The asparagus season started early this year. Where in the past we had to be patient until at least mid-April, new techniques make it possible to harvest the first boys as early as March. Since I promised you a recipe before Easter, it had to be done today. Great, I’m looking forward to it.
In the context of never change a winning recipe we keep it classic, with an egg, ham and hollandaise. This full, creamy emulsion – if you ask me really the queen of asparagus sauces – is made from egg yolk, lemon juice and butter. It is in fact a warm mayonnaise, in which you can roll the asparagus as if in a velvet blanket. The butter must first be clarified, an often feared but really not that complicated process in which you remove the milk components and only have pure butter fat.
When it comes to preparing the asparagus itself, every cook has his own method. Mine is steaming. Very simple: you place the peeled asparagus in a steamer basket and hang it over a pan of gently boiling water. Cover, turn the heat to low and let it stand for about 15 minutes. The asparagus is done when you feel little resistance when you pierce the bottom part with a fork.
The advantage of steaming is that you limit the loss of taste and nutrients that always occurs when you prepare vegetables in water. If I have the time, I sometimes make a broth from the asparagus peels beforehand and steam the asparagus on top. This makes them even tastier and you also have a strong, double-drawn stock for soup or risotto. In the recipe opposite, we do this in one step, by immediately boiling the peels and cups in the steam water. So efficient.
But if you happen to own a nice tall asparagus pan, the kind in which the stems can stand up so that their delicate heads stay above water, forget about steaming and cook them in it. For example, you can do this for 1 minute, after which you let them cook for half an hour in the closed pan. Or cook for 5 minutes and simmer for 15 minutes. Or your own variation on these times. The only thing I don’t recommend is to cook the asparagus all the way through, 20 minutes or so, like in the old days. That makes them snotty and that is a shame for this white gold.