Asparagus Soup With French Peppercorn-Lemon Cream
One of the first signs of Spring asserting itself is the bounty of fresh, tender asparagus spears at the farmer’s market. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you can continually experiment with and never eat the same way twice, so I tried to capture in a bowl that first blush of springtime. French peppercorns give the soup a pretty rose color with a unique flavor twist that adds a big impact. They’re delicate like tissue paper and sweet but with that piquant heat. This asparagus soup is beautiful as a starter, appetizer, or even as a main. Just as delicious heated as chilled, there’s so much you can do with this soup, from additional ingredients to presentation. Serving for St. Paddy’s Day? Design a clover leaf with your peppercorn-lemon cream using a squirt bottle or a pastry bag. Enjoy this soup with a wine known to complement asparagus: Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, or a Sauvignon Blanc. Serves 4
- Trim and discard asparagus ends. Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces, reserving a few tips and/or stalks for garnish.
- Melt butter in large saute pan. Add sliced asparagus and cook until tender. Cook time will vary depending on the thickness of the stalks. If using a few fresh thyme branches, cook with asparagus, about 4 to 6 minutes.While asparagus is cooking, crush peppercorns with fingers and then finely mince. Zest one teaspoon from lemon. Stir both into the crème fraîche, and season with a pinch of salt. Stir well then set aside.
- Remove thyme sprigs when asparagus is done then add asparagus and broth to a blender. Puree until mixture is completely smooth and creamy. You may need to do this in two batches.
- Reheat soup in saucepan just until steaming, but do not boil. While soup warms, heat a saute pan on medium-high. Drizzle reserved asparagus spears with olive oil then sear. Sprinkle with salt, and squeeze a little lemon juice over the asparagus. Use with the peppercorn cream for garnish.
- *Tip: Place serving bowls in warming drawer or oven while preparing soup to keep the soup hot longer.