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May 20, 2009

Arrows Restaurant Appetizer: Asparagus Soup with Lobster, Morels, and Chervil

This is the ultimate spring soup. Few dishes could make a more elegant start to a celebratory dinner. It is not hard to make, but be careful not to overcook the asparagus or it will lose its bright color and turn mushy. We enjoy the delicate look of chervil, and its aniselike flavor brightens this rich soup. Chervil takes about 6 weeks to grow from seed, but you can plant it quite early (a month before the last frost) or grow it indoors in pots on a sunny windowsill.

Asparagus Soup with Lobster, Morels, and Chervil
Arrows Restaurant, Ogunquit

Kosher salt
2 bunches (36 spears) large asparagus, tough ends trimmed
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 lobsters, 1¼ pounds each, steamed and shelled
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces morel mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
1 cup chervil sprigs, washed and dried

In a large pot bring 2 quarts water and 1 Tablespoon salt to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by filling a medium bowl halfway with ice water. Put the asparagus in the pot, return to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and submerge immediately in the ice water. As soon as the asparagus are completely chilled, remove from the ice water and wrap in a clean kitchen towel to dry.

Cut off the tips (about 1 inch) of 18 of the asparagus spears and set aside. Cut the rest of the asparagus in half and set aside.

In the jar of a blender, combine half of the asparagus (but not the reserved tips) and half of the stock and purée until smooth, about 1 minute. Push the asparagus purée through a sieve and to remove excess pulp. Repeat this process with the second half of the asparagus and stock. The asparagus purée can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Cut the lobster tails crosswise into ¼-inch medallions. Split each claw into 2 pieces by cutting across the flat side.

In a heavy saucepan whisk together the asparagus purée, cream, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon salt. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching the soup. When the soup is hot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. While the soup is heating, melt 4 Tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the morels and sauté, adding 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until all the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the lobster, reserved asparagus tips, and remaining 4 Tablespoons butter to the morels, then stir for a minute or so to warm everything through.

Ladle the soup into 6 warm bowls or soup plates. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, divide the lobster, morels, and asparagus among the 6 bowls. Garnish with the chervil sprigs and serve at once.

Serves 6.

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier are the chef-owners of Arrows restaurant in Ogunquit.

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