Although the German Spargel (white asparagus or Asparagus officinalis) season doesn’t peak until the month of May, I have been thinking “asparagus” for weeks already and thought a little tutorial might be appropriate now to get us up to speed. It won’t be long before we’ll notice this unusual asparagus in the markets. Soon a local farmer will want to grow them!
image courtesy of stvarukusa.rs
Certainly, very pretty asparagus is now in the grocery, grown somewhere else, but it’s good and it’s often on sale. But once we get our fill of green asparagus, which is hard to imagine (as I am waiting, at year four, for my very own first spears)…it might be fun to know how to use the white version.
I got a quick lesson in Spargle quite unexpectedly when Dominika, the German owner of a local B and B, Le Vatout (www.levatout.com), dropped by for coffee a few days ago. Seems she knows most everything there is to know about preparing this unusual vegetable. Evidently it requires hilling to blanch it, then a special tool to cut the Spargel down without disturbing the root system, which is slipped over the top of the shoot and down to the bottom to cut it. It is traditionally cut quite a bit longer than ordinary asparagus, like a foot or longer. A special tool is then used to pare off and peel the bottom two thirds of the stalk.
The season usually spawns a media frenzy in Germany and many festivals as well as traditional family meals and much excitement. The best specimens come from an area called Beelitz, southwest of Berlin. And the season, much like regular asparagus, is short-lived, all over by mid-summer.
The most treasured Spargel meal consists of the peeled and boiled Spargel, which is by itself a little bitter, cooked with lemon juice and paired with thinly sliced Black Forest Schinken, a cured ham similar to Prosciutto, simply boiled new potatoes, Hollandaise sauce, and melted butter. Yes both. Here are the nuances of creating this magical meal. Dominika waxed on about the combination of all the components and how they created a gustatory Gestalt! Try a dry, white wine with this meal, preferably something German.
German White Asparagus with Ham, Boiled Potatoes, Butter and Hollandaise
Laura Cabot, Laura Cabot Catering, Waldoboro
8 pounds Spargel, peeled like carrots and trimmed of the root end
Salt and a lemon
To Prepare the asparagus:
Choose a large pot and fill it half way with salted water. Bring to a boil, adding the zest and juice of one lemon. Add the trimmed and peeled Spargel.
Cook the Spargel around 10-15 minutes, until tender. It will take quite a bit longer than ordinary asparagus.
Assembling the meal:
4-5 waxy new potatoes, per person, boiled simply until just tender in salted water and kept warm.
A few thinly sliced pieces of cured ham per person.
Your favorite Hollandaise recipe, made by hand, at room temperature.
A high quality butter, melted and drawn, kept warm.
Assemble all these elements on the plate and drench with butter, adding perhaps a smattering of fresh parsley for garnish. Indulge in good German fashion!