white asparagus as large as logs and lighting your fire:
roasted white asparagus with browned butter
(asperges blanches rôti au beurre noisette)
Greetings from Paris where it is raining off and on but quiet as the tourists have not yet arrived and the children are still in school. The calm before the storm. It is business as usual and joyfully I am left to pick up where I left off and nothing here – the daily urban Paris life that I so love – has changed except for the market displays. Every market, from the neighborhood and open air markets to the Casinos (grocery stores), is prominently displaying end of the season white asparagus. They cannot be ignored. It is a combination of these hand-picked treasures and a cover of a Door’s song which inspired this week’s (very) simple pleasure: roasted white asparagus with browned butter (asperges blanches rôti au beurre noisette).
Like a moth to a flame, who is not drawn to white asparagus that resembles a log in terms of size? It is enough to make a girl blush and I believe I did when I asked my grocer to give me a dozen (the look on his face was certainly priceless but maybe I was just being sensitive).
White asparagus, often referred to as “white gold,” is more tender and less bitter than green asparagus. They are low in calories and high in vitamins. The reason these white asparagus are so large is because the harvest of this spring crop is delayed to the very end of the season before summer (when it will be too hot and the vegetables will decline). Generally speaking the larger a vegetable grows the less taste it has (zucchini is a good example it is watery and flavorless the bigger it gets). However, that is not true with white asparagus; it remains tender and flavorful.
White asparagus is more expensive than green asparagus and in the classification of what I call a “high maintenance” vegetable due to the special attention it requires. White asparagus must be covered while growing (the absence of light keeps them white otherwise they would produce chlorophyll and become green). This is typically done by piling the dirt up the sides of the asparagus to hide it from light. To harvest, white asparagus must be cut at its base, one by one, with a long asparagus knife that allows you to cut it at the base of the stalk. Labor intensive, yes; however, a little high maintenance can be so worth it.
I must confess I went slightly crazy puréeing, slicing, macerating, blanching, steaming, dicing the white gold that was now everywhere in my kitchen. It was then that a cover of the Door’s song “Come on Baby Light my Fire” came over the radio and that pointed out the obvious: these log sized vegetables should simply be put over a lit flame and roasted because they need nothing more.
If you are fortunate to find the large stalks in your market, slice them in half before you put them in the oven (or they would take forever to cook and at 400 degrees, the outsides would brown too much before the interiors properly cook). Although white asparagus is most commonly served with hollandaise sauce, I find that a little nutty-smelling browned butter with a dash of fresh orange juice and Italian parsley goes well with the tender stalks (and it is easier for you to duplicate at home as well). White asparagus pairs well with most white fish, scallops, beef, and poultry. It is also wonderful and satisfying on its own and you really need nothing more (except maybe a fire extinguisher in the case things get too hot in your kitchen).
The recipe is in the companion post.
Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !