Posts Tagged ‘Asparagus’

Beurre Noir

May 19, 2010

Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a decent sauce to go with asparagus – which isn’t Hollandaise Sauce?

Try as I might to get my boyfriend to love it, he just can’t see the point of asparagus.

“Why?  I don’t get what you lot [i.e. asparagus enthusiasts] find so interesting about this stuff.  It’s just…” he trails off, waving a fork with a pierced stalk of green about in the air with a puzzledly-disgusted expression.

Now, I can’t exactly explain it to you myself.  I claim it’s ‘delicious’ when prompted, but this isn’t necessarily what I mean.  Sure it has a lovely mild taste and all, but what exactly draws me to it?  I haven’t a clue.  Certainly not the smell in the bathroom afterwards, that’s for sure.

Yet I’m wildly enthusiastic that it’s ‘Spargel Season‘ here in Germany – the mere mention of the word on the menu outside a restaurant door draws me inside like nothing else can (except, perhaps, the magic words “Conan O’Brien will be appearing here tonight”).

In my quest to convert my less-than-enthusiastic hausherr, somehow I’m fixated on the idea that the perfect sauce will be enough to make him crave it as much as I do.  (“… and then you woke up,” I can just hear him smirking as he utters his oft-quipped aside).

Perhaps… Beurre Noir

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INGREDIENTS – 1/4 lb. of butter, 1 tablespoonful of minced parsley, 3 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

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Slap butter into pan.  Heat to a very high temperature.  Let it ”smoke” for a few seconds before tossing in the parsley (I wasn’t brave enough for this, having set off the fire alarm once too many times in recent months – so I just let it get a little brown before adding the parsley).  Slosh in the vinegar (stand back, I nearly got burned by angrily-sizzling vinegar droplets) and add a pinch of salt & pepper.  Stir for a minute, then douse it over asparagus and serve.

“That’s a lot of butter isn’t it?” commented my boyfriend.

“Yeah, I’m doing Mrs Beeton again.”

“I figured, with all that butter!”

Despite the hissing and fizzling and spitting, the finished sauce is very tame indeed.  Possibly a little too tame for my liking – a mild, mild tang and a waist-taunting pool of melted butter.

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Buerre Noir (Recipe 374): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/10-chapter10.html#374

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Hollandaise, Schmollandaise…

April 25, 2010

Yesterday we went to a huge flea market not too far from our home.  To my great joy, I managed to find a fabulous Spargeltopf (asparagus pot) for only 3 euro.  Well, after acquiring such a wonderful item (I’d never even heard of them before), how could I not try it out straight away?

Hollandaise Sauce is to asparagus what chocolate is to Easter.  Seemingly, without the one, the other doesn’t seem to be ‘proper’, many people would probably agree.

But, I don’t know.  There’s something about doing things just because everyone else does them that gets to me sometimes.  I love asparagus.  Why should I have use Hollandaise as a default sauce, just because?

Last night, I decided to be a little rebellious.  Well, not too rebellious.  But just enough to prove a point – there are other sauces out there that can complement Spargel (as it’s known here in Germany) just as well as the traditional choice.

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INGREDIENTS – 2 oz. of butter, 2 small onions, 1 carrot, 1/2 a small teacupful of flour, 1 pint of new milk, salt and cayenne to taste.

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This is Mrs Beeton’s recipe for White Sauce (a meat-free version). I figured, it’s still a light-hued, seemingly mild sauce, so it wouldn’t be likely to spoil the taste of the asparagus in any way.

This White Sauce is very easy to make.  Mrs Beeton instructs that the carrot and onion should be chopped “very small”, but I wasn’t exactly sure what ”very small” meant to her in this context.  So I cut them as finely as I could before adding them to the pan.

By the time the sauce was finished (less than 15 minutes, it didn’t take too long to prepare as the recipe has a simple list of ingredients and only a few process steps), and I’d briefly attacked it with a potato masher (the quantity I prepared was too small for a blender), the vegetable content was much finer than to begin with.  Although, for visual effect, it could have been even finer, but oh well.

Both my boyfriend and I liked it.

“It seems very nice,” he commented. (Asparagus is not his favourite vegetable, although he’ll eat it when it’s put in front of him.  “I can’t see why you’re crazy about it.  And I don’t like the smell in the bathroom when you feed me this stuff!”).

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It is, as I predicted, a very mild sauce – not quite bland, but getting there.  It works well with asparagus and is much simpler to prepare than Hollandaise.

Asparagus Peas, Yes Please

April 14, 2010

Well, dear reader, I caved.

Unlike the usual stereotype, I’m more into shopping for good food than for clothes or new shoes (don’t get me wrong, though, they have their place in my life).

Once a week, my boyfriend works slightly later than me.  Although I should be taking full advantage of this opportunity to have the apartment to myself without thinking about someone else’s needs, fwooshing out second-hand cigarette smoke, etc., it almost always happens that I use the time to cook – or shop for food to later cook.

I’ve stopped myself a few times these  the last few weeks from buying asparagus.  “Don’t do it, it’s not German, it’s not local, it’s not in season yet, it’s too early,” etc. run the thoughts feverishly through my mind as I force myself to hold back and wait a few more weeks.

I love it.

Germans tend to be more into the thick white asparagus (spargel) than the green variety.  Although I don’t mind it in soups, I’m far more partial to the latter, especially the tender, delectable baby green asparagus.

My boyfriend, however, is not so fond of asparagus.  “Why would I want to have stinky piss?” he invariably remarks with a grimace when I ask if he’d like to try something I’ve made with it.

But, while the cats’ away the mice will play – or the cook will hit the kitchen.

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INGREDIENTS – 100 heads of asparagus, 2 oz. of butter, a small bunch of parsley, 2 or 3 green onions, flour, 1 lump of sugar, the yolks of 2 eggs, 4 tablespoonfuls of cream, salt.

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I guessed, since she calls them ‘Asparagus peas‘, that the size I was supposed to cut them to should be of a pea-like consistency.

So, this is what I did.  The recipe also calls for ‘green onions’.  I was puzzled as to what that meant – young white onions, still somewhat green, or did this mean leek, spring onions / shallots?

I opted for leek, as I had a rogue piece lolling about in the fridge, waiting for its turn to be transformed into something tasty.

After the required 10 minutes of cooking the parsley, onion and asparagus in butter, the sauce requires a mere 15 minutes more to thicken and adhere to the asparagus, as it’s supposed to.  Then, once the egg yolk-cream mix is added, the ”peas” (although they were more than mushy by this stage) were ready to be served.

“Yeah, they’re nice, very nice,” my boyfriend miraculously agreed.  “They’ve probably been a bit overdone though – what did you do to them?”

I explained that I’d been busy keeping an eye on other parts of our dinner at the same time, hence the teeny weeny overcooking of the asparagus.  Next time, I’ll plan ahead a little more to avoid such an outcome.

As for me, I also agree this is a pretty nice side dish.  Wonderfully mild and creamy.

I won’t be reporting on the presence or otherwise of any “stinky” side effect to tonight’s dinner, however…

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Asparagus Peas (Recipe 1088): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/25-chapter25.html#1088