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White Asparagus and Ham Soup

White Asparagus and Ham Soup

  • Prep 10min
  • Total25min
  • Servings4

Ingredients

10

ozs white asparagus, rinsed

Salt and pepper, to taste

2

slices ham, sliced in strips

Steps

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  • 1

    Slice off any dried asparagus ends.

  • 2

    In a large saucepan over low-medium heat, combine chicken broth and asparagus. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Purée chicken broth with asparagus and run through a strainer.

  • 3

    In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in flour until ingredients have incorporated.

  • 4

    Add the asparagus puree slowly while stirring to avoid forming any lumps. Add heavy cream, salt, and pepper.

  • 5

    Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Serve in a bowl and top with strips of ham.

Expert Tips

  • You can add roasted Poblano pepper slices to the purée to make a spicy version.

Nutrition Information

No nutrition information available for this recipe

More About This Recipe

  • Coming up with quick and tasty dinner ideas can be a daunting task to add to your daily routine. In an effort to avoid the drive-thru, I decided to play with white asparagus and savory ham and came up with this creamy and filling soup. This asparagus and ham soup is easy to prepare and only takes about 25 minutes to make. It’s so creamy and warm, the kids won’t even know you’ve snuck in some veggies.

Asparagus Season is a culinary highlight in Germany. There are about 1600 asparagus farms in Germany. [source statistica.de] The start and the finish of the season is not set in stone, because it depends on the weather. If the spring weather is especially cold, the farmers tend to move the harvest back a few weeks. Generally, you can expect the start of the season to be between March and April.

The season is not very long and ends on the 26 th of June.

German white asparagus soup is called (Spargelsuppe) in German. Spargel is the German word for asparagus. Cream of asparagus soup, like this recipe, is called Spargelcremesuppe.

Where to find fresh asparagus in the UK and US?

Although white asparagus is grown widley in Western Europe it is not as popular in the UK and US. I found some online retailers who send them to you.

UK (I read that Morrisons supermarket sometimes sells white asparagus in season). Online retailers: Fine Food Specialist


Dutch White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Butter and Parsley Potatoes

White asparagus of very high quality are grown in the Netherlands, mainly in the Southern part, but the last decade asparagus farms can also be found in other parts of the country. The season is short, from the second half of April to the 24th of June, so at the moment asparagus are right in season. Because of the labour intensive method of growing and harvesting them and the small period of time they can be harvested, they are quite expensive, ranging from 8 to 12 euro per kilo. Actually nowadays asparagus can be bought the whole year, being imported from Peru. But the real deal is much better, Dutch asparagus deserve their nickname “white gold”, and freshness is very important for good asparagus. You can obtain the freshest asparagus by buying them directly from a farmer, they usually sell asparagus that are harvested that day. You can tell a fresh asparagus by its sheen, cutting surfaces that are not dried out and the squeaky sound they make when rubbed together.

Thicker asparagus are considered better, because asparagus need to be peeled really well to prevent them being tough and woody. With a thicker asparagus you will have more asparagus left after peeling. Also the bottom part is always cut of, because it is woody. It would be a shame to let these tasteful parts go to waste, therefore I always prepare a soup from them to serve as starter. Serving asparagus with cooked ham, cooked egg, molten butter and parsley potatoes is the traditional way of eating them, because these mellow, creamy flavours combine well with the asparagus. But they do well in all sorts of dishes, their taste is distinct, but very soft and delicate, so combining them with very strong flavours would be a waste. There are many restaurants in the Netherlands that serve asparagus in season in many different ways.

Nordic Fall Flavors at Manhattan’s Aquavit Restaurant

I think messing with the classics often doesn’t improve the dish, so I will stay with the classics. And I think it is blasphemy to buy asparagus that are kept artificially from spoiling flown in from Peru when you have such beautiful produce in your own country. You just have to be patient…. And with only eating asparagus in season, you will definitely not get bored of them!


White asparagus & strawberry

Once the white asparagus and strawberry season started in Germany, we bought necessarily ingredients, and I tried to cook it. As a base we made the classic white asparagus soup. I puree the strawberries and removed the seeds, to make the whole thing smooth. Soon after I was adding the puree to the soup, spoon by spoon, to find out what the right white asparagus soup and strawberry ratio would be. Although this task might seem simple, I struggled. The first time when I prepared this soup, I added so much of the strawberry puree that we couldn’t taste white asparagus. It’s because I like strawberry so much! At this point, I knew immediately that next time, I would need to be extra careful if I don’t want to kill the delicate taste of white asparagus.

The second time when I tried making this soup, the dish turned out much better. I still think that the taste of the soup depends on how sweet your base white asparagus soup (we are using wine and sugar to make it) is and how to the strawberries are. Therefore I would suggest to add the strawberry puree spoon by spoon and tasting it each time. The white asparagus and strawberry ratio that I found the most applying to my taste you will find the recipe below.


Peel the asparagus and cut off the woody ends. Cut the tips of the asparagus in half lengthwise and put them aside. Cut the sticks into pieces and dice the onion.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and sauté both over low heat. Season with salt, pepper and 1/4 tsp sugar. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer covered for 15 – 20 minutes. Puree finely, add the whipped cream and bring to the boil again. Flavour with salt, pepper and orange juice.

Slice the vanilla pod and scrape out the pulp with a knife. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a pan and fry the asparagus tips, the vanilla pulp and the small plucked Parma ham for 5 – 6 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and 1 pinch of sugar.

Arrange the soup with asparagus tips, Parma ham and wild garlic. And enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups Pepperidge Farm® Country Style Stuffing
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked cut asparagus (about a 9-ounce package if using frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed cooked ham
  • 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Asparagus Soup or Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 egg
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

Ingredients

  • Serving Size: 1 (482.7 g)
  • Calories 243.3
  • Total Fat - 16 g
  • Saturated Fat - 7 g
  • Cholesterol - 329 mg
  • Sodium - 1331.4 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate - 7.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber - 2.7 g
  • Sugars - 3.3 g
  • Protein - 18.1 g
  • Calcium - 108.1 mg
  • Iron - 4.4 mg
  • Vitamin C - 7 mg
  • Thiamin - 0.4 mg

Step 1

Sauté the onion in the butter until it's soft in the bottom of a 4-quart saucepan.

Step 2

Add the pieces of asparagus (minus the heads) and steam for 5 minutes.

Step 3

Add the broth and boil gently for about 30 minutes or until the asparagus is very soft.

Step 4

Puree the soup in batches in the blender (place a towel over the lid and hold down the lid, so the hot soup does not splatter) or with a hand blender and return the soup to the pan.


White asparagus soup

A springtime menu in Germany, Alsace, Austria or Switzerland may read as follows: white asparagus with smoked salmon, white asparagus with new potatoes, white asparagus with veal in morel sauce. The spargelkarte (white asparagus menu) always lists the white asparagus first, as the star attraction, while such glamorous foods such as lobster, veal and salmon are relegated to secondary roles, mere supporting actors.

What is it that gives this slender star its cult-like status? These rare white stalks have been regarded as delicacies for more than 2,000 years. As early as 200 BC, the Romans had how-to-grow instructions for white asparagus. They enjoyed it in season and were the first to preserve it by freezing: In the 1st century, fast chariots and runners took asparagus from the Tiber River area to the snowline of the Alps, where it was kept. Roman emperors maintained special asparagus fleets to gather and carry the choicest spears to the empire. The characteristics of asparagus were so well known that Emperor Caesar Augustus defined “haste” to his underlings as “quicker than you can cook asparagus.”

For Europeans today, white asparagus is celebrated not only for its rich, creamy, delicate flavor but also because it signifies the arrival of spring--warmer weather, sunshine, lighter clothes and lighter cuisine. Out with stew, cassoulet and choucroute garni. In with steamed white asparagus accompanying just about anything you can think of.

In German towns like Schliengen, where I’m from, the transformation seems to happen almost overnight. I remember going to bed one night and waking up the next morning to find Frischer Spargeln (fresh white asparagus) signs set proudly in front of every restaurant, a seemingly spontaneous act of defiant collusion as we shed ourselves of winter and ushered in the long-awaited spring.

The laborious effort of harvesting white asparagus begins daily at 5:30 a.m. It must be done in early morning or at the day’s end to avoid exposure to the sun, which would turn the asparagus green.

The long stretches of dirt mounds are covered with black plastic sheets, which prevent the white asparagus from developing chlorophyll and create a warming hothouse effect to encourage earlier readiness for harvest. When the plastic is removed, little cracks in the surface of the mounds give harvesters a hint of the asparagus’ whereabouts. Each individual stalk is partially dug free by hand before workers use special long-handled knives to cut them from the ground. Special care must be taken not to disturb other, unseen, stalks that are not yet ready to be picked.

The holes are then covered with the loose dirt and patted smooth with trowels in preparation for the next day’s harvest. Folklore has it that, at the height of the season, under perfect conditions, one can literally watch white asparagus grow.

The fields are used solely for white asparagus, which is harvested only from early April until the summer solstice in late June, after which, it is said, the fields must be allowed to rest for the next year’s production.

This backbreaking work, coupled with the relatively short season, makes white asparagus one of the most expensive vegetables on the market. It also explains why only the head chef or a trusted sous-chef is allowed to peel it. If it’s not peeled deeply enough, the asparagus can be stringy. If too much is peeled, you may be throwing away hundreds of dollars.

To peel white asparagus, start about one inch from the head and stroke downward to the end of the stalk, keeping the pressure constant. This is done gently all around the stalk, while taking care to support the spear so as not to break it. The shavings are then used for stock to make asparagus soup.

Steamed or blanched in water well-seasoned with salt, lemon juice, butter and a bit of sugar, the carefully peeled stalks of white asparagus reveal a burst of earthy, sweet and slightly bitter flavors, similar to what we have grown to love in vegetables such as radicchio, endive or arugula. Germans even have a word to describe this kind of flavor-edelbitter, which means a refined, good bitterness (it is also used to describe chocolate).

White asparagus’ texture is soft and creamy, with a slight stringiness and a silky weight. At its best, it reveals a profusion of buttery, earthy, nutty, juicy flavors that is best served plain or with such simple accompaniments as boiled new potatoes, smoked salmon, chopped boiled eggs, smoky Black Forest ham or morel mushrooms.

But even more than flavor, the arrival of white asparagus season symbolizes, for many Europeans, something of a small victory. It ushers out the dark, gray, cold winter season and sets the stage for a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables that extends clear into early winter, when the late-harvest Riesling grapes are picked. No other vegetable has that kind of an effect.


Recipe Summary

  • 2 pounds fat white or green asparagus, peeled and tied into 6 bundles, peels reserved
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 thin slices of smoked ham, such as Virginia ham or Black Forest
  • 1 cup shredded Comté or Gruyère cheese (1/4 pound)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch shallow baking dish. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a very large, deep skillet. Add the asparagus peels and salt the water. Add the asparagus bundles to the skillet and cook over high heat until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a platter and pat dry. Strain the asparagus broth into a large glass measuring cup.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups of the asparagus broth and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, lemon juice and nutmeg.

Remove the strings from the asparagus and loosely roll a slice of ham around each bundle. Transfer the asparagus and ham bundles to the prepared baking dish and pour the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake the gratin in the upper third of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.


  • 500g/1lb 2oz white asparagus
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 700ml/1¼ pints chicken stock
  • 70ml/4½ tbsp crème fraiche
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp dry fino sherry
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley, to garnish flakes

First peel each asparagus stalk from the tip to the cut end. Chop off the tips and set them aside, then cut the stalks into 1cm pieces.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat the shallot for about 5 minutes until translucent – don’t let it brown. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, keeping the tips aside, and sweat them gently with the shallot for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock and simmer until the stalks are very tender. This will take 20–30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Tip everything into a food processor and blitz until very smooth, then pour the soup back into the saucepan.

Bring the soup back to a simmer and add the reserved asparagus tips. Cook gently for about 5 minutes until the asparagus tips are just cooked through.

Mix the crème fraiche, egg yolks and sherry in a small bowl. With the pan off the heat, stir this mixture into the soup and continue to stir gently for a couple of minutes until the egg yolks have thickened the soup. Warm through over a very gentle heat, stirring constantly and taking care not to break up the asparagus tips.

Serve the soup garnished with a sprinkling of parsley and a generous slab of well-buttered German potato bread on the side. Phwoar!