Asparagus’s first shoots have been popping up all over fields and gardens in Southern California for the last few weeks. They are a food lover’s early Spring harbinger telling us Winter is almost done and soon our tables will be overflowing with morels, fava beans, ramps, Alaskan halibut and other culinary delights. It’s especially good news for those who live in parts of the country still buried under mountains of snow not believing that Winter will actually end soon.
I pre-ordered Michelin three star Chef Alain Passard’s highly anticipated vegetable book “The Art of Cooking with Vegetables” from Amazon as soon as it was offered. When it arrived, I leafed through it, loved the simplicity, then put it on a shelf and promptly forgot about it. That’s one of the problems facing a cookbook addict who owns more than 2,000 cookbooks. There ought to be a 12 step program for book hogs like myself who cannot refuse new releases. Just the other day I picked it up again and became enthralled with Passard’s recipe titled “Stand Up Asparagus”, a recipe genius in it’s simplicity though it sounds a tad like a dish DeNiro would have ordered in Goodfellas.
The recipe called for “the freshest possible asparagus with tightly closed tips and firm stalks” so on Sunday we went to the La Quinta farmer’s market and picked up a few bunches of just picked asparagus. I trimmed off the bottoms, wrapped them in buttered parchment and bundled them together with kitchen twine. I clarified 5 ounces of fresh sweet cream butter and put it into a one quart pot along with the asparagus bundles and slowly cooked it for 90 minutes on super low heat, basting every twenty minutes.
The result is asparagus nirvana. The stalks are perfectly cooked and tender with the tips still bright green with a light crunch. Alain suggests serving with a poached egg and all that delicious asparagus butter. Certainly you cannot go wrong with the classic combination but if you are adventurous and your arteries are not in imminent danger of clogging, you could poach an egg AND make a Hollandaise with the resulting asparagus butter. For those of us pushing the limit of rich dishes consumed over a lifetime of eating great food you may want to consider charging the defibrillator prior to tackling this dish!
Chef F… Eat till you bleed!