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White Asparagus with Tarragon Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

Green asparagus or white. What’s the difference?

Unlike green asparagus, which is grown above ground, white asparagus (also known as spargel in Germany) is grown underground (see photos below, courtesy of Foodproject.com).  Deprived from light, the  development of chlorophyll is prevented, and rather than turning green,  the asparagus remains an elegant shade of ivory.  Just as the tips of white asparagus break through the surface of the soil, they are quickly harvested (by hand) and sold  in roadside stands and markets in northern Europe.  In some cases, the tips are allowed a brief amount of sun to gain a bit of green accent against  the white stalks. Though similar in flavor to grassy undertones in green asparagus, the white variety tends to be a bit more tender and delicate  in flavor.

Until recently, finding fresh white asparagus in the US was a difficult task. But now, white asparagus is harvested domestically from March to early May, and may be picked up (if you are lucky!) in your local farmer’s markets. If this is not the case for you (or me), you may purchase imported European white asparagus, or will find imported varieties from Peru at your grocery store.

I was in Pawleys Island, SC (in the middle of my tour with Friends at the Table) during the time I was working on this post, and after a trip to 3 different stores, good old Piggly Wiggly came through for me, at a time I thought I would be special ordering from the produce department. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed my dad (who I was with in the store) when I let out a squeal of excitement upon spotting it! A few ladies resembling Driving Miss Daisy looked over at me like I had been drinking some spiked sweet tea.

Wishing to truly showcase the flavor of the white asparagus, I decided to create a sauce made with European butter and fresh tarragon to glam it up a bit. The toasty crumbs add the contrasting texture it needs, and is rich enough to stand alone as an entree. You could also add a sprinkle of sauteed pancetta as well if you like.

If you have never tried white asparagus, I hope you will go on the hunt for some and try some of the amazing recipes my blogger friends have come up with for this month’s 5 Star Makeover. Be sure to stop by 5 Star Foodie or Lazaro Cooks! sites for the roundup on Friday!

 

 

You’ll need to peel the asparagus prior to cooking, removing the tougher exterior of the stalk.

To prevent the fragile tips from breaking off during the cooking process, cook in an upright asparagus basket, or, tie the asparagus in bundles with cotton twine, and lower into a pot of vigorously simmering (but not boiling) water.

White Asparagus with Herbed Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups  1/2-inch artisan bread cubes

2 pounds fresh white asparagus

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 stick unsalted butter,   cut into tablespoons

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons minced chives

Salt and pepper

 

For toasted bread crumbs:

Place bread cubes in the bowl of a food processor and process into fine crumbs. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add bread crumbs to pan;  stirring constantly, until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Reserve crumbs until ready to use.

For the white asparagus:

Bring  water to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add salt and lemon juice lemon juice. Meanwhile, trim about 1/2″ from the ends of the asparagus. Lay spears on a work surface, then peel thin skin from each with a sharp  vegetable
peeler, starting 1 1/2″ from the top and running the length of the spear. Add peeled asparagus to boiling water, and reduce heat to medium, maintaining a steady simmer. Cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 8–20 minutes, depending on thickness. Lift asparagus from  water and drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile,  boil wine and shallots in a medium heavy pan over medium-high heat until reduced by three-quarters, 10–15 minutes. Add cream and reduce again by half, 5–7 minutes; reduce heat to low. Add butter to pan one tablespoon at a time, whisking  until smooth.  Whisk in herbs, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Place cooked/drained asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add cream sauce, and toss well. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs.

Makes 6 servings

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17 comments to White Asparagus with Tarragon Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

  • That looks delicious

  • The white asparagus you got is sure gorgeous! I love your pairing with tarragon cream and the toasted bread crumbs are perfect for the texture, nice!

  • This looks amazing! White asparagus was VERY big in Belgium, and I love it! Lots of flavor in this!

  • Wow…I’ve never seen such beautiful white asparagus, and your tarragon cream is simply inspired. Brava! – S

  • Well written and informative post. The dish looks cooked to perfection. Loving the flavor profile.

    Great job!

  • They look so glamorous in this dish. The white positively glows. I think cream and white asparagus are a marriage made in heaven and the tarragon is a brilliant addition. I am reeling that a Piggly WIggly would have them… I went to a few fancy schmancy stores before finding them… from Peru!! I loved the flavor. I remember trying to get them once years ago and the jarred variety was the best I could do… not so great. These are so good! Great work.

  • My gosh, what a beautiful, beautiful dish! I have to admit, I’ve only seen white asparagus in a jar (and I’m hoarding that one in the pantry–afraid to use my last!) You’re making me wish I could find some with this taragon cream.

  • What a lovely, elegant dish! Cream and tarragon is a perfect combination for this. I’m going to have to go get more white asparagus to try all these lovely dishes now! Really beautiful!

  • Omg, that tarragon cream is just amazing. Besides the fact that it’s making me drool, I think it is such a perfect and subtle pairing with the delicate asparagus. Gorgeous!!

  • i love the pic of it sprouting form underground. great dish. so soulful and for the heart! should be a spring/summer staple!

  • I love how elegant this dish is. The tarragon cream really adds so much flavor, and the toasted bread crumbs add the perfect crunch!

  • I like the contrast texture of this dish! soft and creamy from asparagus and cream, and crunchy from breadcrumbs. Tarragon is a perfect touch for this dish!

  • I would have sqweeled to if I had found some besides jarred…still looking. The cream sauce looks amazing.

  • That dish is fabulous! I really love the unique flavor of white asparagus. That tarragon cream sauce pairs wonderfully well with that spring delicacy.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • I reckon I’m falling in love with white asparagus all over again now that I’m back from travel and finally getting to read the round up posts. This combination sounds absolutely beautiful!

  • This is so interesting. I had no idea they covered the asparagus and that is what makes it white…lack of sunlight! Don’t you wonder how/why they began doing this long ago? I will definitely be on the lookout for this!

  • Hi Debi – I stopped by last month to enjoy your white asparagus but didn’t have time to comment. It is a gorgeous dish! So elegant! Great addition to the cooking group event.
    LL

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