Sink your teeth into spring’s stout asparagus

Slender spears seek the sun’s rays shyly at first — twirling and curling from mulched garden beds.

As welcome as asparagus of any size is in a largely barren garden, I watch with barely concealed excitement for the thick, toothsome ones to thrust through the soil. Tender and juicy, these also come later to grocery stores after less-enthusiastic asparagus eaters have had their fill of thin, fibrous spears.

Perfect for grilling, stout asparagus spears make the season’s first cookouts feel almost decadent. Along with grilled chicken and potato wedges, asparagus was a natural vehicle recently for my husband’s favorite aioli, actually Best Foods mayonnaise enhanced with fresh garlic, lemon juice and seasonings. We always say this simple sauce makes anything taste good.

Similarly, crème fraiche is a sauce shortcut that embraces lemon, herbs and mustard, another household favorite. This version from the Chicago Tribune is inspired by Julia Child’s classic sauce moutarde and plays up the luxury of abundant asparagus.

Tribune News Service photo

Luxury Spears

2 pounds fresh fat asparagus

Kosher salt, as needed

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup creme fraiche

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh chives

Lay asparagus, 1 at a time, on a cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, strip away skin from just below tip to bottom. Break off woody bottom. Rinse. Repeat.

Choose a skillet wide enough to accommodate asparagus. Fill half-full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil; add asparagus. Reduce to a simmer. Cook, rolling spears once, until they turn brilliant green at tips and offer a tender bite, for about 4 minutes.

Use tongs to pull out asparagus, reserving cooking water. Drain asparagus briefly in a colander. Spread spears onto a clean kitchen towel (or 2) and roll up, keeping asparagus dry and warm.

Measure the mustard into a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons of hot asparagus-cooking water. Whisk in the creme fraiche. Season this sauce with salt and pepper, a squeeze of the lemon and the chives.

Heap asparagus on a platter. Either pour on sauce (leaving points and an inch or two of bottom bare), or serve sauce in a bowl alongside, for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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