The first asparagus of the spring generally hits my plate steamed with a generous ladle of warm Hollandaise sauce all over it. That, for me, is one of the culinary pinnacles available in this world. But for this to work, it's gotta be great asparagus, fresh from the ground, and as local as possible. And in Chicago, it's just not quite that time of year yet.
So I settled for some California asparagus (local enough for now) and this soup, from Jamie Oliver, which has a clean asparagus taste and is remarkably creamy. Just some onion, leek, celery, and chicken stock puréed with the asparagus turns out this emerald soup, which is topped with a toasted piece of bread and an egg with a runny yolk. I was amazed at its texture, and the recipe couldn't be simpler. Though a stick blender will work here, if it's possible to use a real blender I recommend it. The high power is what really emulsifies the soup and gives you that silky texture.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
- 1 leek, washed, trimmed, and chopped
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped off
- 1 quart chicken stock (or substitute vegetable for a vegetarian soup)
- 4 eggs
- 4 slices baguette round or ciabatta bread
- Olive oil for drizzling
In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the celery, onion, and leek. Sweat for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Avoid getting too much color on them.
While the vegetables are cooking, chop off the tips of the asparagus and reserve. Chop the remaining stalks and add to the pot once the vegetables are cooked. Cover with chicken stock, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, covered.
Return the soup to the pot and add the asparagus tips. Season to taste with salt (I used about 3/4 tablespoon). Simmer until they are tender, another 7-10 minutes. In the meantime, bring a small pot of water to boil and poach the eggs until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny; toast the baguette rounds in a toaster or under a broiler. Serve the soup with the bread rounds resting on top to hold the egg, and drizzle with olive oil.