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Crab and Asparagus Soup

Serves 6 to 8

1 1-/-2 pounds asparagus
4 cups fish stock or clam juice
4 tablespoons butter
1-/-4 cup all-purpose flour
4 egg yolks
1 1-/-2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 pound back fin or special crab meat, picked over
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Ground white pepper to taste
Pinch of ground mace or freshly grated nutmeg

Cut off the tough bottoms of the asparagus stalks and discard. Cut off the tips and, in a small saucepan, cook in boiling water to cover until barely tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine remaining asparagus and fish stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer asparagus and stock to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to brown the flour. Remove pan from heat and stir in asparagus puree. Cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, combine the egg yolks and one cup of the cream in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until well mixed. Ladle out about one quarter of the soup and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture. Turn the heat under the soup to very low and slowly stir in the egg-cream mixture. Continue stirring until slightly thickened.

Add the crab meat, asparagus tips, and lemon juice. Simmer gently for several minutes. Do not let the soup come to a boil. Season with salt, pepper, and mace or nutmeg.

Lightly whip remaining 1-/-2 cup of cream. Serve the soup garnished with dollops of the whipped cream.

Source: Coastal Cooking with John Shields (Broadway, 2004)

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