White asparagus with cream sauce ホワイトアスパラガスのクリームソース

japanese cake

Although I grew up in Sapporo, Hokkaido 札幌, 北海道 where asparagus are produced, my memory of white asparagus is a soft, limp, and overcooked white substance that came out of a can which was served cold with mayonnaise. I never liked it. (This comment is not meant for this particular brand in the image. It  appears that there have been some improvement in the quality and taste of canned white asparagus in recent years, especially in Japan, but I have not tried them.) I do not recall my mother ever cooking or serving fresh white asparagus. Later, green asparagus became more popular and fresh green asparagus sauted in butter seems a much better choice to me. In many European countries, especially Germany, we noticed that people cherish white asparagus when in season. Recently, fresh white asparagus became available even in our neighbourhood grocery stores. This is a very simple dish I make from white asparagus and it is much better what I ate in my childhood.

To cook white asparagus (I am not sure about the plural form; asparagus, asparagi or aspraguses??) requires some preparation. After washing, I peel them, except for the very top, using a potato peeler. You could get a special asparagus peeler, if you so wish but a regualr potato peeler works except that you have to place the asparagus on a cutting board and roll it while you are peeling. If you just hold it in your hand and try to peel it like a carrot, you will break the asparagus in half since it is rather brittle. After peeling, cut off or break of the hard bottom portion. You need to reserve all the peels, whatever portions broken off and the bottoms. I place these asparagus scraps in the large saute pan and place the prepared asparagus on the top and add water to cover (see picture below). The idea here is to extract as much asparagus flavor as possible into the cooking liquid. This flavored liquid is used as the basis of the sauce.

I simmer the asparagus for 10-20 minutes with the lid on (I like them throughly cooked). When they are cooked remove the asparagus carefully to a papertowel lined plate to drain. I then reduce the liquid by turning the flame to high for 10-15 minutes and strain, retrun the liquid to the pan or remove the asparagus bits and peels. Only a small amount of the liquid covers the bottom of the pan. If too much liquid remains, reduce further. I add 1/4 cup of cream and reduce briefly to a saucy consistency and adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper, if you like, use white pepper which looks better). I used light cream here and the sauce broke a bit. If you use heavy cream, the chance of breaking the sauce is less. I garnish with chopped chives (or parsley or tarragon if available). This is 100 times better than the canned white asparagus. You can serve it as a side dish or Hors d’œuvre for Home Izakaya. You could serve this with Bernaise sauce or mustard sauce (Dijon mustard, lemon juice, tarragon, and olive oil) or even store-bought mayonnaise (I would add fresh lemon juice, mustard, and fresh chopped tarragon or other herbs to spruce it up). If you have given up on white asparagus, this is worth a try.

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