Spring Asparagus Cheddar Soup

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From Nancy K. Allen, CCP, Chateau Chantal

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter, diced into bits
1 cup finely diced onion
2 cups finely diced asparagus, reserve the tips, slice them in half the long way
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/4 cup finely diced celery or fennel bulb
1/4 cup all-purpose flour or potato starch
3 tablespoons dry sherry
5 cups chicken broth
12 ounces shredded sharp cheddar, about 3 cups
2 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper

Instructions
In a soup pot, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion, asparagus, carrot, and celery. Cook these until the vegetables soften and begin to take on color, about 2 minutes. Add the flour or potato starch and cook it until it begins to stick to the bottom of the pot and color, about 2 minutes. Add the sherry, scraping the bottom of the pot, and let the sherry cook almost all away. Whisk in the chicken broth and white wine, scraping up the stuff on the bottom of the pot again. Bring the soup to a boil then lower it to a simmer and cook the soup for about 10 minutes, uncovered.

At this point you may puree the vegetables in a blender or with an immersion blender. Reheat the soup and drop in the asparagus tips. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Off the heat whisk or stir in the cheese slowly. Add the fresh thyme. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. If you reheat the soup, don’t boil it. Reheating may cause the fat from the cheese to separate.

Milk of the Gods
For traditional, rich cheese soup, omit the asparagus, use 3 cups chicken broth and 2 cups half and half. Simmer the vegetables and broth with a bay leaf.

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