I realize that the words "spring" and "chowder" seem to be going in completely different directions, but hear me out. I normally think "chowder" and my stream of consciousness goes something like this: sausage, hearty, fall, cozy. I think spring and the words "light, sunny, flowers, fresh" come to mind. How do we reconcile these things? For me at least, the solution was...leftovers.
My sister had a baked potato BONANZA fundraiser last week: hence the leftovers. We took home a large ziploc bag of cooked broccoli florets as well as several baked potatoes. What to do with these giant things? I did what I usually do for inspriation. Go to the grocery store when I'm hungry. I picked up some milk, heavy cream, and (believe it or not) asparagus.
For those that don't know my dislike of asparagus, here it is. My Grandpa Floyd had a great big garden, and one of the things that he would always grow was, you guessed it, asparagus. Sounds great, right? A grandpa sharing his lovely home-grown vegetables with his kinfolk. Wrong! This is a vegetable that I DO NOT like. Not to mention the added pressure from my parents (asparagus-lovers) that "Grandpa grew this fresh, you should eat some!". Sorry folks, not my thing. So due to that, I've avoided that veggie like the plague.
Until...they were roasted. I went over to a family friend's house for dinner, and when given the menu report I heard the vegetable on the menu was asparagus. Well...I should be polite I suppose. I will eat a few bites and then quickly move on to the other offerings. I was sorely mistaken. This asparagus was roasted on parchment paper in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. My whole asparagus world changed that day.
Back to the chowder. I had determined that I would use the potatoes and broccoli to make some type of chowder. But I wanted a little extra. So, I grabbed that beautiful asparagus, roasted it in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, and went to work. The result was a hearty, yet healthy solution to my leftover dilemma. It resembled a homemade "cream of" soup, but with some nice substance added in. Creamy, light, but somehow still rich because of the broth. And a little zip to boot.
2 large potatoes, baked and chopped into bite-size pieces (I left the peels on, do whatever you want)
2 c broccoli florets, cooked
1 c asparagus, roasted (see below)
1/8 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c milk
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or go bold and add some more!)
Salt and pepper to taste
(you will also need an immersion blender, or a regular blender will work fine)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place asparagus on parchment paper (easy clean-up!) and drizzle with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and some freshly grated parmesan (the more the better for me...in the oven it turns into an AMAZING thing!). Roast for 15 minutes, allow to cool and then chop into bite-size pieces (about 1 c).
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Put the 2 remaining tbsp of olive oil in the pot and roast the garlic until "california tan" (thanks, Guy Fieri for that term!). Add the butter and flour in equal parts and allow the flour to "cook" for a minute to get rid of the "floury" taste. Stir to incorporate the butter and flour together. Ta-da, a roux! Turn the heat down to med-low and add the heavy cream. Note how the roux thickens the cream...it will do the same thing when you add the milk. Toss in half of your potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus. Slowly add about 1 c of milk and allow the mixture to heat up and thicken.
Time to immerse and blend! If you are using a stand blender, take care not to burn yourself while pouring the mixture in and out of the blender. Blend to a smooth puree...this is the "cream of" part I was referring to.
To this creamy broth add the rest of the potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus. Add your seasonings and the rest of the milk, and keep on medium heat until everything is up to the same temperature (tip: err on the side of too runny for the broth...the potatoes can act as a thickening agent, and leftovers always thicken up as well).
Serve with some bread to sop it up, and enjoy!