparagus soups, this tastes delicious hot or cold.
Asparagus, potato and herb soup
Adapted from New England Soup Factory Cookbook. Serves 8-10; can be halved.
2-1/2 lbs asparagus, washed and trimmed
3 Tbsp butter
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 Spanish onion, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
6 medium Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (no need to peel them, really)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup white wine
8 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
6 sprigs fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 Tbsp dry mustard (I use Colman's)
2 cups light cream (or milk, or omit altogether and add more stock or water)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for garnish
Cut off the asparagus tips and set aside. Using a food processor fitted with the slicer blade, cut the asparagus stems into small slices. This will help break up the fibrous threads that could make the soup stringy. Don't try to use a knife -- it won't be effective for this job.
Melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery and fennel. Sauté for 7 minutes. Add the sliced asparagus and potatoes. Sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add the stock and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft and tender, 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Add the basil, dill, tarragon, mustard, cream (or milk), salt, and pepper. Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or working in batches with a stand blender until smooth.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and add the tips to the soup. (If you're making the soup ahead to reheat, transfer the cooked asparagus tips to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking and set the color. Remove from the ice water, dry, and set aside until you are ready to serve.)
Garnish with a slice of hard-boiled egg, and a few of the fennel fronds.