This luxurious soup is one of my favorite first courses. To trim asparagus, hold a stalk and snap it at the point where it naturally gives easily. This eliminates the woody, tough end, while keeping the tender top, the best part.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
3 cups (about 8 ounces) sliced mushrooms
3 leeks (white parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
½ teaspoon curry powder
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons cold water
Salt and ground white pepper to taste
Steam the asparagus in a covered steamer over boiling water until crisp-tender. Or, put the asparagus in a microwave-proof dish and add about ¼ cup water. Cover tightly and microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Drain well; set aside.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Set aside.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and leeks; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder; stir for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetable stock, milk, and asparagus. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir occasionally as the liquid comes to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium.
Stir together the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl until smooth; stir into the soup. Cook, stirring constantly, until the soup is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Season to taste.
Top each serving with about 2 tablespoons of the corn-bell pepper mixture.
This soup is best the day it is prepared, but it will keep for up to 3 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. When reheating, stir in vegetable stock or milk to thin as desired.