Playing around with Asparagus

1-stack2Asparagus, white and green, is popping up all around us here in Alsace – including a spear or three in our asparagus bed, which we planted this time last year and which I’m steeling myself not to pick – still another two years to wait till we can harvest them😦

Here’s a recipe I devised for a recent workshop on modern Alsatian food. It’s a bit of a fiddle, but if you like playing around with your food and you love asparagus, it’s a winner. Serve with a crusty sarment loaf and a Muscat d’Alsace (what else) – a 2011  Cuvée Marie from Zusslin in Orschwihr, for example, or for a real/rare treat, a 2010 Clos des Capucins from Domaine Weinbach.

GREEN AND WHITE ASPARAGUS STACKS WITH HERBY VINAIGRETTE 

Serves 6
500g each of white and green asparagus
coarse salt + a little olive oil for roasting
1 shallot, finely chopped
a good handful of mixed tender herbs (e.g. flat-leaf parsley, lovage, chives, tarragon)
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (sherry, white wine or cider)
salt and pepper
300g soft fresh goat’s cheese
6 thin slices prosciutto or smoked salmon
flat-leaf parsley to garnish

  • Peel the white asparagus making sure not to leave any tough strips of peel; trim the green
  • Put all peelings and trimmings in a saucepan with the stalks from the herbs, cover with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Strain this herby stock, put it back in the pan, bring to a boil and reduce to about a cup by fast boiling
  • Lay both sorts of asparagus in one layer in a roasting pan, sprinkle with a little olive oil and coarse salt and roast for 10-15 minutes in a 220oC oven or until a knife inserted in the thickest part feels tender (or boil them 10-12 minutes if you prefer)
  • For the herby vinaigrette, put chopped shallot, herbs, reduced stock, oil and vinegar in the blender and blend till smooth – season with salt and pepper to taste
  • To assemble the dish, cut the soft fresh goat’s cheese in very thin slices and arrange on each plate to make a base on which to set the asparagus stacks – this stops them wobbling about
  • Cut each asparagus spear in 3 pieces – if very fat, slice also in half lengthwise
    Arrange a layer of white asparagus on top of the goat’s cheese, then green (laid at right angles to them), then white (at right angles) and finally green (at right angles again)
  • Cut prosciutto/smoked salmon in thin strips and arrange over the asparagus stacks
  • Drizzle herby vinaigrette around and garnish with flat-leaf parsley

2 thoughts on “Playing around with Asparagus

  1. Dear Sue
    Sounds and looks great. But if you are a totally lazy asparagus preparer (like me), where is the best place to go for white asparagus in the Alsace? Thanks Wendy

    1. With you Wendy on the lazy asparagus bit…just one of my reasons for preferring the green: snap off the woody ends, throw them in a roasting pan with some crunchy salt and olive oil and roast for 10-15 minutes depending on size. OR, if you prefer white, nip across to Hieber, buy them there and their super-duper peeling machine will do the job for you. Not keen on eating watery white asparagus in restaurants, whether in Alsace or Baden – hardly a test of the chef IMHO and they’re usually overcooked. Bon app/e guete!

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