I recently returned from a vacation to Germany where I am originally from, and I had the amazing opportunity to spend time with my siblings for an entire month. Of course, we cooked a lot and since it's now in season in Germany, one of our go-to vegetables was white asparagus.
While white asparagus season just started in Germany, you can also find it here in the United States during early Spring. On my trip, I was able to find a wide variety of asparagus, both from local farms and imported from Greece. It brought back memories from my time in culinary school in Germany many years ago where we used white asparagus quite frequently.
I've also seen white asparagus regularly at my local Whole Foods in Chicago. White asparagus is the same plant as green asparagus, but it lacks color because it's grown underground. The stalks are covered with soil as they grow, so they don't undergo photosynthesis. There's another other big difference: before cooking, you'll need to peel away the stalks' thick, bitter skin. Because of this, I recommend selecting medium-sized stalks since you'll lose some volume to peeling. It's important to have a good peeler and make sure you go all around the asparagus spears, getting that first layer off.
Once you have peeled the asparagus, prepare the cooking process. You want to have a pot with water, some sugar, salt and about half of a squeezed lemon, bring the water to a boil, place the asparagus in the pot, and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes under low heat. The exact cooking time will depend how thick your pieces are - if they are pencil size, you will want to cook them less. Cook the asparagus until it is soft but still has a bite to it.
I love to serve white asparagus with boiled potatoes and a hollandaise sauce. I love this dish because it is easy to make and works great for a quick lunch. You can also pair the asparagus with a grilled steak or piece of fish or use it as an ingredient for a salad with a quick and easy vinaigrette.
If you are wondering why you should try white asparagus instead of just sticking with green asparagus, it's because white asparagus has a milder taste. Regardless of color, asparagus is very good for you. Both types are heart healthy, are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin A, C, and E, and both are a great source of fiber, vitamin 12 and nutrients.
As I mentioned before, I love pairing white asparagus with a classic hollandaise sauce, which is one of the five Mother Sauces in French cuisine. This rich butter sauce pairs well with any vegetable to make a complete side dish. You can add fresh herbs to the hollandaise, such as fresh tarragon, and you have transformed it into a Béarnaise sauce. I've shared our classic recipe here, though we also teach a shortcut Hollandaise version in many of our classes.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 3/4 cup
Active time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 15 minutes
2 egg yolks
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1 stick butter, melted and kept slightly warm
Dash cayenne pepper
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Steamed asparagus, to serve with sauce
- Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a saucepot. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and water in a large stainless steel bowl.
- Place the yolk mixture over the simmering water, and whisk constantly until warm and slightly frothy. Remove from the heat.
- Add the warm butter in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly, as the butter emulsifies into the sauce.
- If the sauce is becoming too thick, whisk in a bit of warm water to thin it out.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne and lemon juice.
We have lots of ideas on how to use spring produce in our upcoming classes at Lincoln Square. Plus, the farmers markets are kicking off this week, so it's the perfect opportunity to support your local market and procure some seasonal produce. Join us for Hands-On Spring Dinner Party this Saturday, May 7 at 6pm at Lincoln Square. There's only two spots left, so snag them now!
If you can't join us this weekend, mark your calendars for the same class coming up on Saturday, June 4 at 6pm at Lincoln Square. You'll make:
- Mixed Green Salad with Radishes and Goat Cheese
- Herb Crumb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Parsley-Mint Pesto
- Risotto with Peas and Parmesan
- Strawberry-Almond Cake with Whipped Cream