White Asparagus, Part One

Chilled White Asparagus with Herbed Hollandaise

Although you can seemingly get asparagus ten months out of the year in Southern California, it is at the height of its season now, starting in mid-April and running two months or so until the weather gets hotter. Nothing says spring more to me than crisp green asparagus. Steamed, sauteed, grilled, roasted, chilled — I love it all!

That being said, white asparagus is even more exciting. Sweeter, milder, meatier in a way, and more rare, white asparagus has a gentle elegance that the green stuff lacks. It makes marvelous soups, is lovely roasted, and in the following recipe absolutely stunning. This dish, chilled white asparagus with an herb-laced hollandaise, is simple and divine. Blanching and chilling the asparagus gives it a delightful silky texture, and the addition of the hollandaise is classic luxury epitomized. Makes a killer side dish for brunch or lunch. 
White Asparagus is Sublime
Domestic white asparagus is available all over these days, and some decent stuff comes from South America. I’m lucky that a good friend of mine, Martin, a excellent French chef, gets every spring a couple of deliveries of huge white asparagus from France. It’s truly delicious. 
If you’re not as connected as I am, try this recipe with the best white asparagus you can find. You can certainly make this with large green asparagus as well, and perhaps the result will be less refined, but it will still taste fantastic!

You’ll need:

1 pound of jumbo white asparagus
1/4 – 1/2 cup cup of herbed hollandaise, recipe below

Do this:

Snap off the bottom 20% of the asparagus and peel it, from just behind the tips down to stem end. The outside layer is quite fibrous so remove it evenly all over. Simmer the asparagus in lightly salted water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. If you wish, add some chicken stock and a pinch of sugar to the blanching water

Remove asparagus, drain gently, and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour.

Place chilled asparagus on a plate and top with warm hollandaise.

Eat up!

Herbed Hollandaise Sauce

This recipe makes a lot more than you’ll need. Use it for other things, like poached eggs or baked filet of sole. 
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice, at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon minced tarragon
1/2 teaspoon minced chives
1/4 teaspoon salt
big pinch of white pepper
room temperature water
Set up a double-boiler. That’s going to be a medium-sized pot with a stainless steel bowl that fits in the top comfortably. Use a deep enough pot so that the bowl has at least four inches of clearance below it. Fill the pot with 2 inches of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Put the egg yolks and cream into the bowl. Whisk gently together. Placed bowl over the simmering water and whisk consistently (but not too vigorously) until the eggs have thickened slightly. If the eggs get a little clumpy you can add a teaspoon or so of water to thin it out, whisking until smooth.
Now add butter, a few chunks at a time, until it melts. You need to whisk constantly after each addition in order for the butter and eggs to emulsify (combine smoothly). When you’ve whisked in all the butter (which should take about six to eight minutes) add the lemon juice and herbs and whisk it in until smooth. Add salt and pepper. Now check your consistency. Your hollandaise should be smooth, not too thick, and it should flow. If it seems dense, whisk in a tiny bit of water.
Now, set aside the bowl of hollandaise (off the double boiler) until you’re ready to use it. Keep your pot of water at the ready. You can replace the bowl over the water, turn the simmer back on, and reheat your hollandaise just before you’re ready to assemble. Again, when you reheat the sauce, if it thickens too much, whisk in a bit of water to thin and smooth it out.

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