It’s funny how you’ve eaten a vegetable for years and thought you knew it reasonably well, and then you change venues and discover that it actually looks completely different there? That was my experience with asparagus. The area I come from is a big asparagus growing region. From late April through May, you can buy asparagus literally everywhere, and people do excursions to buy it or just go someplace and eat it. The kind you exclusively see there is WHITE. It basically looks like ivory. And consequently in my mind, asparagus was always WHITE until we moved to the States.
Here I discovered that asparagus is actually GREEN (duh!), and later an asparagus-growing friend explained to me that the white ivory color is typically achieved by covering the emerging asparagus in dirt, which prevents it from building chlorophyll. It’s apparently fairly tricky to do (which explains the horrendous prices you sometimes have to contend with in Germany), and so here people usually don’t bother. Also, you have to peel your asparagus no matter what, where the green kind you can typically eat “as is”.
Just like with other foods one is used to from the Heimat, people start to obsess about them if they aren’t available elsewhere. I vividly recall what could be referred to now in the age of Facebook as a German flash mob when a local grocery chain had WHITE asparagus on its shelves a couple of years ago. People descended on the local store and bought it by the case. [Here’s what my friend Kiri, a fellow German blogger, had to say about this veggie a few weeks ago.]
Personally, I’m so used to the green stuff now that I no longer crave the white variety, but every once in a while I can’t help myself. When that same store had white asparagus a couple of weeks ago, I bought three pounds and went to work.
In my region you simply cook it in salt water and typically eat it with pancakes and preferably Black Forest ham, raw and cooked, covered with an Hollandaise sauce made with the broth from the vegetables. It’s a simple, but very delicious affair.
Have you had white asparagus before? How did you like it? Do you prefer the green variety instead?
- clarified butter
- chopped chives for garnish
- 1½ tablespoons* flour
- 3 tablespoons* asparagus broth
- 1 teaspoon* vinegar
- 1 teaspoon* lemon juice
- 5 egg yolks
- ½ liter (2 cups) asparagus broth
- 90 g (6½ tsp) butter, cut into small flakes
- Peel the asparagus carefully. Be sure not to break the stalks. Cut off the ends where the asparagus was severed originally, they tend to dry out.
- Bring about 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add salt.
- Bundle about 1 lb of asparagus each with a plain, white cotton yarn. Carefully place them in the boiling water and cook just to the point where they are tender but still have “bite”. This takes about 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus.
- Turn them onto a warming plate, remove the yarn and pour a little bit of clarified butter on top. Serve garnished with chopped chives.
- In a double boiler, combine the flour and first part of the liquid. Stir until it forms a smooth paste.
- Add the vinegar and lemon juice.
- Slowly add the egg yolks.
- Add salt and rest of the asparagus broth.
- Slowly mix in the butter.
- Place a few slices of ham on a pancake, top with a few asparagus and roll in. Ladle the Hollandaise on top & enjoy!