Monday, April 16, 2012

The Beautiful Bowl: Shrimp & Asparagus Soup

Shrimp & Asparagus Soup

There is a collection of recipes, each neatly written out by hand on card, in plastic sleeves, in a box in the hallway bookcase.  Old School. Quaint. They’re mine. I wrote them out, one by one, as I tried the recipes as a bride, back in the last century. It just kills me to say that.

If I hadn’t accidently knocked the box over, and picked this recipe for Shrimp and Asparagus soup up off the floor, I’d have probably passed from the planet without having made it again. That would have been a loss, we loved it so much, I probably served it as a first course for every holiday meal for two years straight.

The original version of this uses frozen asparagus cuts, half & half, and two cans of Cream of Asparagus soup. I have no idea where I found the original recipe (it has to date from the late 70’s) but it was so delicious, I knew I could remake it and still get all of the flavor. Actually, this version is better, and the flavor is brighter since it uses fresh asparagus, and doesn’t have that pasty taste you get from canned cream soup. I’ve replaced the canned soup, and the half & half with silken tofu. It adds no taste, but makes a thick, creamy substitute for the dairy and the flour. This soup is dairy free, gluten free, and if you want to leave out the shrimp (and its good!) vegetarian / vegan.

The big thing here is making a quick stock from the scraps and trimmings of the ingredients. There is HUGE flavor in them, and it really boosts the taste into the stratosphere. I do it all the time with vegetable bits and keep some in the fridge to use to pump up the flavor of soups, sauces or just to cook rice, pasta or other vegetables in it.

Shrimp & Asparagus Soup
Serves 4
Two Versions: the slightly fussy, pretty version, and the less pretty, less fussy version. The first version actually doesn’t take long to make, and the result is a gorgeous spring green soup studded with pink shrimp. You do eat with your eyes, after all. It makes for a beautiful bowl.  The less fussy version isn’t a really pretty green as is the version with the blanched asparagus. Both taste great!

1 lb. fresh asparagus, woody ends broken off, and reserved
¾ lb. Extra-Large Shrimp, cleaned, shells and tails reserved
1 bunch scallions, keeping the white and light green part, reserve the green tops and roots
1 Tblsp kosher salt

1 Tblsp safflower or canola oil
2 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 box shelf stable silken tofu (firm or x-firm)

Kosher salt

1. Make the stock from the trimmings: Place the woody asparagus ends, the shrimp shells and tails, the salt and the scallion trimmings in a small saucepan. Add water to just barely cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil, stir well, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Let cook for about 10 minutes.
Flavor boost: Quick stock from shrimp and vegetable trimmings

2. In the meantime, trim the tips off the asparagus, and set aside in a small bowl, then cut the remaining stalks into 1/3” to ½” pieces. Set aside in a separate bowl. Cut the scallions into ¼” rounds and set aside in another small bowl. 

3. Bring about 6 cups of water in it to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Salt it heavily— 2-3 tablespoons. Fill a medium bowl with half ice, half water and set near the stove. Drop the asparagus tips into the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or a skimmer to the bowl of ice water. Now drop the cut asparagus stalks into the boiling pot and cook for 3 minutes. While it cooks remove the tips from the ice water and put back into their bowl. This is your pretty bright green garnish for your soup.  Remove the asparagus cuts from the boiling pot, and shock in the ice bath. Remove the asparagus cuts to another bowl, and cook the shrimp in the salt water for 3-4 minutes, until they turn pink and opaque. Remove to a separate bowl and set aside.

4. Drain the hot salt water, rinse and dry the pan, and place over medium heat. Add the safflower oil and heat for a moment or two then add the scallion rings and the curry powder. Cook until fragrant and the scallions begin to soften. Add the sherry. Bring to a simmer.

5. Carefully strain in the stock from the pot with the shrimp shells into a bowl, and measure out 2-1/2 cups (add a little water if needed). Add to the scallions. Put in the asparagus cuts and cook until they begin to soften, also about 3-4 minutes. Carefully put the mixture into a blender container and add the drained box of tofu, and puree until smooth. You may also use a stick blender in the pan if you have one.

6. Taste for seasoning, add the shrimp, and serve immediately, garnished with the reserved asparagus tips. If you must reheat this soup, heat it very gently, just to serving temperature-- do not boil, or the tofu will curdle.

Note: You can “rescue” the soup if it curdles by skimming out the shrimp and asparagus tips, puree the hot soup again, and then add the shrimp and asparagus tips back in.

Serves 6

The much less fussy version:

Do steps 1 and 2 as above. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and cook the scallions and curry powder, add the sherry, and 2-1/2 cups of the shrimp shell stock.

Bring to a simmer, and add  the shrimp. Remove the shrimp when they are pink and opaque and set aside. Put in all the asparagus, tips and all and cook until it’s softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the tofu, drained and broken up, and puree either in a blender or with a stick blender in the pot.

Taste for seasoning, place the shrimp in the bowls and pour over the pureed soup. If you must reheat this, do not boil or the tofu will curdle. If it does curdle, see the Note above about rescuing the soup.

1 comment:

  1. wow GREAT recipe! when i started reading your post, about this canned recipe you read about I thought oh no what kind of recipe will this be! It turned out to be a brilliant recipe thank you very much!!! :)