ASPARAGUS ARE POPPING THROUGH THE GROUND this week in NW Michigan. Our region has several farms that are devoted to these springtime gems. The plants survived a long winter and especially cool spring and are now at roadside stands. They should be available for over a month, well into June.
This last weekend was the fifteenth annual Asparagus Festival in the village of Empire devoted to everything that is asparagus. For $5 you are admitted to the festivities. From the past, I recall some person on stilts donning a patch-worked green costume resembling an asparagus and deftly following the volunteer fire department’s vintage tanker truck. This year my lady and I visited Joe’s Friendly Tavern enjoying their version of Asparagus Soup served with a couple beers. They had a hint of Tarragon in their recipe which was very nice.
Empire was an old logging port just off the M-22 Scenic Highway. There are only remnants of the 19th century logging venture. You can still see black and white photos here and there showing trains and ships being loaded with virgin lumber to be sent down the big lake. For decades Chicago residents were rebuilding their city destroyed from Mrs. O’Leary’s mishap while milking her cow.
Empire today boasts artisan shops, antiques and ice cream concessions; down at the lake is a memorable sandy beach with swings and picnic areas. It is the archetypical Michigan village at its best.
Simple Asparagus Soup
2 Lbs. FRESH Asparagus (Norconk’s)
Big onion chopped
Two russet potatoes peeled and diced
Half and Half / 8 oz.
Salt and Pepper
Even as fresh as these asparagus were I used the cut ends (about 3 inches) to make a fifteen-minute stock in my soup pot boiled in a quart of water then I discard them. I then added a quart of chicken stock, the chopped onion, garlic, potatoes, the next third of the asparagus in one-inch slices, and simmered twenty-minutes. In the end, I add the chopped asparagus tips, milk, Tarragon, salt and pepper, and simmer for fifteen minutes.
I am a fan of immersion blenders, but this day I chose to leave all veggies as is. Voila, springtime in northern Michigan!