White Asparagus - King of Spring
I always love how different fruits and veggies signal the arrival of different seasons - asparagus for spring, cherries for summer, pumpkins for fall. Springtime is so wonderful because in addition to warmer weather and flowers, there is so much access to fresh local produce.
Bright, crisp, and clean, asparagus always feels to me like the epitome of spring cooking. It is particularly esteemed in France, where it often goes beyond a simple side dish. Each region of France has its own traditional preparation of asparagus. The North typically serves it with a classic, creamy hollandaise and in the South - a flavorful mustard vinaigrette. It is such a versatile vegetable, and while it stands alone with a drizzle of sauce, it is often served with prosciutto slices and a poached egg, or with parsley and shavings of comté.
In France the white varietal is one of the most revered spring treats - more plump and juicy, with a milder, sweeter flavor than its green counterpart. It must be grown and harvested completely underground, as it is exposure to the sun which produces the vegetable’s vibrant green color. White asparagus is something of a novelty in America, and difficult to find except for a few short weeks at your local farmer’s market each spring. It’s visually unusual but completely familiar in terms of flavor, making it a unique dish to serve guests !
White Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
I won't lie - I'm a hollandaise novice so it took me a few tries to get this right ! I played around with a few different recipes and found that Julia Child's worked the best for me - so the one you'll find below is relatively close to hers. I found that it helps to add the butter to the egg mixture very slowly at first (by the spoonful) before increasing the amount. And if your hollandaise splits, the blog Cockles and Mussels has a great blog post HERE about how to rescue your sauce. It's a little intimidating because its preparation is so technical, but the simple, classic combination of asparagus with hollandaise is so delicious that it's well worth learning how to prepare it !
1 lb white asparagus
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp lemon juice
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
Trim ends of asparagus and peel spears with a vegetable peeler on a flat surface. Tie 1-2 bunches together with twine and boil for 8-10 minutes in a large pot of water. Remove string.
Whisk egg yolks and lemon in a heatproof bowl until thick and pale. Place the bowl over simmering water in a double boiler, whisking constantly until egg mixture is frothy and making sure the eggs don’t scramble. Remove from heat and add the melted butter slowly by the spoonful, whisking vigorously until butter is fully incorporated and sauce is thick. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and serve immediately !