In January 1791, James McHenry, a Maryland physician who had served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War, sent a "small parcel of asparagus . . . carefully packed up in dry earth" to the president, who assured McHenry that the vegetable had arrived "in very good condition". Because asparagus is an early-spring vegetable, the Washingtons would have been pleased to receive this edible wintertime gift. More than likely, it had been grown in a greenhouse or an orangerie, where vegetables and fruits were often cultivated during the cold months.

This asparagus soup was adapted by Culinary Historian Nacy Carter Crump from Mary Randolph's version in The Virginia House-Wife. 

 

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds asparagus, tips trimmed and reserved, and stalks cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 8 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 cup diced salt pork
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4/cup heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Directions

    1. In a large saucepan, combine the asparagus stalks with the broth, salt pork, onion, and white pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until the asparagus is very soft.

    2. Remove from the heat, strain the broth into a large bowl, and set aside to cool. Discard the salt pork. Using a potato masher or large metal spoon, crush the asparagus, and then press it through a sieve into the strained broth, mashing to extract as much pulp as possible.

    3. Return the broth and asparagus to the saucepan. Set over medium-low heat, cover, and bring to a simmer. Stir the asparagus tips into the soup, and simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes, until just tender.

    4. Combine the butter and flour to form a  paste. Add to the soup, stirring until well combined. Stir in the cream, and season with salt and additional pepper, if necessary. Simmer, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes until the soup thickens

    5. The soup can be served either hot or cold in a tureen.

    Makes 2 1/2 to 3 quarts

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