This red-hot vegetarian chowder is made with real asparagus, enriched with milk, and topped with toasted Parmesan croutons to smooth perfection.
For the Parmesan croutons Edit
- 6 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grated cheese (Colby, Parmesan, Cheddar, or Monterey Jack)
For the asparagus stock/soup base Edit
- 4 lbs. asparagus, tough ends trimmed, reserve 2 pounds
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 large carrot, trimmed, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large stalk celery with leaves, roughly chopped
- 6 stems fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. salt
- 8 cups cold water
- 5 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Vidalia onion, finely chopped, grated, or minced
- 1 lb. new potatoes, red or brown, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ cup milk, heavy cream or half-and-half
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- To make Parmesan croutons: Preheat the broiler. Adjust a rack to 8 inches below a broiler. Brush both sides of bread with oil, and place slices on a baking sheet. Broil for 3 to 10 minutes, turning as needed, or until golden brown and crisp.
- Remove from oven, and, when cool enough to handle, slice into cubes. Sprinkle with the grated cheese, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- To make asparagus stock: Cut tips off the asparagus, and set aside for garnish. Place asparagus spears in a soup pot with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and drain into a bowl, reserving liquid. Discard solids. Measure 6 cups stock; if you have less, add enough water to measure 6 cups.
- To make the soup: While stock cooks, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add half the onion, all potatoes, and water. Cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring several times, until vegetables are soft. Cut tips off asparagus, and set aside with other tips for garnish.
- Cut asparagus spears into 1-inch-long pieces.
- Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add remaining onions and asparagus spear pieces, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes or until onions have softened. Add salt and strained asparagus stock, and bring to a slow boil.
- Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for 4 to 8 minutes, or until asparagus is tender, with exact timing depending on size and freshness of asparagus. Using a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus from the pot, and put into a food processor.
- Process until smooth, adding stock as needed for processing. Transfer purée to a very fine strainer, and press through to remove tough fibers. Return the purée to the soup pot. Add potatoes and onions, and stir to mix.
- Add milk, salt, and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil.
- Add asparagus tips and cook until just tender. Remove from heat, and strain.
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls, garnish each serving with asparagus tips and pass croutons, if using. Sprinkle with extra freshly ground black pepper.
Nutritional Information Edit
Servings: 4 cups per bowl