Asparagus Season and First Recorded French Recipe

Asparagus season is one of my personal favorites, whether you buy in the markets or go to the farms coming in person to collect freshly cut asparagus. We are very lucky to live so close to the Landes, which is the number one producer of asparagus in France, although just near to Bazas (in Gironde) we have great producers as close as Villandraut and Captieux (La Ferme des Filles).

If you have fresh asparagus, cut the same day from the farm, there will be nothing else like it. Keep any remaining asparagus in a shallow jar of water, like cut flowers. The color will start changing even the next day, and I find that the branches are less fine and soup worthy after only 2-3 days. The softer, more palatable tops can be cooked in risotto or even thinly sliced for garnish in your soup.

I’m a firm believer that great products need very manipulation and to just enjoy them lightly cooked (or raw), seasoned as simply as possible. Cooking asparagus just ever so slightly then serving with olive oil and lemon juice, or glazed with butter are two of my favorites. Making asparagus cream soup is also really easy and great to do with older branches, and you’ll certainly try to add a little texture with things like croutons or fresh asparagus. We had a lot of fun decorating with my girls (shown above), adding edible flowers from our rosemary plants and tiny pansies.

The first recorded French recipe created for asparagus with hollandaise was written by the chef Francois Pierre or ‘La Varenne’ in the 16th century, in his book ‘Le Cuisinier Francois’. No other cookbook worthy of mentioning had been written since Taillevents’ 12th century cookbook ‘Le Viandier‘, but this new book by La Varenne was filled with exciting revelations since the influence of refined Italian haute-cuisine arrived in France, thanks to Catherine de Medici. La Varenne called his dish ‘Les asperges et la sauce blanche‘, or essentially, ‘asparagus with hollandaise’.

RECIPE :
Les Asperges et la Sauce Blance

I cleaned and trimmed my fresh white asparagus, pealing the exterior from about two inches below the points, then cooked in a simmering shallow pan with salted water until a knife easily slides into the side. Once cooked, plate and leave to side.

The hollandaise might be one of the more challenging sauces you’ll make, but just take your time. You’ll need for 6-7 large pieces of asparagus (serves two) This is more then needed but when first learning it is easier with two yolks then one. As your skill increases one yolk is perfect!

Two egg yolks

75g to 120 g of clarified butter

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

You will want to clarify the butter first, removing the foam from the top and being sure to let the solids settle at the bottom before pouring into a lipped container (to make it easier to pour).

Create a bain marie with a sauce pot and about one inch of water, letting come to a simmer.It is best when first making a hollandaise use a half liter bowl and have no more then half of the bowl heated by the steam.

Add the egg yolks, a bit of lemon, a few grains of salt and a large dash of cold water into a metal bowl, whisk until foamy and put over the heated water. Whisk until the foam is thick enough to form a ribbon on itself.

You will need to watch and adjust the temperature of the mixture while you slowly add the warm clarified butter, all the while whisking.Remove from the heat.Start to add the butter slowly. 

If it seems to get too thick before all of the butter is added, return to the heat to keep warm, adding more butter until all of the butter is added and the mixture is smooth and thick.

Serve immediately.

If you notice clumps or separation, you can try removing from the heat and adding a dash of cold water, or another yolk (but it might be easier to try again).

We added poached eggs to our plate. Enjoy! Send us any of your asparagus creations and we will be happy to share them, be sure to include your name and Instagram handle.

READ MORE :

If you are a lover of food history, ‘A History of Food in 100 Recipes‘ is a must, by William SITWELL

Dans les Landes, au cœur de la zone IGP, l’asperge lance sa saison. Elle s’annonce particulièrement goûteuse avec une douceur en bouche remarquable… – PresseLib

François Pierre de La Varenne — Wikipédia (wikipedia.org)

Les asperges et la sauce blanche – Bibliothèques gourmandes (bibliothequesgourmandes.com)

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