Serves eight to 12
3 pounds fresh asparagus, preferably of medium thickness, rinsed
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 cup chopped shallots
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1 cup chopped leeks, whites only, well rinsed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
8 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup shaved or finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish
1. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about six inches above the coals for four or five seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat a large vegetable grilling basket or fine-mesh grill screen with oil.
2. Drain the apple wood chips and keep them near the grill.
3. Trim any woody asparagus ends. Spread the asparagus in the grilling basket or on the grill screen; place on the grate directly over the heat and grill until the asparagus is charred on all sides yet still firm, about five minutes, using tongs to turn the spears as needed.
4. Move the asparagus to the indirect-heat side of the grill. Scatter the drained wood chips onto the coals. Close the grill lid. Smoke until the asparagus turns just barely soft, about five minutes.
5. Transfer the asparagus to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut the spears into ½-inch pieces, reserving the tips separately.
6. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the shallots and leeks, stirring to coat. Cook for about three minutes, until tender, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the asparagus pieces (not the tips), salt, white pepper and the broth; cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is quite tender. Remove from the heat.
7. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth.
8. If serving right away, return the puréed soup to the pot. Stir in the cream and cook over medium-low heat until warmed through.
9. Divide among individual bowls. Garnish with some of the asparagus tips and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Nutritional information per serving (based on 12): 120 calories, 5 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar
Adapted by The Washington Post from a 2003 episode of Emeril Lagasse’s “Emeril Live” show titled “Do Ahead Party.”