White asparagus is much more common here than green. Big, fat white spears are preferred and what one sees in the supermarkets.
Green asparagus has to be searched out from the few local farmers who grow it. White asparagus is everywhere.
Occasionally, I can also find violet asparagus, which is slim, white asparagus with a purple tip.
Our preferences are green, then the violet. I’ve had white asparagus that was wonderful but I’ve never managed it myself. I try from time to time, but it always ends up a bit tough and stringy.
This year our favorite farmer ran out of green asparagus early in the season.
It was time to try my hand at white again. I elbowed my way into the crowd by the basket of white asparagus and pretended I knew what I was doing. I made my selection, went home and did the next logical thing….. Consulted Julia Child.
According to her, she, and her cohorts tested all possible ways to cook asparagus and found none that worked better then the traditional French method: boil it.
I’ve steamed, fried, braised, roasted and grilled asparagus…. But boil it?
I’ll boil it.
Not surprisingly, Julia was right.
White Asparagus with Butter and Chives
Total time: 30 minutes
- 12oz (360gr) large, white asparagus
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 tbs fresh, snipped chives, regular or garlic or mixed
- Cut off ends of asparagus, making thin slices until the knife goes through easily..
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel from just below the tip to the bottom until all the stringy bits are gone. It’s best to lay it flat on the counter as they break very easily.
- Bring a large pan (pasta pan) 3/4 full of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add asparagus and boil gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Use a tongs to grab a spear and test with a sharp knife. The knife should go in easily.
- When done remove asparagus (tongs) to a plate.
- Empty pan and return to low heat or no heat.
- Melt butter.
- Add asparagus, chives and turn asparagus to coat.
- Remove to a small platter, add pepper and serve.
Julia Child suggested peeling with a knife and taking about 1/16th of an inch off. I used a vegetable peeler, but did use it rather aggressively.
Don’t ‘snap’ off the ends like you do green asparagus. White asparagus tends to be brittle and snaps easily, having nothing to do with the woody ends. Trying to snap it off will waste a lot and peeling makes almost the entire spear tender. Slice the ends off, and continue making thin slices until the ends look moist and fresh. My spears were 10 – 11 inches long and I took off less than an inch.
Cooking time will vary according to thickness, but peeled asparagus cooks faster than unpeeled. Test it so as not to overcook….. But do cook sufficiently.
I fried it lightly in butter for a few minutes to add both flavor and color.
We have been converted.
Next time: Hollandaise!