CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH RICE
Dishing Up Maryland
by Lucie L. Snodgrass
The rice in this recipe thickens the soup beautifully and eliminates the need for cream.
• 2 pounds asparagus
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
• 4 cups Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/3 cup white rice
• 2 cups milk
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• Creme fraîche (optional)
1. Rinse the asparagus well and pat dry. Snap off and discard the tough ends. Cut each of the asparagus spears into three pieces. Place a dozen tips in a small dish and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté, stirring constantly, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus pieces and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the stock, salt, pepper, and rice; cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Steam the reserved asparagus tips in a steamer for 3 minutes. Plunge them in ice water, drain, pat dry, and then slice each tip in half lengthwise.
4. Puree the soup using a handheld immersion blender, gradually adding the milk until all of it is blended into the soup. Return the soup to the stove and heat it through. Garnish each serving with the asparagus tips, chopped parsley, and a dollop of creme fraîche, if desired.
Asparagus can grow up to 10 inches a day in warm weather, and spears should be harvested every day — they become tough if left to grow too long. Unfortunately, store-bought asparagus is often woody, but if you get fresh-cut asparagus from a farm or market, you can take measures to preserve its tenderness. After the spears are cut, they should be eaten as soon as possible — ideally, within a day, because the accelerated fiber development that takes place during the first 24 hours after harvest will cause woodiness. The higher the temperature, the faster the fiber formation occurs and the tougher the stalk, so you can substantially slow this toughening by putting the asparagus into the refrigerator as quickly as possible after harvest. Also, store asparagus in a moist environment because water loss also increases fiber growth. Place the stalks in a jar of water, wrap them in plastic, or place the stalk ends on a moisture-containing pad — any of those steps will retard fiber development and result in a more tender stalk.