When I lived in Germany, white asparagus was the hallmark of the spring season. In fact, there were entire festivals dedicated to the albino vegetable. I’d walk through the streets with stalls selling paper cones of roasted asparagus drizzled with olive oil and doused with crunchy sea salt, or boats of asparagus in a light, tarragon-infused vinaigrette sauce. The smells were magnificent. In Germany, it’s called “spargel.” I’ve been thrilled each year when Brookshire’s carries this gem.
The basic difference between green and white asparagus is that the white variety is grown underground covered in dirt, so it lacks the chlorophyll that helps turn the other variety green. In that sense, it’s more like a root vegetable, but you won’t taste much of a difference between the green and white varieties. Some people also call this kind of asparagus “vampire asparagus” because it never sees the light of day. To cook the asparagus, snap off the woody stems, then go about preparation.
White Asparagus with Tarragon Cream
2 cups bread cubes from day-old loaf, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt
4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 lbs white asparagus
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 Tbs fresh tarragon, chopped
2 Tbs chives, minced
1/2 tsp white pepper
salt and black pepper, to taste
For the breadcrumbs, place bread cubes in bowl of food processor; pulse into fine crumbs. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering and fragrant. Add breadcrumbs to pan, stirring constantly, until breadcrumbs are golden-brown (about 4 minutes). Remove to a bowl until asparagus is prepared.
Bring water to a boil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add salt and lemon juice. After stems are removed from asparagus, use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin outer membrane of asparagus, as if you were lightly peeling a carrot. Add peeled asparagus to boiling water; reduce heat to medium. Simmer asparagus until tender when pierced with tip of a knife, between 8 to 20 minutes depending on thickness. Drain asparagus; dry slightly on paper towels.
Bring wine to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots. Cook until wine is reduced by about three-quarters, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add cream and reduce again by half, about 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add butter to pan, 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk until smooth. Stir in herbs; add salt and both peppers, to taste.
Arrange asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add cream sauce; toss to coast. Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs, and serve immediately.
Calories: 310, Fat: 25 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 54 mg, Sodium: 975 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 5 g.