Cream-of-[vegetable]-soups are usually about the simplest, low-fussest, brain-deadest things you can throw together. Saute an onion and maybe some garlic, throw in chopped veg and a diced potato or two, add broth and simmer, puree and add cream. You don't even really need a recipe.
For cream of asparagus, though, there's a little more pain and suffering involved. For you absolutely must peel the stalks. Yes. Otherwise the final puree will end up gummy, stringy, chewy and a bunch of other adjectives that sound like failed candidates for Snow White's dwarf crew.
And peeling asparagus stalks, if you've never before had the pleasure, is… well, kind of a pain in the ass. The stalks tend to snap, the strings are persistent, and oh my GOSH there are a lot of asparagus stalks in a bunch.
For that reason, I advise enlisting a helper. My eight-year-old will do. He's pretty good at it, fairly uncomplaining and not particularly demanding of high wages. If he's geographically or calendrically inconvenient, however, you can always grab the nearest hapless-looking child or partner or friend, stick a peeler in his/her hand (I recommend this one) and go for it. (Or just do it yourself. Get into that meditative headspace and ride the wave.)
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Serves six (my kids each had thirds) (!)
2 bunches of asparagus (about 2 pounds)
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 to 1 cup half-and-half or cream
Salt (which you may not need) and pepper (which you will need) to taste
Prepare the asparagus first: Snap off the tough end of each stalk. Trim off the tender tips–about 1"–from each stalk and reserve. With a vegetable peeler, peel each stalk to remove the thorny leaves and stringy skin. Chop peeled stalks into 1/2" pieces. Set aside.
In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and very tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, one minute more. Add potato and cook, stirring, just until glazed.
Add broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until potato is almost tender. Add chopped asparagus; return to a simmer and cook until asparagus is very tender, about 10 minutes more.
Puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor. Return to pot. Whisk in cream and heat through (do not boil) over medium-low heat.
While soup heats, briefly steam reserved asparagus tips and drain. (Two minutes in the microwave was perfect.)
Serve soup with steamed asparagus tips arranged decoratively atop each bowl.