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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Asperges - Asparagus - Spargel

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Hurray...It's here...
Enfin...c'est arrivée...
Jawohl...Es ist da...!

Not everybody knows Asparagus... True, in certain parts of the world it's considered an "exotic" vegetable, probably more because of its price, and maybe also because of its appearance.
In my area here, it is the announcement of Spring, and although not the cheapest of vegetables, it is certainly affordable by most people.
Probably the most expensive thing about Asparagus isn't the vegetable itself, but the "traditional" things it is served with, and without doubt simple plainly cooked Asparagus served with one of the butter sauces like "Hollandais" or "Bearneaise" or just a simple "Mayonnaise" is a wonderful experience, but does involve egg yolks, pounds and pounds of butter and know-how with patience. Often served with smoked Spanish ham like "Serrano", Asparagus can actually be thoroughly enjoyable more simply served, just with a Sauce Vinaigrette.
The vegetable itself is a complicated little thing which explains its price. It has a life span in the open fields of around 7 years, then the earth must be allowed to lie "fallow" for as long as possible, at least one year. It is very labour intensive,   It has to be hand picked and that is a specialist job often with  specialist machines and acrobats as farm workers....! The Asparagus plant itself, if allowed to grow, can develop into an attractive home decoration, and one sees it often on sale in the florist shops. Normally there are two types of Asparagus (not counting the "wild" sort) green and white. The difference is simple - the green one is allowed to see the light of day, the white one isn't! In Germany it is the White Asparagus that is preferred, and in Latin countries (France, Italy, Spain etc) it is the green. May well have something to do with the climates of the different countries. In Alsace - in France, for example, the White Asparagus is slightly more preferred - climate and proximity to Germany probably accounting for this. Both are similar in taste, the white one having a slighty more bitter taste, but they are also more sympathetic to cook, staying more firm and "biteable" than the green variety. Both varieties are cooked and served in the same manner.White and green asparagusImage via Wikipedia
They should be trimmed at the base, cutting off a good part at the bottom which tends to be fibrous, carefully "peeled" - without damaging the top of the vegetable, (all this "debris" can be saved, washed and cooked for a longer period to finally be used in making a soup), tied in little bundles of around 10-15 stalks, depending on size and thickness, then plunged into salted boiling water. There are special pans and containers on sale, but they are not really necessary.
 Cooking times vary according to the type and size and thickness.
Whilst you are waiting, time to prepare any sauces or garnishes you are going to serve with the Asparagus. Serve and enjoy.....now if you can get some fresh strawberries (also a Spring starter) with taste, as dessert, you're all set for a really good launc into the nicer periods of the year....!
Oh...almost forgot...My selection of wine would be a dry or medium dry chilled white wine....or of course......Champagne or Sparkling white wines.....

Bonne Appétit....et A Votre Sante....!

Typical serving of Spargel with Hollandaise sa...
Image via Wikipedia


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