Cream of Asparagus Soup with Crab and Watercress
2 bunches thin asparagus (about 2 pounds total)
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 quart whipping cream
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or water
Salt and ground black pepper
2 fresh-cooked Alaskan king crab legs (about 1 pound)
Small watercress leaves, stems removed
Snap off woody bases from asparagus; discard. Cut asparagus spears into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces. In 4-quart Dutch oven bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to boil. Blanch asparagus in 2 or 3 small batches for about 30 seconds each; transfer blanched asparagus immediately to ice-water bath to halt cooking process. (Allow water to return to boil between batches.)
After asparagus has finished cooling, set aside 12 to 18 asparagus tips to use as garnish. Allow excess water to drain from remaining asparagus.
In large saucepan, cook onions and thyme sprigs in hot butter over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; add wine. Return saucepan to heat; cook until wine has evaporated. Remove thyme; discard. Stir in cream. Bring just to boil. Transfer cream to large measuring cup; cool slightly. Place half of cooked asparagus and 1 to 2 cups slightly cooled cream in blender. Cover; blend until combined. Repeat with remaining asparagus and cream mixture. Transfer to bowl or return mixture to saucepan if serving warm. Stir in broth to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Cover bowl and chill at least 2 hours or cook and stir over medium heat until heated through.
For crab legs, twist legs at joint to remove meat, pulling meat from shell as you twist. (If some meat remains in shell, use kitchen shears to cut through shell; pull shell apart. Remove meat with seafood fork.) Coarsely chop meat.
If serving soup warm, heat reserved asparagus tips and crab meat in small skillet with 1 tablespoon water over medium heat until just heated through. To serve warm or chilled, ladle soup into bowls; garnish with crab, asparagus tips, and watercress. Makes 6 servings.