Soup is my favorite. If I were a poet, I would probably write an Ode To Soup at least once a week. But I am not a poet and besides, Lewis Carroll had already said it all in Alice, so I can only adore soup through cooking and devouring vast quantities of it. Lucky for me, my family thinks soup is great, too. Maybe they aren’t into soup-worshiping and all that, but they definitely enjoy soup. A lot.
One of the reasons soup making is awesome is that your soup pot is very forgiving and accepts everything with an open heart. See for yourself:
Got past-their-prime vegetables that look limp and wilted? Love them.
Got ham bones, mutilated roast, ham and deli scraps? Come on in!
Rotisserie chicken parts no one desires on their plate? Welcome any time!
Odd quantities of grain, legumes, a few tablespoons of rice? Totally works!
Mother load of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers you feel guilty about throwing out? Absolutely!
Dried out hard cheese chunk? Hello, gorgeous!
Unwanted baby toys, old magazines, broken coat hangers?…
Well, I got carried away here for a second, but you get the picture — soup will take in all the misfits and rejects from your fridge and pantry (provided they are not rotten) and turn them into something utterly beautiful, purposeful, soothing, highly desirable, and lipsmackingly delicious.
And you don’t have to possess mad culinary skill to put it all together. Chop and boil slowly, that’s your soup mantra for the day. And if it doesn’t look very attractive after boiling, do not despair: remove the bones if there were any and pour it all into the blender. Hit “puree” and relax. Then return it all into a pot, add 1/2 cup of cream or half-and-half and warm through (don’t boil), and you’ll get the most beautiful concoction you ever had.
Yes, yes, how do you think you end up with soup-de-jour in a restaurant? They make soups with whatever they have extra of.
And you will love it! Because soup pot accepts and forgives and transforms all, and gives all a new life. I don’t want to make any sacrilegious parallels here, but doesn’t the whole concept sound familiar?
Creamy Asparagus Soup With Homemade Croutons
For the soup:
- 1 tbsp butter
- 4-5 oz bacon scraps, chopped into 1/4″ bits
- 2 leeks, dark greens removed and reserved for later. They can be frozen.
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
- 1 bunch of asparagus, roughest parts of the stems removed, chunked
- 3-4 medium size potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 4-6 cups stock — chicken, beef, mushroom or vegetable — your choice
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tbsp salt
- 10-15 peppercorns of your favorite color
- 1 bay leaf
- thyme sprigs, if you have them
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cream or half-and-half
- fresh herbs for that extra “gourmet” touch
For the croutons:
- 4-5 slices of substantial bread, sourdough is best
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ground spice mix, whatever you have (optional)
Make croutons. They’ll be ready at the same time as your soup. Stack your bread slices neatly, and using a bread knife, cut them into small dice. Put a sheet of foil on a baking sheet or in a baking pan, pour 1 tbsp of olive oil on it. Put the croutons over the oil and roll them around gently to coat them with oil lightly. Sprinkle dry spices over.
Set your oven to 250F, place the baking pan into the oven and forget it until you are done with soup.
Melt butter in a soup pot or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Drop in the bacon chunks and cook for good 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are nicely browned and fragrant.
Cut leeks in half lengthwise, rinse the dirt out (there will be dirt, rest assured). Slice the leek halves across fairly thinly.
Add leeks, chopped carrots and celery to the bacon, and saute for a few minutes, stirring once in a while, until vegetables wilt and soften, and become fragrant.
Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, stir to coat and saute for another minute or so, until flour is translucent and creamy.
Add wine (or stock), stir well for a minute.
Add the remaining stock, chopped potatoes and asparagus.
Bring to a boil. Add all pepper, salt, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover the pot snugly and boil for 25-30 minutes without opening. Remember we aren’t going for looks here, we are on a mission of maximum flavor extraction. Potatoes should be easily squashed with a spoon at this point.
Remove croutons from the oven, they should be beautifully browned and crunchy by now. Leave them on the baking tray to cool and harden.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme twigs from the soup pot.
Carefully ladle the soup into a blender and puree until creamy and uniform. You may have to do it in batches. It usually takes 2-3 batches for me.
Return pureed soup into the pot. Add cream or half-and-half and stir. Warm through for a minute or so, but do not boil.
Ladle into soup bowls or cups, and serve with croutons and fresh chopped herbs. Drop croutons into the soup a few pieces at a time, to keep them from becoming soggy.
You can make this soup with other meaty vegetable as protagonist — put broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, cabbage, artichokes in place of asparagus, or just double the amount of leeks and use no asparagus at all — the method will be the same.