Asparagus is of course one of spring’s best treats. Whether steamed, roasted, or sauteed, everyone adores asparagus snuggled up to eggs or salty ham or even better, both! But my personal favorite is butttery asparagus, especially showered with toasted nuts. This soup puts a good amount of asparagus to creamy use, with brown butter and pecans to gild the lily. A squeeze of lemon and fresh chives keep the gilding in check.
A soup this silky smooth and pretty seems fussy or even fancy, but it’s really quite simple to pull together, 30 minutes from start to finish. Given that temps are reaching 90 degrees today, you could eat it chilled with a dollop of Greek yogurt or creme fraiche, with a crisp salad (that includes salty ham and/or a soft-cooked egg!) and welcome spring in style.
Asparagus Soup with Pecans & Brown Butter
2 1/2 lbs. asparagus spears
6 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks, pale green & white parts only, sliced thin
4 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more, to taste)
2 Tbsp. minced chives
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
Trim the woody ends from the asparagus spears. Cut the tips from the spears, reserving 1 cup of spears in a small bowl. Cut the remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.
Heat 2 Tbsp. of butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot. When butter is hot, add asparagus, shallots, garlic, and leeks, along with a generous pinch of salt, and saute until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
Add stock to vegetables and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes.
Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, with cream. Return soup to pot, stir in lemon juice and salt to taste. Keep warm.
Heat remaining 4 Tbsp. of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and toast until both the pecans and butter are browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer pecans to a plate and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Add reserved asparagus tips to pan and saute, over medium heat, until warmed through and a bit browned, about 4 minutes.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with pecans, chives, and spoonfuls of asparagus spears, drizzling a bit of the butter onto the soup as well. Serve immediately.