Spring is coming. I can feel it. It’s a balmy 49* here today, and next week it may creep up into the 60’s. Eeeek! It’s coming!
One of my favorite Spring veggies is asparagus, so I try to work it into our menu as often as possible when its peak asparagus season. I came across this chowder recipe recently, and I thought it might be a great way to ring in the Spring…when it’s still kind of chilly out.
First things first, I needed to get the broth going. One of the things that attracted me to this recipe was getting to make something I’d never even considered before…asparagus broth! For the brothy bit, I needed those woody ends from the asparagus that usually get chopped off and thrown away. (An easy way to find where the woody part ends is to hold the piece of asparagus in both hands and bend it til it snaps. The woody bit snaps right off! Then, you can line up the snapped piece with the rest of them and just chop them to match that length.)
Once I had the asparagus snapped, I cut a sweet onion into quarters and added it, along with the asparagus bottoms to a large saucepan. I added some salt and 8 cups of water, and brought the mixture to a boil.
Once it was boiling, I brought it down to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 30 minutes, until it was reduced to around 5 cups of liquid.
I was left with a clear green, surprisingly tasty broth!
While the broth was cooking, I cut up the remaining asparagus and prepped the rest of my vegetables. The stalks were cut into 1/2 inch pieces, and the tips were sliced in half.
I also chopped up another onion, minced some garlic, and diced up about a pound of Yukon Gold potatoes.
I strained the broth into a bowl, and got ready to put the soup together. First, I sautéed some more onion in some butter in the same saucepan I’d made the broth in. (Gotta love a multitasker!) Then, I added some garlic and some Dijon mustard to the mix before deglazing it with a bit of dry white wine.
Once the wine had evaporated out, I added the broth back into the pot, along with the diced potatoes and some salt. That mixture simmered away for a few minutes, until the potatoes were fork tender. Once they were, I mashed some of them with a potato masher, right into the soup, which helped thicken things up a bit.
At this point, it was time to whisk in some creamy, mascarpone cheese.
Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese. It’s not quite as tangy as regular cream cheese, but tastes more of actual cream. In a pinch, though, I’m fairly certain you could substitute regular cream cheese. Although, the mascarpone is so delicious and velvety smooth, it’s worth trying if you can!
Once the cheese was whisked in, I added a cornstarch and cream slurry, to help thicken things up a bit more. After that, in went the rest of the asparagus, and then some chopped fresh dill, salt and pepper.
When it was time to serve it up, I shook a few drops of hot sauce over the top to finish off each bowl. It gave the soup the perfect little kick!
This was my kind of soup. It’s creamy, but not too creamy, light, and packed with fresh vibrant flavor. It was a hit with the entire family, and made for the perfect “C’mon, Spring!!”-type dinner. I can’t wait to make another batch!
ASPARAGUS AND POTATO CHOWDER
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine
- 1 1/2 lbs. medium-thick asparagus
- 2 large sweet onions, 1 quartered and 1 finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
- 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese, or cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. fresh dill, minced, plus more for garnish
- salt and pepper
- hot sauce (optional)
- First off, trim the woody ends off of the asparagus stalks and put the ends into a 4 quart saucepan. Add the quartered onion and 1 tsp. salt. Add 8 cups of water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the broth cook down for 30 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to around 5 cups.
- Meanwhile, separate the asparagus tips from the stalks. Chop the stalks into 1/2 inch thick pieces, and slice the tips in half.
- Whisk the cornstarch into the cream and set aside.
- Once the broth is reduced, strain the broth into a bowl. Wipe out the saucepan.
- Melt the butter in the saucepan, over medium-high heat, and add the chopped onion. Cook until it’s softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes, and then add the garlic and mustard. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any browned bits, and allow to cook until the wine evaporates.
- Add the broth back into the saucepan, along with the potatoes and 1 tsp. salt.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 6-10 minutes.
- Using a potato masher, mash about half of the potatoes against the side of the saucepan.
- Whisk the softened mascarpone cheese into the chowder, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in the cornstarch-cream mixture, and continue to simmer, whisking, until the chowder thickens a bit, about 2 minutes more.
- Add the asparagus tips and stalks, and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the chopped dill, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Season to taste, and serve garnished with more dill and a few dashes of hot sauce, if you desire.