Barbara Kafka

White Asparagus With Hollandaise Sauce


In Venice last summer I met the lovely and distinguished scientist Dr. Quigg while eating at a street side restaurant. He’s just sent me a photo (see blog) of his recent asparagus eating adventure in Germany, which inspired me to post a recipe for this classic combination.

Basic Asparagus preparation:
Hold the asparagus stalk in both hands and break off the stem end. The stem will automatically break at the correct place, removing the rough end. Place asparagus on the work surface and run a vegetable peeler down all sides of the stem from just under the tip to the end. Repeat with remaining spears.

Cooking White Asparagus:

I generally cook asparagus in a microwave oven—fast and impeccable. Alternatively, with white string, I tie them into even bunches and boil them uncovered in lots of salted water until the point of a knife just slips into the fat end. Pick them up by the strings; move them onto a cloth-lined plate and cut the strings. Remove from the cloth when completely drained.

BOILING: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop in prepared asparagus. Cook 10 minutes. Reduce heat to a low boil. Cook another 10 minutes until asparagus is very tender. Rinse under cold running water if serving cold or in a salad. For jumbo white asparagus, 1 inch thick, cook 20 minutes at a rolling boil, then 10 minutes at a low boil. Rinse under cold running water if serving with an enriched vinaigrette (page 000).

STEAMING: Place prepared asparagus in a single layer in a covered basket. Steam 1 hour or until meltingly tender.

Arrange 2 to 3 layers deep in a glass loaf pan. Add 3 tablespoons water. Cover tightly. 1 pound bunch, peeled and trimmed = 10 minutes at 100%.
Carefully uncover it as soon as it comes out of the oven; wrapped, the asparagus will continue to steam and can overcook very quickly.

Hollandaise Sauce:
The classic accompaniment to fresh asparagus, this is wonderful with other vegetables, over fish, and as an essential ingredient to Eggs Benedict. It can be varied as mayonnaise can, with fresh herbs, curry powder, and different glazes. Instead of eggs Benedict, consider artichoke bottoms filled with creamed spinach topped with a poached egg and slathered with the sauce.

1 pound unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Keep hot over low heat.

Place egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Turn the machine on and let it run for 90 seconds.

With machine still running, slowly but steadily pour ot butter through the feed tube. The sauce will thicken until it has the consistency of mayonnaise. When all the butter has been added, pour in the lemon juice through the feed tube. Stop the machine.

Scrape the sauce into a serving bowl and serve immediately. If you are not ready to serve, keep the sauce warm in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Do not let it get too hot or the butter will separate out of the sauce.

Makes about 2 cups

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