The man we usually go to for white asparagus this time of year, at the market in Saint-Aignan, didn't have very many bunches to sell on Saturday morning, and they were not only skinny spears but expensive (8€/kg). He and his son grow asparagus and strawberries on the other side of the river from Saint-Aignan, in the area of forests, small lakes, and sandy soil known as La Sologne. Maybe (surely) the weather conditions haven't been favorable. He didn't have any strawberries on his table at all.
I didn't talk to him on Saturday because he had other customers to wait on, and rather than just stand there, I decided to walk around the market to see who else might have asparagus to sell, and for what price. A produce vendor we don't often buy from had big crates of very fat white asparagus spears on display. At 9€/kg — $4.60/lb. in U.S. terms — they were even more expensive, but I decided to buy some anyway. One other vendor had bunches of skinny green asparagus, but they were a lot more expensive (12€/kg) and didn't tempt me. The green and white varieties are the same plant; they're just grown differently.
To prepare white asparagus spears for cooking, you have to peel them. Their skin is tough but thin. When you get really fat spears — some of the ones I bought were an inch or so in diameter — it doesn't take long to peel enough to serve two people. We cooked six spears, but we ended up eating only four. That was plenty — the six spears weighed about a pound (450 grams), and we'll have the other two today or tomorrow.
We decided to cook the asparagus by simmering the peeled spears in water in a pan and then ate them with home-made mayonnaise. The other options would be to have them with melted butter or a good vinaigrette. Mayonnaise is pretty easy to make once you get the knack, though, and it's very different from mayonnaise you buy in jars or tubes at the supermarket. Yes, in tubes, like toothpaste tubes.
Store-bought mayonnaise is good for many uses (tuna salad, pimento cheese, ranch or thousand island dressing), but when you want to serve plain mayonnaise with a simple ingredient like hard-boiled eggs (œuf dur mayonnaise), fish, asparagus, or artichokes, the freshly made stuff is much better. For tomorrow I'll do a post about the method of making fresh mayonnaise that I learned from a French friend back in 1973.
Years ago I was invited to join a friend's family for Easter weekend in Bretagne. The mother was making mayonnaise and said to me, "I hear in YOUR country, you buy this in jars!" It's true that homemade is nothing like industrial.ReplyDelete
Asparagus here is €6/kg for green, €7/kg for white.
I saw it at SuperU for €6,80/kg, but it was more at the market. As usual. Probably better quality too, but you can't always assume that.Delete
The industrial mayonnaise is often too sweet for my taste, and sometimes too vinegary. It has to be full of chemical additives to keep as long as it does.
A tube might be more convenient for picnics...ReplyDelete
I wrote a follow-on comment here earlier but for some reason it didn't post. The tubes are handy. I saw a website where a lot of Europeans living in NYC were looking for mayo in tubes but couldn't find it. They seemed to think it was better packaged that way rather than in jars.Delete
No wonder I gave up on cooking white asparagus in France. I didn't know about peeling it! Thanks Ken. I was told to cook it for about "dix minutes" by the market trader I once bought it from. Is that about right?ReplyDelete
Also thanks for the info about mayonnaise being in tubes.
We cook it for even longer than 10 minutes. It depends on the diameter of the spears. We just text it by piercing it with a knife or skewer to see if it is tender all the way through.Delete
And I meant to say, I think the white asparagus has a sweeter, less metallic or chalky taste than green asparagus. It just needs to be peeled and cooked until tender. White aparagus is "blanched" meaning it isn't exposed to sunlight during the growing period. Like Belgian endive.Delete
Thanks for the help. I spotted the Super U asparagus this morning but didn't have time to investigate.Delete
I am looking forward to your mayonnaise recipe tomorrow although am not quite sure if I will be able to make it in the caravan!
Yes, we are having a lovely time, thank you. Would prefer warmer weather but are very cosy at night which is important with camping. We heard a noise like helicopters on Saturday night and the campsite owner tells us it is irrigation machines spraying the vines to stop them freezing on cold nights. I wonder if you hear those?
The weather is awful here this week. It's almost wintry, but it's even worse in the United Kingdom, from reports I've seen. Enjoy the rays of sunshine that you get.Delete
I made my first mayonnaise at age 75, after you showed me how to do it. I made my first — and last, so far — pâte brisée at age 85. Il n'est jamais trop tard pour bien faire !ReplyDelete
The thick white asparagus freaks me out a little bit. I had no idea you had to peel it because I've only ever eaten it in restaurants in France and haven't prepared it myself. I'll definitely be back to learn how to make mayonnaise.ReplyDelete
I'd love it if you'd play along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme
You don't need to peel the very top of the white spears, say the top 1 inch. But from about an inch down, peel the thin, tough skin off completely. BTW, the fresh mayonnaise is just as good with green asparagus.Delete
I think you can still buy mayonnaise in tubes here (Netherlands), but we usually buy a jar.ReplyDelete
Looking forward to your recipe for home-made mayonnaise tomorrow, Ken. Asparagus is on the menu here later this week. Yours looks yum!