White asparagus is a revered vegetable in France, marking the first blush of springtime. A cult food, emblematic of intensive farming practices and a ritualistic preparation of the unique vegetable. Grown underground to preserve the albino tinge and sweet taste of the asparagus compared to its acidic, pungent green cousin, the asparagus achieved cult-status in France after Louis XIV grew the temperamental vegetable in his green houses year long. Normally sprouting for a brief period in June, the vegetable is extracted from the earth with extreme care, ceremoniously peeled (known for the signature "vibration" within the stock as the tool strips away the thick skin to reveal the soft flesh interior). While other vegetables offer a variety of cooking techniques, the white asparagus is strictly boiled, often served with a creamy hollandaise sauce, and indulged upon like a true culinary delicacy.
How to Cook White Asparagus
- Cut off the bottoms, about 1-2 inches, or where the stem feels harder than the rest of the stalk
- Peel the outer hard skin. It might take a few layers of peeling to reveal the softer flesh
- Boil in salted water for 15-20 minutes until very tender
Traditionally, white asparagus is served with a rich hollandaise sauce, but my take offers a lighter substitute for this side dish. After boiling, as instructed above, I added the asparagus to the pan in which the main dish (meat in this case) was cooked in. You can also add it to a fresh pan of course, and sautéed the vegetable in the juices to inject it with added flavour and crisp the outside. Add a soft boiled egg (or quail eggs in this case) and drizzle with olive oil or balsamic vinegar.