As I sit watching the snow flurries outside my window, I ask myself, is it really May? Then I remind myself that May in Montana is filled with many surprises – from snow showers to blooming tulips to the freshest asparagus. One of my favorite spring soups during this time of the year is asparagus. It delights with its unique taste and charming character. In this recipe, the vegetables are stir-fried to intensify their flavors, and water instead of cream or broth is used to avoid disguising the asparagus’ fresh taste. Adding two key ingredients – tarragon and flat parsley – makes this soup spectacular. For an extraordinary twist, add salted cod to infuse with the sweet flavor of asparagus. Once you’ve tried this recipe, you’ll never go back to ordinary asparagus soup.
Yield 6 to 8 servings
2 1/2-3 pounds asparagus
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh flat parsley leaves, tightly packed
1/2 cup tarragon leaves, tightly packed
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 6-ounce piece of fresh Atlantic of Pacific cod, skinned, pin bones removed and salted in sea salt 24-72 hours
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large leek, white part only, rinsed and diced
4 cups water
Break off woody stems from the asparagus. Cut tips from the spears about one inch from the top, and set aside. Cut stems into half-inch pieces. Blanch tips in salted boiling water for two minutes until tender but still vibrant green. Run tips under cold water and drain. In hot asparagus-blanched water, add parsley and tarragon leaves for approximately 45 seconds. Remove and cool by running under cold water and draining. Let blanched water cool to room temperature. Place blanched parsley and tarragon in a blender and add a few tablespoons of blanched water. Blend for a few minutes until ingredients are vibrant and silky green in color. Set aside.
In a stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add vegetables, and stir for five minutes. Be careful not to brown the vegetables. Add asparagus stalks, and stir for 1 minute. Add water. Bring to a boil, and then allow it to simmer for 20 minutes until asparagus is tender. Remove from heat, and let soup cool.
In a blender, puree the soup in batches, straining the soup through a medium-mesh sieve. Discard the solids. Season with sea salt and lemon juice. The soup should be a bit thicker than heavy cream. Cooking the asparagus for that length of time will turn the soup into a yellowish-green color. By adding the parsley puree, the soup will turn into a gorgeous green with the enhancement of tarragon.
To serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed shallow soup bowls. Garnish with flakes of salted cod and the reserved asparagus tips.
Chef’s Tip: To salt the cod, place cod fillet in a shallow glass or stainless-steel container. Liberally coat the fish with at least a 1/4-inch layer of salt. Refrigerate between 24 hours and 72 hours. Rinse well, and pat dry with a paper towel. Poach filet for 10 minutes. Remove and flake.
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