Fabulous Finds Food On the Menu Provisions Vol. 26 No. 05

Tasting the Season: Spring White Asparagus  

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A visit to Paris in April welcomed us with an abundance of Spring asparagus at outdoor food markets around the city. Asparagus season begins in mid-April and runs through late June. Bundles of fresh white asparagus and their thick stalks caught my eye.

Usually, I consume white asparagus from a tin can or jar and mainly from Spain, but those fresh ivory stems sold in bunches at the farmer’s market are a rarity and a treat. They are best enjoyed in simple preparations with a milder, less grassy flavor than their green counterparts, such as boiled or steamed and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or butter or fresh herbs.

In France, white asparagus are primarily grown in the Loire Valley, Landes, and to the south, both east and west. Germany and Spain are also large cultivators of the white stalks. In fact, Germans, who prefer white asparagus, have the name of their growing season, Spargelzeit, which begins mid-April and ends June 24, on St. John the Baptist Day.

According to Asperges de France, a national association of French asparagus growers which numbers more than 3000, in the 16th century, asparagus was so appreciated by the court of France that it was considered the queen of vegetables or “ivory to eat.” 

While asparagus is grown in many parts of the United States, white asparagus and purple ones are still rarer than green. The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, a popular supplier to many fine restaurants, ships green, white and purple asparagus while in season. Info.

Contrasts in color: Bundles of spring asparagus next to fresh strawberries
Bastille Market, Paris.

What creates the (non) color:

Green asparagus shoots grow from the ground up; their access to sunlight and air enables photosynthesis and allows the chlorophyll to develop its emerald color. White asparagus is completely harvested underground; the lack of the sun prevents photosynthesis and the development of color. Even rarer are purple asparagus, whose shoots pop up from the ground for just a short time before harvesting.

Purchasing and Preparation:

Larger spears are the most tender; select those with firm tips. The spears can be stored for up to three or four days in a refrigerated vegetable bin, and they can also be lightly blanched for three minutes and stored in a freezer.

Asperges de France advises, “Green asparagus do not require peeling. White and purple asparagus can be peeled from base to tip with a vegetable peeler. White and violet asparagus should be put into cold water and brought up to the boil, while green should only be put in when the water is already boiling.”

In Paris, we tasted asparagus preparations at the venerable Michelin-Star restaurant, Lucas Carton in the 8th arrondissement, and at the popular cocktail and wine bar, Le Mary Celeste, located in the Marais.

Green asparagus marinated and grilled over coals served with bee pollen and mead sorbet with lemon verbena.
Suggested wine pairing: Soave Classico, Calvarino Pierpoan 2016
Lucas Carton, Paris
White asparagus is grilled and served with slices of smoked mullet and hazelnuts,
drizzled with tomato jam and extra virgin olive oil
Paired with: Les Arpents 8 Vouvray Sebastien Brunet 2020
Le Mary Celeste, Paris
White Asparagus with burrata and crumbled bacon and breadcrumbs
The recipe below from Asperges de France

Recipe:

Ingredients

12 white asparagus

100g (1/2 cup) sliced ​​smoked bacon

30g (1/4 cup) of breadcrumbs

6 slices of bacon

Preheat the oven to 320 ° F (160 C)
Place the slices of bacon on a sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes. At the end of the oven, let the slices of bacon dry on a rack and recover the fat from cooking for after.

Peel the asparagus and cut the heels. Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water. Dip the asparagus and cook it 10 min—drain the asparagus.

Mix or chop the bacon. Brown the breadcrumbs in a pan for a few minutes, remove from heat and mix with the bacon.

Pan-fry the asparagus over high heat in the bacon fat for 1 or 2 minutes. Put in a dish, and add the burrata and bacon crumbs. Then serve.

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An engaging speaker and writer, Melanie Young hosts the weekly national radio shows, The Connected Table Live, featuring conversations with global thought leaders in wine, food, spirits and hospitality (a Feedspot Top 10 Food & Drink Podcasts for 2021), and Fearless Fabulous You, a lifestyle show for and about women (both on iHeart and more than 30 other podcast platforms). Young has contributed articles on wine, spirits, food, and culinary travel to Wine Enthusiast, Seven Fifty Daily, Wine4Food and Jewish Week. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Wine Media Guild, and Women of the Vine & Spirits. Young’s former marketing and events agency, M Young Communications, worked with global wine, food organizations, publishing companies and nonprofits. She had an integral role in the creation, launch and management of The James Beard Foundation Awards, New York Restaurant Week, and Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund (2001) which raised funds to provide for the families of restaurant workers killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. www.theconnectedtable.com www.melanieyoung.com Instagram @theconnectedtable

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