Hearty Spring Soup
Asparagus soup has issues. Have you ever tried it? There’s this wierd bitter astringent quality at the back of your mouth- kind of like an after taste that kicks you in the pants. And leaves you kinda gagging. Its been driving me bonkers. I’ve tried a few recipes, same deal each time.
I realized that the recipes I was messing around with, all concentrated on ‘light’ ‘springy’ flavours, which didn’t balance with asparagus… things like barely poaching the asparagus and mixing it with spinach to get a super bright green colour. All kinds of hustle and bustle and fiddling, but no substance. And lots of gagging.
I just wanted something I could simmer and not worry about changing colours! Or making me hack like I had a furball stuck in my mouth. eugh….Asparagus soup….
It annoys me how I find all these blogs waxing poetic over their perfect frenchified cuisine, those delicate bright green fussy asparagus soups. Ok, clearly I am doing something wrong, here. But for goodness sakes- should making a freaking soup be that hard?
So I thought about it. Asparagus soup, to me, can’t be some frou frou fussy concoction. It can’t be served cold- (Btw, seriously, I don’t get cold soup. Thats not soup. Thats a fruit sauce. A wierd veggie smoothie dressed in drag. Anyways, I digress. And I shudder at the thought of pureed green melons masquerading as soup. *eugh*), and it can’t have that gross astringent taste at the back of my mouth. I’m not a cat, I don’t like hacking after meals.
Then I figured it out. Asparagus soup has to be hearty. It has to be made with thick, warm ingredients that stick to you on damp cold spring days when your guts rattle in the cold rain. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be delicious. It has to have flavours in it that match the hearty notes and mellow the bitterness. Not like one of those butterfly spring concoctions. Real. Rib-sticking. Food.
And now it is. And its full of those great warm spring flavours. Slightly smokey maple syrup, salty crispy pancetta (didn’t you know pancetta is made in the spring?), roasted asparagus… and pulled together with caramelized onions, a hint of marsala wine and a little lemon juice to lighten at the last moment.
And you know what? Its NOT BEAUTIFUL. Its not frou frou. There is no shee shee photo of bright green bliss. Its earthy, hearty, and freaking delicious. And thats all that matters.
(Serve it with a little orange zest on top if you wanna snob it up a tad ;) )
Hearty Spring Soup
- 4 medium onions
- 6 tbsp chopped/finely diced pancetta (or 5 strips bacon)
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 + 1/4 cup sherry, marsala wine, white vermouth, white wine, or (if you HAVE TO) apple juice (oh please just buy the alcohol already…)
- 6 cups chicken stock (or 6 cups water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes you big cheater)
- either 1 cup finely ground cashews soaked in 1/2 cup water for 2 hours, or 1/2 cup cream or 1/2 cup yogurt, or 2 potatoes
- 2 -3 tbsp maple syrup (Buy the Aunt Jemima bottle and I will never speak to you again. Support the Canadian cabane a sucre! Proulx is good. Props to Navan, peeps.)
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- Spread the asparagus on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle 3 tbsp of the chopped pancetta (or bacon) on it. Roast at 350 for 20 min, flip them over, and continue for another 5 min or so. They’re ready when the edges get crispy.
- While they are roasting, chop the onions and mix with the remaining 3 tbsp of pancetta (or bacon). Don’t use a non-stick skillet, if possible. Keep the onion mix on medium-high heat, and brown them. Mid way, you’ll notice there is a thick buildup on the bottom of the pan. You are going to want to deglaze this.
- To deglaze, put the half-browned onions in a separate bowl. Turn the pan up to a higher heat. Pour in enough alcohol (or apple juice), to just cover the bottom of the pan. (I use sherry for the first deglaze)
- Scrape the bottom of the pan as the juice sizzles, turn down the heat a bit, and let the liquid reduce in volume as much as you can. Pour it off into a separate bowl, add the onions back and keep browning them.
- When the onions are as browned or cramelized as possible, repeat the deglaze (I use Marsala wine the second round).
- Get a large pot. Add the onion mix, the two deglaze liquids, and your 6 cups of stock or water with bouillon cubes. By now your asparagus should be ready, so add them too. If you are using potato, peel and chop it, and add it as well.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 min.
- With a hand blender, puree the soup. If you use a regular blender, do it in smll batches or the steam will make the lid and scalding liquid explode all over you. I speak from experience.
- Add in 1 tbsp of maple syrup at a time- check for the flavour you prefer.
- Add in 1 tbsp of lemon juice at a time- check for the flavour you prefer.
- If you are using cream or yogurt or cashew creme, add it before serving.
- Donezo! :) deee licious.