Early harbingers of spring, along with crocuses, jonquils, and budding grapevines, are the slender green tips of asparagus poking their heads through the soil. I know that warm weather is just around the corner and that I'll soon be savoring this most elegant vegetable. A good drizzle of lemon-scented crème fraîche makes every spoonful of this springtime soup come alive in your mouth.
TO DRINK: Sauvignon Blanc
3 pounds asparagus, ends removedand discarded2 tablespoons unsalted butter1 onion, coarsely chopped6 cups chicken stock2 tablespoons lemon juiceSalt and freshly ground black pepper1/2 cup crème fraîche1 teaspoon grated lemon zest1 to 2 tablespoons water
Slice off 1 inch of the asparagus tips. Diagonally slice the pieces into thin slivers. Reserve. Slice the remaining asparagus into 3/4-inch lengths. Reserve separately.
Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the 3/4-inch lengths of asparagus and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to low, and simmer until the asparagus is tender, about 12 minutes. Let the soup cool for 15 minutes. In batches, puree the soup in a blender on high speed, 3 minutes per batch, until very smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean soup pot. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Add additional water to correct the consistency if the soup is too thick.
In a bowl, mix together the crème fraîche, lemon zest, remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to thin slightly to make a pourable consistency for drizzling over the finished soup.
To serve, bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Add the reserved asparagus tips to the hot soup and simmer slowly until they are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls.
Drizzle with the lemon crème fraîche and serve immediately.
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